Last summer, I unexpectedly found myself going on a date with a guy I’d met at university. Although I didn’t know him hugely well, our interactions in class were enough for me to know that he was relatively decent. After a bad experience with dating the year before, I had firmly stayed away from romantic endeavours. Perhaps it was my curiosity, or the result of months of isolation, but I put aside my fears and decided to say “yes” to a date.
Following the restrictions and lockdown of the spring, this new relationship presented me with some feeling of normality; I enjoyed spending time with him, and over the summer months we would go on to meet a number of times.
At the stage of our first meeting, although contact would have been allowed, we maintained social distancing. At the time, my dad was having a few tests done in hospital and until he had had the all clear, I did not want to risk his health further.
That first day, although strange due to the distance we had to maintain, was the best I’d had in a while. The afternoon, spent in a park sipping beer, seemed like the perfect way to herald my arrival back into society. The day ended with an obligatory elbow bump and I found myself looking forward to our next meeting.
Over the next few months, we met half a dozen times. Changing restrictions allowed us to form a bubble, and we were able to spend time together without the worries of social distancing. Once again, life felt normal and I was enjoying getting to know somebody new. The only issue was the distance – though he wasn’t miles away, the hour-and-a-half by car or two hours by train would become an issue with the introduction of tiers.
“After a few forced and somewhat awkward conversations, I finally bit the bullet and told him that I wouldn’t be willing to break the rules to see him.”
As we made our way into winter, Covid once again loomed over our relationship. Cases began to rise and when the November lockdown came along, it was obvious that we would be unable to see each other without breaking the rules – travelling across tiers was prohibited and meeting outside became increasingly difficult as the weather worsened.
While I could have broken the rules, I felt that if everyone tried to bend the restrictions to suit them, it would just cause more people to become ill. And so, though I knew I had the chance for a potential relationship, I knew it would be selfish to place my own prospective happiness over, potentially, the lives of others.
Though it was an easy decision to make, it didn’t make it any less difficult. After a few forced and somewhat awkward conversations, I finally bit the bullet and told him that I wouldn’t be willing to break the rules to see him.
He was understanding, never made me feel awkward and didn’t pressure me into seeing him. I knew I was lucky to have found someone so compassionate, but that made it all the more difficult to let him go.
Being forced apart also pressured us into having conversations that we would never have had so quickly in normal circumstances. Questions like “are we exclusive?” and “where is this going?” soon came up. Although I knew that I would like to see him after lockdown lifted again, I felt as if I couldn’t ask him to wait.
“It was tough watching others in my world breaking the rules: going on dates with people, meeting friends inside, or travelling across tiers.”
Despite knowing I made the right choice, it was tough watching others in my world breaking the rules: going on dates with people, meeting friends inside, or travelling across tiers. At times, on social media, I often felt as if I was the only person sticking to the rules, which only deepened my guilt.
Statistics show that many individuals have broken the rules since the first lockdown in order to pursue romance. According to one study, one in five Britons in relationships (22%) and one in five Britons that are single (20%) admit they have broken government-imposed restrictions or lockdown rules to either spend time with their partner or go on a date. Those of us between 18 and 34 were most likely to do so.
For many of us who want to start a family or get married, the pandemic has been increasingly frustrating. With lockdowns and the pandemic continuing for far longer than any of us had ever imagined, time is beginning to work against some.
But personally, I have managed to come to terms with the way things are. Yes, sticking to the rules interrupted a potential relationship, but I have never regretted my decision.
Matilda Martin is a freelance journalist
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