Those first throes of a new relationship are a heady mix of excitement, insecurity and trepidation. When are you next meeting? Where do you both stand? Does the other person feel the same as you? Where is this even going?
But around the UK, people involved in budding romances are being forced to put their cards on the table a little sooner than expected. In Tuesday night’s briefing, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, urged couples who are not currently cohabiting to either “test the strength of their relationship” by moving in together, or be prepared for a long period of time apart.
Relate counsellor Dee Holmes says that it’s only natural to feel uncertain about the latest advice, whether you’ve recently started dating someone or you’re in a more established relationship, but yet to co-habit.
“During the early stages of a relationship it’s common to want spend a lot of time together. You may miss each other even if you’re just waiting a few days for your next date, so not knowing when you’re next going to be able to meet up will be hard,” she tells HuffPost UK.
To decide the best course of action for both of you, she advises checking in with each other about how the briefing made you feel – and avoid making assumptions about what the other person wants.
“Talk through what it means for you emotionally and practically,” she says. “It could be you decide to move in together during this period of isolation. Maybe you were both ready to do that anyway. For other couples, you may not feel ready or like this is practical.”
After three successful dates with a guy she met on Bumble, Amelia Evans, 22, from Leeds, has decided to date him remotely. Before the lockdown, the pair went for drinks, then drinks with dinner – but coronavirus sped things up.
“Our third and last date was cooking dinner together at my house last Wednesday as we were reluctant to go out and about. I wouldn’t normally do this so soon!” says Evans. “The dates all went well and it seems such a shame that things are effectively on pause for the foreseeable.”
The health advice didn’t really come as a shock to Evans who says she was anticipating it anyway. “However, moving in together is not an option, even if it sounds like a it could be a fun and time effective way of seeing if you are really compatible,” she says. “I predict a new dating programme coming out soon...”.
She and her new love interest plan to just “see how things unfold for now”.
“I’m sure we can’t just continue to text for weeks so we will maybe have to start Facetiming or calling,” she says. “Anyway if it works out it will be a great story to tell... right?”
Jamie Stevenson, 50, who’s based near Portsmouth, is also in limbo. He went on his first date in almost 18 years five weeks ago, hitting it off with the woman he was introduced to through a friend. However, they’ve decided it’s too soon – and too complicated – to move in together.
The pair each have two children and co-parent with their exes. They’d already decided to keep the households apart “to protect each other and the kids”, but the government’s advice yesterday has left them feeling “unsettled”.
“I’m less anxious, but my girlfriend is more so,” he says. “Staying apart is hard, and we have spoken about moving into one house but practically that’s difficult. Also we have to consider the risks for our exes, as we still share care and they’re both key workers.”
Stevenson isn’t too worried about the longterm impact on his new relationship, saying the pair plan to talk every day via text, video and calls. “We’re both determined to support each other and keep our relationship alive,” he says.
But coronavirus has accelerated the moving in process for other couples.
Kym Darby and her partner Steve Morris began dating in September last year and planned to move in together this summer. The pair had reconnected after divorce, having dated each other 17 years ago.
When coronavirus began to hit the news in January – and other countries started implementing lockdowns – the couple stepped up the house-hunting, finding their Staffordshire barn in February and moving in on 3 March.
Co-habiting after just a few months hasn’t been completely smooth sailing, but Darby has no regrets. “It’s adjusting as we are both strong characters, but we feel so lucky we went for it – it’s the best decision we ever made,” she says.
“We would have found all this lockdown unbearable. We knew everyone around us at the time thought it was too soon, but we followed our own minds and hearts and went for it.”
“You’re likely to get to know things about your partner that would have taken much longer to find out usually.”
The current situation is new and strange to all of us. Dee Holmes at Relate says if you want to go into isolation with your partner but they aren’t sure, try to understand their reasons rather than taking it as a sign that there’s something wrong with the relationship.
“It could simply be they aren’t ready or that they live in a crowded flat share so it isn’t practical for you to move in,” she says. “It’s likely you’ll feel under a lot of pressure as you’ll need to make a decision pretty quickly about what you want to do.
“Whatever you decide, stick to government guidelines. Visiting each other isn’t ok for now, so it’s either going to be a case of isolating together or staying apart until this passes and keeping in touch using technology.”
There will be strange aspects to deal with – perhaps you’ve not yet met each other’s friends or family – and won’t do for a while now. On the plus side, it could be a good test for your new relationship. “You’re likely to get to know things about your partner that would have taken much longer to find out usually,” says Holmes. “Things like how they are in a crisis, whether they are supportive and perhaps what some of their biggest fears and hopes are.
“Even if you’re not in the same house, it’s an opportunity to get to know each other better and have some deeper conversations.”