Coronavirus has tested us in countless ways and our romantic relationships are no exception. Now, statistics released by The Dungeons reveal one in six Brits are newly single, having gone through a break-up during the pandemic.
But it’s not all splitsville– some people, like Dylan in this piece about how queer relationships are evolving, have dived into a relationship they might not have considered had it not been for the unique circumstances of life right now.
Whether single, nominally on the dating scene, or in a longterm relationship, Valentine’s Day seems a good opportunity to round up the different categories of lockdown couples – and the ways they’ve all been affected this past yea
1) The spontaneous hunker-downers
Lockdown has been many things. Overwhelmingly lonely is one of them. Endless nights spent in confinement in front of the TV is enough to make anyone nostalgic for the harsher realities of our lives before it began. Even the 6.30am alarm before a commute seems appealing.
For some, shacking up with another person, let’s face it, more for short-term convenience than longterm gain, offered the serotonin release of basic human touch. Being locked down was isolating, but for a spontaneous few, it might have meant more intimacy than they’ve had in years.
It was even approved by heath experts: on March 24, 2020, the day after Boris announced the first lockdown, deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries urged fledgling couples to “test the strength of their relationship” by moving in together or be prepared for a long period of time apart.
2) The frustrated extroverts
Hands up, this one is me. Having got into a new relationship last February, by summer we were still restricted in the activities we could do. Yes, we had some lovely mini-breaks to socially-distant campsites and roared along various British beachfronts with makeshift picnics, but clubbing? Completely off menu.
We’d walk past The Queen Adelaide in London, me regaling him of how good it was, and we’d long to go in! But by 9pm, we’d be settling submissively into the sofa, or dancing along to another Queer House Party on Zoom. A sensational way to spend a night in, but we did that the other times, didn’t fancy it again.
Sigh. Time to swap stories of ludicrous nights out from our pasts instead.
3) The casualties
We shouldn’t feel sad about the end of relationships if they brought us joy. Sadly though, many began in lockdown, blazed their trails and petered out. Some naturally. Others just couldn’t overcome the challenges of confinement. And the pandemic laid waste to longer couplings too, with a spike in filings for divorce.
“This pandemic both ended and helped start a lot of relationships,” wrote one Twitter user, scoring dozens of retweets. “Relationships that should have been ended before the pandemic finally did in the pandemic,” responded another.
4) The long-termers in need of a break
“I miss missing my partner,” writes my colleague Rachel, in a piece about the very real claustrophobia of long-term coupledom right now. It’s been the talk of our newsroom: when you live, work, sleep and – for those with kids – parent in the same place as your significant other, how do you keep things exciting?
There’s no easy answer. One of our writers has resorted to watching TV in the spare room, only rejoining her boyfriend when she feels genuinely thrilled to see him. Going on walks alone, or making plans with friends at weekends are other ways to get some distance, and make pairing up again a treat not a chore.
Imagine explaining that to our pre-pandemic selves though: “We purposefully watch TV in separate rooms, as we can’t leave the house.” It’s the type of bizarre story we’ll tell our grandkids one day.
5) Bubble buddies
As Caspar Salmon wrote early in the first lockdown, it’s hardly an apt time for flings or casual hookups, a fact particularly pertinent to the queer community – but obviously a challenge affecting all of us regardless of our sexuality.
“I’ve had some of the best sex of my life with people I’d only just met, people I only knew in passing, even some mates,” writes Charlotte Branning mourning the thrill of one night stands. But another HuffPost UK staffer revealed that several friends are now self-defining as “bubble buddies” – and why not?
After months of frustrated abstinence for singles and non-cohabitating couples led us to ask if we were every going to get our sex lives back, bubbles offered a government-mandated get out. So long as you’re following the rules, you’re more than allowed to hunker up with another “household”.
May as well explore your options, right?
6) Broken-up but not yet moved out
A friend who moved to another country for lockdown split up with his partner midway through the experience. With too many logistical issues to physically move apart, they stuck it out for a few more months. Needless to say, it put stress on their platonic relationship which is still being worked through today.
For financial, practical and emotional reasons, many couples stay living together long after they part ways. But in a pandemic, when we’re all stuck at home, there are added complications. At best it’s frustrating, at worst, dangerous, given the significant rise in domestic violence reported during the pandemic.
7) Parents just about surviving
Homeschooling is the reality for many parents now, who are also – somehow – trying to juggle full-time jobs. Nothing says sexy time like shift work with the baby and three-year-old, or trying to supervise Year Six maths homework, knackered, when you’ve crammed your own work day into six hours?
Of course, all of this simply leaves next to no time for parents to nurture adult relationships. “Trying to balance working, teaching, and parenting through lockdown was a nightmare, it reduced me to tears on more than one occasion and put all of the relationships in the house under huge strain,” tweeted one.
8) The couples just going for it
The aforementioned Dylan, interviewed for HuffPost UK about the ways queer relationships have changed under the pandemic, is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. “Lockdown’s been a chance to slow down, and focus on relationships rather than one fling after the other,” he told us.
“I feel like this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt comfortable enough with someone that lockdown actually became a pleasant experience.” We couldn’t be happier for him. Seriously, we all need some happy endings right now.