A Quarantine Romance: Navigating Sustainability in Relationships

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By: Abby Utley (Loyola Sophomore)

As 2020 continues to provide us with uncertainty, people are left with very open and very bored hearts, wondering whether or not pursuing a dating life right now is worthwhile.

Almost everything that has happened (or not happened) this year can be prescribed with adjectives like uncertain, unprecedented, or cancelled. The amount of restaurants that would survive during the lockdown? Uncertain. Lollapalooza? Cancelled. The word we use as an excuse in emails to describe these times? Unprecedented. However, our feelings are still here, more than ever. Everyone might not get COVID, but everyone gets a little lonely.

During the height of quarantine, people had to push away the urge to socialize and hunker down in their own homes. Luckily for those in committed relationships, this transition was sustainable. But there are countless newbies who had to put their dating life on hold during the initial lockdown in March. Now that the second and third waves of COVID cases have hit around the country, especially in big cities like New York and Chicago, normal ways of recreation continue to slip through our fingertips. This has proven a problem to society, as humans all share a desire for connection and intimacy. 

So what are all those long-lost Tinder matches up to? How are those quarantine couples holding up after isolating together for months? Is the pursuit of a relationship truly worth the effort right now? These questions are daunting and some we never thought we’d be asking ourselves, but they are worth considering. 

According to the CNBC, the usage of dating apps actually spiked this year, as people began using them as a dual outlet to date and to meet new people. Perhaps people have been more inclined to pursue a relationship to compensate for all the face masks and Netflix binges that they spent doing all in the name of “self care.” Honestly, I’d say the self was well cared for after two months of quarantine. By the time summer came, people were practically welcoming potential heartbreak into their lives out of boredom.

I conducted a survey to assess the battle between love and a pandemic, the latter being armed with an extra sword. Eighteen people, most of whom are students, between the ages of 18 and 26 took the survey and briefly explained their current love life. To increase the chances of more truthful answers, I made the survey anonymous.

Some respondents didn’t necessarily acknowledge the pandemic as a main factor of their singleness. One person said “mental health ruined my relationship,” and another simply said “men are toxic.” I definitely detect trauma from relationships’ past from these two individuals, For many, the problem is not the pandemic, rather it is essentially the lack of mental preparedness for a relationship. However now is a better time than ever to work on keeping our standards high. Let us not fall in the same trap that Britney Spears did, and let us leave the study of toxicity for the medical school students.

47% of survey participants agreed that the major shut down of regular businesses has affected their dating lives. One sophomore said, “It has been very hard to meet new people because I have not had any outlet to do so.” 

Luckily, people have come up with innovative ways to safely meet new people with dates in the styles of picnics, walk-and-talks, and video chats. I’ve had a few quarantine picnic dates myself, but I still dearly miss going out to eat and letting the restaurant do the food prep for me.

Some people who took the survey spoke on their experiences maintaining a healthy dynamic with their partners. “We started dating during the height of the lockdown and wouldn’t have even met otherwise,” one person said, “We were both probably lonely and needed human interaction.”

Even introverts are desperate to be immersed in social scenarios that may have been their worst nightmares pre-pandemic. “Before COVID hit, I told myself that I would probably never download dating apps,” one person said, “but long into quarantine I had downloaded Tinder just so I could try and meet new people.” 

33% of those surveyed responded to the fear that dating while in quarantine together might give two partners an altered sense of reality. One person said, “There hasn’t been much room for growth outside of just being with one another i.e. He hasn’t really gotten to meet my friends or see how I live without him, or see my home town..etc etc.” Couples being in their own little worlds isn’t necessarily a recipe for a healthy dynamic.

It is also important to talk about the other side of the issue: how “an overload of time together” can inevitably cause couples to want to rip each other’s heads off. This scenario is very abnormal, so couples have tried to find ways to spice up their relationship when the list of things to do is as bland as a hot dog bun. One person said, “He’s been teaching me tennis… We’ve started like twenty new shows together, and we take COVID-safe ‘mini trips’ to cities nearby.” 

So, we’ve covered the two extremes of quarantine: lonely individuals and isolated couples. The most unrealistic and frustrating aspect of COVID-19 is that there is barely any opportunity for the pool of people who fit in between these two extremes, as the matters of the heart are anything but black and white. The good news is that there hopefully will soon be a vaccine, and the country will eventually begin to open up again.

When this happens, one thing is for sure: we will all emerge with a much stronger appreciation for activities like concerts and bar crawling that we took for granted before. 2020 threw us a curveball, but it gave us ample time to think independently and grow in ourselves.

As one Loyola sophomore said, “COVID has pushed me to become more bold in reaching out to people via social media and text- something I am not very good at doing.” It’s safe to say that we are now more adept at communicating and taking control of our own relationships with experience in “having to face issues head on.”

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