The first few months of a relationship present a very unique set of challenges to any new couple: learning your partner’s little quirks, meeting each other’s friends and awkward conversations about labels and telling families. In my case, all of this was taking place alongside the onset of a global pandemic, which definitely made things a little bit trickier.
During the first six weeks we were together, people were far more concerned about winter Love Island than the prospect of Covid spreading around. We still shared drinks, went to house parties and enjoyed Damn Good with no clue of what was about to happen. Before Boris gave his first televised address telling us we were going into lockdown, we’d spent the day on the beach and waited in a ridiculously long line for McDonald’s. The speech was followed by drinking and crying, and I drove home the following day, naively thinking I’d be gone for three weeks. Well, you already know how that turned out.
I’m not saying lockdown was easy for any couple suddenly experiencing long-distance for the first time, but at least if you’ve got an established relationship to build off you actually have things to talk about. To combat this, we relied heavily on shared TV shows- embracing the trashy with Tiger King and Too Hot to Handle, before working our way through all three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale. One episode a night with FaceTime calls once or twice a week got us through until I was able to visit during the summer, where we upgraded to outdoor dinner dates and drinks in the park with friends. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give us a little boost when we needed it.
Since returning to Norwich in August, we’ve been bouncing from one extreme to the other. We lived together for a few weeks, which was…intense, given I have the single bedroom! We formed a household bubble when my housemates left for lockdown and Christmas, and we’d finally found a balance of living apart and visiting regularly which worked for everyone. We spent a really nice Christmas with my family, but then had to come back and face the reality of a third, and seemingly never ending, lockdown.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered breaking the lockdown rules on several occasions- this time feels so much harder, with the winter weather, being away from my family, and not having as much of my support network in the city as I usually would. However, as a key worker living with key workers, the risk of making people I care about sick isn’t worth taking. Still, we’ve tried: going back to our shared TV shows and FaceTime calls has helped to a point, but this time I’m so aware of exactly what I’m missing. Back in March it was someone I got on well with who liked giving me time and attention, now it’s the person I love.
As I’m writing this, we’re three days off our anniversary, and a week away from a Valentine’s where we can’t be together. But as awful as this year has been in so many ways, I wouldn’t change a second of what I’ve managed to build up. It would have been so easy to just call it quits in March when things got difficult, but we didn’t, which I’ll always be grateful for. I’ve learned so much about resilience, about how important it is to have someone you can tell anything to, and about how to love someone else through the worst bits.