Navigating relationships through COVID-19 distancing

How couples have remained close while staying two metres apart

Distancing makes the heart grow fonder.
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For many students in relationships, maintaining a distance of two metres between themselves and others has, for the past four months, included their significant others. 
 
While the risk of spreading the coronavirus has impacted Queen’s students’ casual relationships and hookup culture, strict distancing rules have affected couples who aren’t isolating together. To explore how some pairs are navigating these unique circumstances, two students told The Journal about their now mandatory, long-distance relationships.
 
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For Ana Constantin, ArtSci '20, COVID-19 brought significant changes to her and her boyfriend’s summer plans.
 
“We planned on spending the summer together in Kingston,” Constantin said. “We were both there last summer and we worked summer jobs. We would’ve had the same jobs this summer.”
 
When Constantin and her boyfriend learned their places of employment would be shuttered for the foreseeable future, they realized they’d be spending the summer apart, back home with    their families.
 
Constantin and her boyfriend’s hometowns are less than an hour apart, but due to the necessity of physical distancing, they didn’t see each other for the first month after leaving Kingston. Beyond talking over the phone, they became creative for dates.
 
“We would talk about old dates we went on, or any old memories we had that we really loved from Kingston,” Constantin said. “Even if we weren't really recreating anything physically, it was nice to talk about [those moments] again and go through them mentally.”
 
To Constantin, the biggest impact the situation has had on her relationship is the amount of physical distance between her and her boyfriend. They both attended Queen’s for their undergrad and had grown accustomed to living in close proximity through the majority of the year. 
 
Moving back in with their families has also played a part, she said.
 
“[In Kingston], we would’ve had a lot more independence and freedom. Being at home with family, as much as we love our families, I think we have less independence. It was definitely a big adjustment.”
 
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Although Michelle Boon, ArtSci '20, and her boyfriend were already planning to spend at least part of the summer apart, neither could’ve anticipated how strictly they’d have to adhere to these plans after the COVID-19 outbreak in Ontario. 
 
“He was in Mississauga, I moved back to Scarborough, so there’s the social distancing measures, but we're literally 40 minutes apart,” Boon said. “We’ve had to put a pause on our weekend excursions, little stuff like that.”
 
Because public health restrictions mean most of their days can be repetitive or monotonous, they’ve developed a strategy to keep their regular nightly calls from running out of topics of conversation.
 
“The biggest thing that we're doing is trying to hold off on texting throughout the day, because our days aren’t very interesting. When we get on the phone, it's like, ‘What did you do today? Oh, I worked.’ [...] The conversation can stagnate, which can be kind of frustrating,” she said. 
 
Now if they do something interesting during the day, they save it for their call. 
 
“It’s stockpiling things that we can talk about in the evening so that [our calls] are more quality time and we don't get frustrated because we have nothing to say to each other.”
 
The couple’s focus on the importance of conversation has come at a good time—there’s plenty going on in the world to talk about.
 
“With everything that's going on for Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve become a drastically more political person, while [my boyfriend] always was,” Boon said. “I think that we're having a lot more elaborate, in-depth conversations about race, racial inequality, and the state of the political system.”
 
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As restrictions continue to ease during the summer and into the fall, it’ll become easier for couples who’ve spent the last few months distanced to reconnect. 
 
For now, couples are waiting to make concrete summer plans with much of the future still on hold.
 
“The longer we go and quarantine or pandemic, the less it feels like it's happening anymore,” Boon said. “Everything feels kind of normal. You feel like you can make all these elaborate plans [...], but that's not reality. [It’s hard] knowing those things are a little farther in the future than we think they are.”
 
But with Ontario’s new social bubble rules expanding, couples are rediscovering a new sense of normalcy.
 
“[My boyfriend and I] have been able to see each other and actually hug, which is nice,” Constantin said. “I definitely missed that part of our relationship.”
 
Everyone’s navigating an unprecedented time in their lives—things might feel a little weird in your relationship. Boon said that’s to be expected. 
 
“We're all going through the most psychologically taxing moment in history that we've experienced. So, if things aren't perfect in your relationship right now, or there's tension, that's totally normal. You'll get through it.”
 

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