In a few weeks, it’ll be coming up to a year now in the UK that we’ve all been working from home and living our lives in lockdown. It’s crazy – because I remember when the initial lockdown first started, I figured we would all be getting back to some sort of normality by the summertime. Although life did start to resemble some sort of normality in the summer, it was under the guise of masks, limits to “party size”, and the constant uncertainty of cases creeping higher. My call for normality was a year too early – as the government here in the UK has now unofficial set June 21st as the date where all restrictions are set to end, and that is very much the magic date in everybody’s minds.
This could mean a summer of travel again, a return to office life, a very long overdue housewarming for me and that o so sweet “ayy” in the clurb. It’s months away, but at least it’s something to look forward to if all goes to plan.
Lockdowns have been eye opening for many reasons – realising that working from home more often should be the norm, coming to terms with some habits that could be cleaner and learning to appreciate what we have. At the same time, lockdown has been a lot of just watching the clock go by as it ticks forward to another day where I have amassed a mere 1,000 steps and haven’t even tasted fresh air.
Lockdowns also haven’t been great for many relationships. For those wanting to meet someone, lockdowns have literally locked up social activity for a year and chucked away the key – making this prospect really hard. And for those who entered lockdown in a relationship, in some cases it has also sped up the what could might been an ultimate ending for many relationships later down the line. For relationships, it seems that you’re either coming out of the other side with a few scratches, but still ready to move forward with your partner, or, you’ve stepped on a mine along the way, and it has ended in a big bang.
I wrote about “lockdown relationships” back in April as I somewhat cryptically mused over the situation I had found myself in – living in an apartment with my boyfriend, with his flatmate, with his flatmate’s finance, not allowed to leave other than for exercise once a day or a food shop once a day. It’s been on my mind again recently, as I’ve seen that lockdown has been the cause of the end for many relationships. I think it goes like this: you’ve either spent months upon months not even seeing your partner, and come to the realisation that maybe you don’t actually need to see them again. Or, on the flip side, you spent months upon months only seeing your partner, and realise again… that maybe you don’t need to be seeing them anymore.
It’s tough, because lockdowns are unnatural. Unless you’ve taking the decision to be in a long distance relationship (which many couples forced apart by lockdown had not), or life has pulled you apart from your partner for other circumstances such as work, then it’s not really the norm to spend 3+ months away from your partner. On the other side of the spectrum, even if you’ve spent the whole of lockdown with your partner, well that’s also not natural – it’s like moving in with each other but on steroids, because you do not have the things that we have built life to be centred around such as going out to work or school or uni every day to break up your day. Spending that much time up in somebody else’s business, and with somebody all up in your business, is not the way life typically works, especially without anybody else in the vicinity to really socialise with.
When lockdown first started near a year ago I packed my stuff and moved into my boyfriend’s apartment with his flatmate and his flatmate’s fiancé. A flat for 2 in East London filled with 4 workers. Honestly – it was fun. We worked during the week, and drank and played card games on the weekend. Plus his flatmate’s fiancé is an amazing cook, so it felt like I was living in a restaurant. It was a truly unique experience that my kids will definitely hear about one day.
At the same time, my boyfriend and I were pretty much living in one small bedroom, and that quickly became claustrophobic. Looking back, I think it’s crazy that we even did it (and I can see why older people thought the idea of 4 people in a 2 bed was absolute insanity when I mentioned it to them at the time, I figured they just didn’t “get it”). At a time, Levi and I were both working on one tiny desk, working out in that room, chilling out in that room and even sometimes eating breakfast/lunch in that room. It was mainly at dinner or on the weekend that we would all come together, and we’d break from the room for a couple of hours. It was a lot more intense than one of us just visiting the other to spend a weekend, and this is also considering tons of holidays we’ve gone on together in the past. In contrast, we’re now living in a place with a bedroom, office room, and spacious open plan living and kitchen area; during the work day we both are fully focussed on our work until it comes to lunchtime, and then we reconvene in the evening at dinner. The bedroom is now not synonymous with working, working out, eating and all of the above. It’s synonymous with chilled/lazy days and sleeping. The new living routine that we’ve got going on definitely brings a lot more sanity that the original plan brought.
There are a few lessons in love that lockdown has taught me. First of all, it has taught me that the foundation of any relationship is a good friendship. People ask me often if I miss the social aspects of work, which is a totally valid question and definitely a benefit of being in the office, but if I’m being totally honest – I also do get in enough laughs during the day often just by having a 5 minute chat/break with my boyfriend. Then, once life goes back to normal, I can of course supplement that by going back to meeting with friends and family on a regular basis. My earlier situation and where I stand now has also taught me the importance of personal space and time just to yourself. I’ve always been somebody that’s so good with my own time and space – just give me a laptop and some internet and I can find a way to keep myself entertained for hours and hours. Finally, with the removal of any stimulation from the outside, I’ve learned that sometimes you can make your own fun. Catch a few champagne bubbles in the house on valentines day. Make a Netflix film night feel like a proper movie night by turning of all the lights, getting something to snack on, and getting cosy. Try to recapture what the outside world so effortlessly offers.
And if it is the case that lockdowns have put a magnifying glass to your relationship and revealed enough cracks to break what was there, then for better or for worse, there is even a small case to be grateful… for speeding up a process that was probably bound to occur down the line anyway, and giving you a path to meet somebody who can make you happier.
As we star to reach the shore of June 21st, I’m glad to be stepping off this boat only having had to brace a few waves along the way. If there’s something that is able to make your relationship stronger – if it doesn’t break it – then lockdowns should certainly be on that list. And as we reflect on this very strange period, at least one thing to be grateful for is love.