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Love in the time of COVID-19

Let's talk about sex and strengthening long-distance relationships during a global pandemic
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TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY
TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

When my boyfriend and I decided to be together, we knew that we were committing to a long-distance relationship. In fact, we exchanged our first series of messages while he was in Vienna. 

He was at a weeklong conference when I reached out to him on Tinder. He explained that he was a British PhD student spending his summer at the University of Toronto. After a few flirtatious texts, we agreed to meet for dinner when he flew back. 

Because of his temporary stay in Canada, we tried to keep things casual. That plan lasted all of two days — pretty soon we were spending every day together. Not to sound too cliché, but we had an instant connection. 

Hoping to try my hand at academia, I admired his love for research. We bonded over a similar work ethic and drive for success. More than that, we shared a strong desire to start families of our own one day. I knew I could trust him with my deepest insecurities when he comforted me all night after a standardized exam gone awry. I knew he was anything but a wet blanket when we baked weed brownies and spent two days stoned out of our minds. 

And then before we knew it, the summer was over. Before he flew back to the UK, we agreed to give long distance a proper try. Despite the five-hour time difference and our busy schedules, we managed to see each other during Halloween, reading week, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. I had never been in a long-distance relationship and realized I enjoyed having so much independent time as well as a week or two of deep intimacy with my partner. 

This February, I found out that I was accepted into my dream PhD program at Columbia University. This news was not only ideal for my career but also for my love life. My boyfriend and I drafted summer plans faster than we could write them down. 

First, he would fly over in April, so we could celebrate his birthday in the company of our friends. Then, he would fly over in June to celebrate my graduation. Then, I would fly back with him, so we would spend the rest of the summer in the UK. Then, I would fly back in August and move into my swanky apartment in Manhattan, and we could spend the next six to seven years in New York drowning in each other’s love. I was over the moon with how everything had worked out. 

Needless to say, COVID-19 brought these plans to a halt. 

Perhaps, that’s being a little dramatic. 

Despite being an ocean away, we have accomplished a lot together these past couple of months. We worked our way through Pokémon: Sword and Shield and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We watched a morally questionable amount of reality TV including Love Island, Too Hot to Handle, and The Circle. We kicked up a terrible Civilization V and VI habit with our friends. We orchestrated Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and trivia nights. 

I have had so much fun talking to him every day and spending quality hours with him and our closest friends. We have managed to stay in touch — if not literally, then at least figuratively. 

And yet, as we come closer and closer to our first year anniversary, I cannot help but think it is a time we should spend in person. I worry when I consider that COVID-19, much like the distance of our relationship, is here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

It is painful and difficult when we are engaged in disagreements and are not there to comfort each other afterward. And don’t get me started on the physical intimacy element. I believe that all good relationships are predicated upon good conversation. But it is hard not to be in the physical proximity of my partner. In other words, sex is great, but have you ever just held your partner for an hour relishing in each other’s warmth? 

I’ve read a few articles online about how to sustain and strengthen long-distance relationships during COVID-19. Communication, as I’m sure you can guess, plays a huge role. One piece of advice I have is to pick your battles and resist sweating the small stuff. Much like a ‘regular’ long-distance relationship, you are working toward a common goal with your partner: when you can see them and know that you don’t have to part. As the coronavirus rages on, it is crucial to have that same objective in mind. 

While it is uncertain when we will see each other next, our feelings for one another have not changed. In fact, they’ve only gotten stronger. And I think that’s the most important thing about being in any type of relationship.