As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, stay at home orders and lockdowns across the country separated many loved ones. Long distance is hard enough on its own, but the added stress of living through a pandemic without the support of your significant other makes the situation ten times harder to endure. In addition to the lessons of personal experience, I contacted current college students, as well as experts in the field (relationship therapists, counselors, and coaches) to put together this guide to surviving quarantine away from your partner.
Check out this 14 point guide to social distance relationships.
1. “How are you holding up?”
Check-ins are important in any relationship, not just a romantic one. My personal favorite messages to send or receive are good morning and goodnight texts, updates on daily life, or any forms of contact that let the other person know you are thinking of them. Due to this being a stressful time for everyone, you can’t go wrong by checking in to remind your partner you love them. “It is very assuring to give a small text or a small gesture at least once a day,” said Karen Garcia, a rising senior at Stevens Institute of Technology. “Letting that special person know or knowing from that special person that you/they woke up, you/they are healthy and safe; plus you/they thought about you/them at some point during the day gives a comforting feeling.” When you check-in on your partner, you reach out to communicate and ensure your connection stays strong despite the physical distance.
2. “When are you free to FaceTime?”
With date nights on hold due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, never fear–we live in the 21st century. Thanks to FaceTime and Zoom, you and your partner can spend time together virtually, like dressing up to celebrate an anniversary over Zoom, or a FaceTime dinner date. “To support good communication, you should set specific times to speak or FaceTime and make sure that there are no distractions around,” said Julianne Cantarella MSW LSW, a matchmaker, dating coach and relationship expert. “Regular communication is really the only way you can grow a connection during COVID-19.” Instead of looking at your forced distance as a negative, switch your mindset to think of the separation as an opportunity to get creative with date night. Brainstorming ideas with your partner is half the fun–plus it’s good excuse to maintain communication.
3. “Let’s watch something!”
Just because you’re in quarantine doesn’t mean movie dates have to stop. Thanks to Netflix Party, you and your partner can enjoy remote movie nights. Grab your homemade popcorn and put on your favorite shows and movie flicks; sob through a rom-com or cry laughing through a comedy–all from the comfort and safety of your own homes. This free Google Chrome extension synchronizes video playback and adds a group chat to your favorite Netflix shows. Just download the extension, pick a movie or TV show, send a link to your partner to join your party and enjoy.
4. Communicate honestly
Don’t forget you have your partner’s support through the uncertainty that quarantine brings. Hiding your true feelings seems like the easy way out, but open and honest communication is crucial for couples separated by distance. “When you lack physical contact with your partner, it’s imperative that you increase your levels of honest communication,” said Jordan Gray, a sex and relationship coach. “Use this time as a portal to deepen the emotional connection in your relationship, and you’ll come out of it even stronger than before.” Take advantage of this opportunity to grow your connection with direct and honest communication.
5. Ask meaningful questions
In order to encourage effective communication, ask your partner questions that invite a deeper conversation. “Generic formalities such as ‘How are you?’ or ‘How was your day?’ don’t allow for a lot of conversation,” said Jake Ryan, an associate marriage and relationship therapist. “Ask meaningful questions, like ‘What made you smile today?’ or something similar that triggers specific memories in their mind.” Inviting your partner to engage in a deeper conversation on topics you usually avoid deepens your bond.
6. Distance is temporary
You and your partner will reunite before you know it. Jumping into long distance can be difficult for any relationship, so give yourself room to adjust to this new normal. Maybe you used to see each other all the time, but thanks to quarantine, you’re stuck in different states. “Keep in mind that this [long distance] relationship is something that both you and your partner are getting used to, so you need to be patient with yourself and them,” said Bridget Lynn, a rising junior at New York University. “Remember this will not last forever, and you can still enjoy a meaningful relationship with someone you love in the meantime.” Don’t let the frustration of physical distance change the way you feel about your partner.
7. Get creative!
After a few weeks of quarantine, phone calls, texts and FaceTime lose their novelty… especially when relying on these methods of communication exclusively for days in a row. “Contrary to what most people might believe, you don’t have to talk every day for hours at a time,” said Dr. Marni Feuerman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships. “Get creative about your contact…write a handwritten letter, send short video clips, mail a handmade project or work of art…there’s so much you can do to keep the connection strong outside of texts and video calls.” For example, after scouring Pinterest in search of DIY goodies to send to my boyfriend while we are apart, I put together a hand-embroidered sweater, painting and letter all together in a decorative package to send to him. It was a simple and fun project to work on, and in the end, it reminded him that I care.
8. Remember you’re on the same team
I never said long distance was easy, but at least your partner goes through it with you. “All relationships are hard, and distance is hard for anyone. Remember that you’re on the same team,” Ryan said. “Near or far, you’re still together and that matters.” Although loneliness is a byproduct of forced isolation, you’re never alone emotionally. You and your partner remain a team, despite the physical distance.
9. Be patient
Major historical events instill all kinds of confusing emotions: panic, fear and uncertainty, to name a few. No wonder you feel out of place. You and your partner need to have patience while you navigate this uncharted territory. “Be patient and have faith and trust in your partner,” Garcia said. “Without patience and trust, things can get ugly. These times will come to an end… when they do and you get to see [your partner], you’ll know the patience was all worth it.” This bump in the road won’t last forever, and you and your s/o will reunite soon.
10. “I’m here for you”
A natural symptom of boredom, overthinking leads to troubling feelings in your relationship if left unchecked: anxiety, distrust, worry. Don’t be afraid to ask for reassurance from your partner… they probably want it too. “I like to remind [my partner] that I love him and I’m always there for him,” said Marifé Quesada, a rising junior at New York University, “I seek emotional support from him, as well as having someone I can trust and talk to about anything.” Communication is a two-way street, and reassurance helps you get through to each other.
11. “How often do you want to FaceTime?”
While sitting in this quarantine-induced lull, constant FaceTiming and texting may be an energy drain for both of you–you can only send so many updates about your dog. “Have an open discussion about the amount of contact that’s good for each of you,” Feuerman said. “Conversation flows more naturally when we chat about our busy lives, and spacing out contact will allow for more meaningful conversations when you do connect.” Set up a schedule with your partner that works for both of you, and plan fun virtual dates for FaceTime night.
12. Stay true to yourself and what you want
This pandemic causes laziness; as motivation flies out the window, everything else slips through the cracks. You can’t let this apply to your expectations in your romantic relationship. “Now is not the time to stop setting boundaries or having expectations,” Cantarella said. “You should be direct and express your concerns about having to date at a distance… Identifying that they are important to you and understanding them is important to you and your relationship.” In short, stand your ground. Your partner loves you for who you are, and directness about what each of you wants will bring you closer together.
13. Rediscover who you are as individuals
If you miss spending time with your partner, a mindset switch eases the situation. Take this as an opportunity to pursue passions you didn’t get around to before. “If you’re in a relationship where there’s a lot of attached-at-the-hip, codependent energy, then embrace this time to get re-engaged in your own lives,” Gray said. “You can make a decision that you (and your partner) are going to deploy trust, creativity and resilience… make this a time that you will use as a springboard that your future selves will thank you for.” Deepen your passion for an existing hobby, or take up an entirely new skill. There is no time like the present to grow–and you have all the time in the world.
14. “I love you”
Amidst the panic, frustration, and uncertainty of the pandemic, take a step back and remind yourself why you fell in love with your partner. It won’t be long until you’re back together in person, but the physical distance between you will never change how you feel about each other. Above all, direct and honest communication will aid you during your time apart. Tell your partner you love and care for them because you can never hear or say those words too often. They are there for you, they love you and together you can get through anything.