Linnea, a 26-year-old engineer from Iowa, met her boyfriend in late 2019 and then spent four months away from him, speaking only on the phone, when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck. “By the time we got to meet again, we knew each other much more deeply,” she says. “Talking on the phone is so intimate that I would say things that come to mind or be awkward in a way that I would feel embarrassed in person.”
Kira Jones, a 36-year-old data manager in Atlanta, was already at bay with her three-year-old partner before the pandemic began, and they haven’t seen each other for a year and a half because of it. “I think it definitely made us work on our communication,” she says. “We have found better ways to negotiate boundaries and be clear about expectations.”
Jones and his partner also improved at asking for and planning quality time together. “We’re stuck at home, we have to do something to feel like a couple, so more date nights are happening,” she says. “Before, there was a lot of anxiety about not meeting deadlines.”
While COVID-19 may have forced some couples to quarantine together, it created distance between others and forced some people to form long-distance relationships from the get-go.
According to an OKCupid 2020 study of its users, connections and conversations across state and country borders on the app increased by almost 50% during the pandemic. And a 2020 study by the Kinsey Institute found that at the start of the pandemic, 16% of dating app users changed their filters (including distance filters) to match more people.
“In the new normal, we all realize that distance isn’t as big a barrier as it used to be,” says Meredith Prescott, LCSW, psychotherapist and owner of Prescott Psychotherapy + Wellness. “The world functions, even flourishes, in a remote environment where so much is possible.”
In fact, however, being separated created difficulties for many couples and in fact motivated some to form closer, healthier relationships than they otherwise would have.
Ali Smith, a 32-year-old puppy development expert and founder of Rebarkable – who eventually moved from the UK to Baltimore late last year to be with her partner after COVID-19 prevented them from moving in together – describes long-distance relationships as “a kind of modern Jane Austen-style relationship where emotion and friendship come before the physical.”
“Long-distance relationships can allow for a stronger friendship and a chance to first strengthen the emotional component of the relationship,” says Prescott.
“Since there is a physical distance, it requires an additional layer of effective communication and trust which is necessary for all relationships but even more in this dynamic.”
“Lack of closeness lends itself to building a relationship based on trust,” Smith acknowledges from his own experience. “Distance forces you to consider your actions and devote time and attention to your long-distance partner. It takes a lot more preparation than your average date. It takes a lot more time. [energy] to keep a long-distance relationship alive and thriving, which is fantastic preparation for when you’re together. “
Long-distance relationships also allow people to have more independence and individuality when in a relationship, Prescott adds, because there is a need for both people to find happiness in their lives outside of their partners.
Even when people haven’t met yet, starting to talk from a distance before meeting in person has its benefits. “People have more intimate conversations now than before,” explains Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and researcher at the Kinsey Institute.
“In the past, people met quickly when talking to someone online,” says Lehmiller. “But now they’re taking a slower approach to love where they use that time to make a connection with someone. It can actually make their relationship stronger in the end if they take the time to really build that up. emotional relationship and intimate bond. “
Now that meeting in person is becoming less risky due to the release of COVID vaccines, being at a distance is no longer necessary for so many people.
However, being open to meeting people in all different places has a simple statistical advantage: you’re more likely to find someone who really suits you if you expand your options.
“A lot of people have long wondered if they would fare better in other geographic locations,” sociologist Jess Carbino told HelloGiggles. “People who are looking for partners who share a less common demographic characteristic, such as ethnicity or religion, may be able to find more compatible partners if their geographic requirements are relaxed.” So, people might consider expanding the geographic radius of people presented to them on dating apps if they are open to meeting people in different places even now.
And even those who live close to their partners can still draw some of the lessons learned during the pandemic and apply them to their own relationships. For example, people can make a point of getting to know their dates and having meaningful conversations before they level up. They can also make a point of having an active life outside of their relationships, whether with friends, family, hobbies or work.
Another lesson learned from long distance relationships during the pandemic is to have consistent communication. Long-distance couples need to be scrupulous in communicating their needs to each other, educating themselves about each other, setting expectations about how often and how they want to talk, and discussing issues before they escalate, Prescott says – and everyone could benefit. this.
Good communication is also, above all, letting your partner know how much you care about them. “Let your partner know how you feel,” Prescott advises. “Tell them how much you appreciate their support and your relationship. Think about how it would feel if you were reassured that your partner values your relationship as much as you do. Ultimately, it’s about providing support to your partner, whether you’re near or far – and if this past year has provided more ways to connect, then why not keep going?