In our last issue, E&M’s wonderful Nicoletta Enria gave us a glimpse into the challenges that the recent Coronavirus-induced lockdown brought on relationships – describing the lockdown experience “like love in the time of cholera – love or separation, drama (minus the cheating, because social distancing) – or 100 years of solitude.” Reflecting on her wise words and thinking about the multitude of experiences packaged behind her Marquez metaphor, we went to ask Young Europeans about their own lockdown. Whether lockdown brought some of us closer to their partner (for best and for worth), kept lovers apart or created new challenges to date, many of us have gone through an incredibly overwhelming period. Read below some fellow young Europeans on how they experienced love, relationships and sex (or the lack thereof) during this time.

What once was a kiss goodbye became our last kiss goodbye.

Jana, 24

My long-term and long-distance boyfriend and I broke up in the middle of the lockdown, countries and quarantines apart. We broke up across a spotty internet connection, staring at the blurry image of the person we once loved, years and inside jokes and secrets shared and promises kept and kisses given and taken and hearts broken all reduced to a miniature of ourselves on each other’s phone screen, to a tinny voice saying “I’m sorry”. What once was a kiss goodbye became our last kiss goodbye. No hug now, no last look back. This is a lonely time to be lonely. But it won’t last forever (and neither will loneliness). 

 

Michelle, 25

It’s pandemic day number I-stopped-counting and I’m buying tickets to go to Paris. It’s pandemic day no. who-knows and I’m buying tickets to go see someone I’ve met once and I’m writing letters to someone I’ve met once and I’m smiling underneath my surgical mask because I’m falling for someone I’ve only met once. The past couple of months, I’ve spent my evenings chatting on the phone, my mornings texting ‘have a good day’, and spent my days having a good day, indeed. Across social distance, dating has become talk rather than touch, and talk we did. We were forced to slow down, with less to do after work and craving some more human connection, we got to know each other. From inane questions to the really big ones. There was no rush to get ready for a date, no nights spent fucking. Instead, we got all the locked down time in the world to talk and text. 

In the face of this uncertainty, the crisis reminded me to be brave.

Crises remind us of the inherent uncertainty of being alive, of the absolute chaos barely concealed by carefully kept bullet journals. In the face of this uncertainty, the crisis reminded me to be brave. A little crazy, maybe. Going-to-Paris-to-spent-a-week-together crazy. But with everything up in the air, we might as well try to fly. 

 

Victoria, 25

My boyfriend moved in with me on Day 1 of the lockdown, he first came for a few days and then went back home to pack a big suitcase when we realised this was going to be slightly longer than anticipated. The first few days, he kept telling me, himself, and everyone we spoke to on the phone that we had to get ready for months of this. It was both scary and, I’ll admit, a little exciting. Home office, a constant excuse to stay in together and a flat just for ourselves. It seemed like a dream come true: hitting pause on life and the world and instead hibernating together. 

But then work came into the equation – and bursted our illusion that home office meant little work and more time loving each other. Instead, it literally meant home office. It quickly started to feel like we were stuck in a one-room office day in day out with two never-ending piles of work. I, for one, found it hard to deal with work stress next to my boyfriend along with his own work stress in real time – and I don’t think I would have been able to handle it very well for much longer. At the same time, though, it did feel like a privilege  to get a glimpse of each other’s work day, habits and persona. A short glimpse into a world that tends to remain so foreign in relationships, yet that is fully part of our lives. 

for good or for worth, it unlocked the door to so many of the other’s parallel universes.

And while work is the most obvious example in this case – because we just had so much of it – this is my general take away from this experience: for good or for worth, it unlocked the door to so many of the other’s parallel universes. It may be that everyone feels that way when moving in with their partner, but I do think that the lockdown amplified this impression in that we were constantly sharing the same space and therefore privileged guests or unexpected witnesses to each other’s habits, needs and emotions. And this is another step into our relationship, which like the lockdown when it was announced, I’m both scared and excited about. 

Friederike, 32

My relationship had ended at the beginning of this year. I do think if it hadn’t though, we would have called it quits latest when the lockdown came. And when lockdown came, I was relieved to be on my own. I was relieved to not having to care and think for and about another person, having to take another person into consideration.

I think because lockdown forced me to be at home within myself, I got over the heartbreak quicker than I would have dared to dream of.

I was glad to be on my own. I excelled at self-care. I was glad to have the perfect excuse to not go on the how-are-you-doing-now-post-break-up catch up drink with my ex-partner: because I really didn’t want to. I was glad to not having to socialise and explain to friends and acquaintances “that I am doing fine” having to endure their sympathetic and pitying head-tilts of the “how are you, really”s. I was glad that there was no opportunity to accidentally bump into my ex.

And I think because lockdown forced me to be at home with myself, I got over the heartbreak quicker than I would have dared to dream of. And honestly, potentially healthier, because I spent a lot of time with myself – and I have never liked myself more.

I have started to date again. And I don’t know what it is – the impending doom of Covid-19, the joy of being able to carefully meet outside again or my reinstated self-love: but I think this could be something great. I will keep you in the loop, Europe.

 

Cover Photo: Image created by Catherine Cordasco. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19 on Unsplash.

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    Thoughts and experiences of young Europeans from across the continent.

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