It’s year X of the pandemic, and we’ve seen the situation get worse, then better, then slightly worse again. Despite how frustratingly unpredictable things are, our lives shouldn’t stop and wait for everything to become more stable. Emotional connections can’t remain frozen in time, only to dethaw once we can finally go back to how things were before. A lot of my friends have actually experienced their most turbulent relationships in the past two years, and their stories and experiences showed me that the pandemic did not stagnate romance. The rollercoaster can still continue, and love can still go on (or end).
Paula had only gotten together with her boyfriend a week before lockdown started. For her, it was fun to go out before that, like a high before the pandemic. The first month was spent figuring each other out. “He wasn’t chatty online, so it was a lot of adjusting. I kept wondering if I was being too clingy,” she said. “When he wouldn’t chat me back I would get insecure. Was he too busy? Is it not interesting anymore?”
The two took a break in the fourth quarter of 2020, after dealing with separate personal issues. Paula mentions that they had to reevaluate if they were good in their relationship. When restrictions loosened, they had decided to go out with mutual friends just to simply hang out.
“Out of nowhere we had some sort of reconciliation,” Paula says. “We talked about it again and he said he was ready. He said that he missed me and he didn’t want to lose me.” The two were willing to try again, as long as the feelings were still there.
In 2021 they tried to meet up every month, and started video calling more often. They had found a formula: they’d immediately plan the next date after getting together in order to keep themselves excited.
It’s Paula’s first-ever relationship, and she says she’s learning a lot of new things. “I learned how to communicate better. I don’t know if it’s because of me or the pandemic, but he wants to resolve our arguments and talk about it right away.” Paula mentions too that she has since redefined her definition of “clinginess.” “You really need to chat to stay connected, but our break was actually good for me. I could see my pettiness from back then.”
Losing the spark
Tiffany, on the other hand, had been dating her boyfriend a good amount of time before the pandemic hit. When it started, they’d chat every day but never called. “We didn’t expect the pandemic to last long; we thought we’d see each other again around June,” she says. Tiffany and her boyfriend never did those watch parties or games that other couples would do. “Maybe it’s because we used to see each other every day and we were just trying to enjoy the fact that we didn’t have school.”
Towards the end of 2020, Tiffany started seeing her friends going out and visiting each other. “I’d see other people in relationships meeting up, and it wasn’t something I wanted. I was kind of dreading it actually. I don’t know if it was the distance, but I was losing the drive to talk to him,” she says.
Tiffany thinks that they would have been broken up by now if the pandemic didn’t happen. “He made me cry a lot before the lockdown happened and I actually cried less during it. He would say a lot of hurtful things. Maybe because I was so anxious about being in a relationship. He would have broken up with me because I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it.”
We both agreed after our conversation that it took her spending less time with him to realize how badly he would treat her. She muses that the pandemic made her realize that they aren’t really compatible. “We know each other very well but that isn’t enough to make our relationship continue long-term. It became clearer: you take out the intimacy and the dates to actually see, ‘What were we spending our time on?’”
Having a relatively stable relationship before the pandemic, Nina was hit with intense separation anxiety during the first month of lockdown. She and her boyfriend used to always be physically together, studying or eating out. “I felt alone at home. Sobra ko siyang na-miss and I don’t think he missed me as much as I missed him,” she says.
Her boyfriend eventually moved back to the province, which put a strain on their relationship. Restrictions were even looser there, and he had the opportunity to go out with his family and friends. Nina details how they’d make plans to hang out, but the online setup made it too easy to postpone or cancel them. Almost a year of the same pattern went by and she realized just how often he’d put her on the backburner.
“I think he saw LDR in a different way than I did. I see a face-to-face relationship na kayang i-translate to LDR. Sa kanya, LDR is LDR and if malayo tayo then malayo tayo,” she recalls. “But it’s not clingy to have needs in a relationship.”
It took Nina wanting to break up for her boyfriend to realize what he had been doing. “Now we’re doing better,” Nina says. “Mas nagkakaroon ng calls, mas naguusap, mas nagkukuwento.” They spend their time video calling, watching movies, or playing games together.
That rocky moment in their relationship taught her a lot, since it was quite the switch-up for Nina. Prior to the pandemic, they would be super clingy with each other. “We were co-dependent and we needed to be there for each other always. If walang pandemic we would have stayed like that for a while,” she says. “I wouldn’t have known how to become independent, and would have dedicated my daily life to him.”
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It’s easy to paint all of these stories as grand romances born from “unprecedented times.” Look closer, though, and you see they’re all struggles that couples go through, no matter what the situation is. Redefining your relationship, questioning your compatibility and making adjustments are all part of the deal. Whether it’s found or eventually lost during the pandemic, love definitely doesn’t stagnate — even if the world seems to be at a standstill.