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Coronavirus and relationships: the good and the bad

How have relationships been impacted over a year of a pandemic?

By Skye MacDonald

Credit: Alistair Berg

When thinking about an article topic, the first thing that came to mind was the effect of Coronavirus on relationships, both friendship and romantic. Speaking to friends over the months, all have expressed to an extent the change they have felt occur—both positive and negative—within their relationships. At a stage of life where relationships naturally change and form, the pandemic has arguably been a means for them being both strained and intensified. I decided to interview four different people in different situations who have all felt the effects of Covid-19 on their relationships and I was admittedly quite surprised to be met with a majority of positive thoughts, with the argument that relationships have grown stronger throughout this time. Despite the lack of group gatherings, one-on-one relationships have been built, and the “stay at home” message has meant that flat-mates have been able to spend more time together.

The first person I interviewed was my flatmate, Jordan. In the first lockdown she went back home to her family in the Highlands and her boyfriend of a few weeks went with her. After spending ten weeks in lockdown together they got engaged in October and this coming Summer they will be getting married—a choice which was massively influenced by the pandemic. She says that if the national lockdown hadn’t happened then they would have been a long-distance couple over the summer months, meaning that by September they would still only be getting to know each other, rather than being at the stage of planning a wedding!

The main thing was that living together accelerated their relationship, with conversations that might normally be put off happening early on while they were dating.

Likewise, conflicts occurred, but they were able to learn to deal with them in a way that strengthened their relationship, giving them clarity that marriage even after such a short period of time was for them.

Thinking more about the impact of their relationship on others, she says that their engagement came as quite a surprise to many, since their friends hadn’t seen the progression of the relationship. She has also found that with the Covid-19 restrictions you are forced to cut down on seeing other people if you are in a relationship, which has meant that there has been more one-on-one time as a couple, consequently intensifying it further.

The second person I interviewed was Zoe, a 4th year Theology student. She lives with three other girls and was very positive about the impact of the Corona-virus on their flat life:

“Would you say Corona has impacted your flat life, and if so, how?”

“Yes—normally we’re all very busy people, so it’s been quite strange to all be in the flat more together. We have gotten into a rhythm and it’s been quite nice doing things together, as simple as sitting and having lunch. It’s obviously rubbish that we can’t do social things outside of the flat but we just have to make an effort with one another and be intentional with spending time together, which has been really nice.”

“Have any other relationships outside of the flat been affected?”

“I think I’ve realised the people I am actually very close with—it’s made it clearer the people I want to be intentional with.”

Zoe and her boyfriend also recently got engaged, something she doesn’t think would have happened quite yet if it wasn’t for the pandemic.

Lockdown really made her and her fiancé closer as a couple even though they were long distance, leading her to recognise that if there was another lockdown, she would want them to be together.

This semester, university students were told to not come back to Aberdeen unless there were under unique circumstances. I interviewed Dan, a third year English-Politics student, on staying at home and the impact this has had on his relationships with his parents and friends back in Aberdeen. He was very positive about the chance he has had to be at home for the last couple of months, saying that it has been a time to really get to know his parents, and “realise that we’re not so different.” While being at home in quite an isolated place, he says that his family have thankfully been very supportive and their relationship has only been made stronger during this time.

“What do you do to keep strong relationships with people back in Aberdeen?”

“I’m lucky to have friends who are good at reaching out and staying in touch with me, since I’m hopeless with social media. In that sense, social media has been strangely good. When you’re not physically seeing anyone, it’s such a helpful thing to stay in touch with people’s lives and it acts as a virtual social circle, so it feels like you’re still up to date. Especially in this sort of isolating time.”

Finally, I spoke to Graeme, a third-year English student, who also has stayed at home in the Highlands this semester, meaning that he has been long distance with his girlfriend.

“How has Covid affected your relationship?”

“Honestly, this is a really hard question because most of our relationship has taken place while the pandemic has been raging, so it’s difficult to know what’s caused by Covid’s direct impact and what things have just happened because they were an inevitability… I think it’s pretty likely that we would be where we are now without a pandemic, but it’s impossible to know about specifics because we would obviously have had completely different experiences. I think a relationship surviving a pandemic, troubles or not, is a pretty wonderful thing. It’s nice to know that it has that strength.”

“Do you think your relationship has faced more challenges because of the pandemic?”

“The only relationship challenge that this might pose is the need to call a lot, but this is something that we want to do rather than a mundane necessity to maintain a healthy relationship… What I will say is that nobody told me how bittersweet it is to call someone who you miss. There is absolutely no catharsis in it, it’s a scam. It turns missing them into a physical sensation. I don’t know if this is something that everyone has always been experiencing and I’m just late to the party, but it is not a fun time. It is simultaneously hollow and intense. You still call though, and that horrible feeling is part of the reason.”

Without a doubt, the pandemic has had a massive effect on student’s and the relationships we have. From these interviews it can be said that most of the effects have been positive, with relationships being intensified but with optimistic outcomes. For many, the pandemic has been a chance to really grow certain relationships with an emphasis on more one-on-one time. It can also be said that we have put more value in relationships in a time where they have not been so accessible: something which is to be thankful for.


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