Intimacy and seeking intimate relationships have always come in many different flavors. While COVID-19 promotes social distancing, many relationship counselors share their few cents of sense. Regardless whether you’ve been together for a hot minute or for what feels like forever, practicing social distancing together can quickly bring up the strengths and weaknesses in even healthy relationships. Or point out all the differences.
Long distance relationships go back through centuries. Relationships were made for strategic alliances among countries. Farmers arranged marriages among children to build labor forces, finding mates from other towns.
In 2015, Queen’s University Belfast researchers studied 1,142 relationships. All couples were in their 20’s, 30 percent of them were out of college, and 77 percent were heterosexual. The results showed that people in long distance relationships indicated the same levels of intimacy, communication, commitment, sexual satisfaction, and overall satisfaction as those in geographically close relationships.
Social media and digital match making businesses, such as e-harmony.com, help singles find mates. These use personality types, interests, pictures, and videos. How truthful are these? That may take vetting. Vetting is the process of performing a background check on someone before offering them employment, conferring an award, or doing fact-checking prior to making any decision. In addition, in intelligence gathering, assets are vetted to determine their usefulness.
In some religions or cultures, parents and friends get involved in studying potential mates (or dates) for compatibles or incompatibilities. Some outcomes may prevent a first date from ever happening. For many centuries, chaperones were customarily used on initial dates.
Prior to the digital age, Pen-pals were people that write to one another from all over the world. Some classic movies and books dealt with the pro’s and cons. In a 1940 classic movie Shop Around the Corner (based on a Hungarian play) two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the mail as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Yes, distances and anonymity can really corrupt long distance relationships.
COVID-19 corrupts the dating process with physical masks and gloves and actual physical distance. Most restaurants and bars have tables barely 3 feet wide. The question of whether COVID-19 is sexually transmitted is largely irrelevant to the risks of having sex with someone who is infected. Coronavirus is transmitted, among other ways, through droplet infection. Secretions from the mouth (consisting of saliva and mucus) and nose can contain the virus. Even if you don’t kiss the person you are having sex with, you are likely to be breathing closely together. You are likely to be touching the same surfaces, which someone could have touched with soiled fingers.
Adding to complications are possible sexually transmitted diseases (STD) that most commonly occur prior sex. Only certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are transmittable through kissing. Two common ones are herpes simplex virus (HSV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Kissing can be one of the most exciting parts of a relationship. But you may also feel wary of kissing if you’re with someone for the first time. When adding COVID-19 possibilities, gloved handshakes might be preferable.
While 82% of couples in long distance relationship put an end to their adventure after finally moving in together, according to a Ohio State University 2019 study. Many relationships hardly get to a single date or beyond a second date.
With Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of social media sites, long social distancing relationships can be creepy. First is getting over avatars, false names, false gender, false location and false age. Yes, visual messengers help. You really don’t know how many simultaneous LDR a person has. Then these social distancing relationships grow stale. I have heard of cases where one ghosts the other. Ghosting is when someone you’re dating ends the relationship by cutting off all communication, without any explanation. After a long LDR social distancing relationship, psychological impact is devastating. When being ghosted, people often take it to reflect on themselves — their own wrong behavior, imperfections and flaws. But ghosting actually reveals more about the personality of the ghoster than the ghostee. Ghosting is most similar to the avoidance and the mediated communication strategies. Yes, social media exposes you to good relationships but more than many end up being superficial.
Social distancing during a pandemic still allows most to text, e-mail, and use multimedia messaging. Much may be shared by texting or phoning. Sometimes it releases higher quality sharing. Sometimes it doesn’t. Technology allows more depth than pen-pals. Social distancing redefines dating – casual or otherwise. You might say SIRI or the click is mightier than roses or chocolates. Literal sharing creativity has spawned eroticism in media and can transpose to interesting flirting. The power of social distancing can be perceived as 21st century foreplay.
In recent weeks, many people throughout our planet have begun working remotely, if they haven’t been furloughed or laid off; schools have canceled classes for weeks; and restaurants, retail stores, bars, gyms, and other gathering places in dozens of states have shuttered. Meeting with friends, socializing in brick (real physical) reality has become abstract. These are significant life-changers and, if we don’t show it, we are stressed nonetheless. Social distancing technology is vastly becoming a more powerful medium. It’s the new reality.
Social distancing doesn’t mean everyone is sick. Wearing gloves, masks, and other protective gear is ethically responsible (though some may find it kinky). Ethical obligation to curtail activities, practice social distancing, and substitute activities with safer alternatives, like teleconferencing instead of in-person work meetings or, even if you live in a city where bars are still open, changing a first date from a wine bar to a walk outside may seem like a kinky way of living. Yet, social distancing protects all who we encounter, ourselves, and significant others and is the most responsible way of flattening statistical curves to avoid further spread of this virus.
In Ireland, public health officials are encouraging a “no parties, no playdates, no playground” policy, per the Irish Times. Muireann Ní Chrónín, a consultant respiratory pediatrician at Cork University Hospital, told the paper: “In most epidemics, young children are the transmitters.” With Covid-19, older people are most at risk, but children can spread the disease, and at least a small risk of severe illness is present for all age groups.
As animals have historically been carriers of viruses, pets may need tests and social distancing. I would guess no mingling in dog-run parks.
Coping with surviving an infectious microbe requires thinking beyond normal. Coronavirus will likely evolve in future decades and we must adapt new ways to tackle them We must be mindful of three things:
Social distancing means keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, churches, concert halls and public transportation.
Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill.
Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others.
As of this writing, COVID-19 has no vaccines, treatments or cures. These 3 lifestyles must be adopted. They are not easy. Psychologists’ research has found that during a period of social distancing, quarantine or isolation, you may experience:
Fear and anxiety
You may feel anxious or worried about yourself or your family members contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. It’s also normal to have concerns about obtaining food and personal supplies, taking time off work or fulfilling family care obligations. Some people may have trouble sleeping or focusing on daily tasks.
Depression and boredom
A hiatus from work and other meaningful activities interrupts your daily routine and may result in feelings of sadness or low mood. Extended periods of time spent at home can also cause feelings of boredom and loneliness.
Anger, frustration or irritability
The loss of agency and personal freedom associated with isolation and quarantine can often feel frustrating. You may also experience anger or resentment toward those who have issued quarantine or isolation orders or if you feel you were exposed to the virus because of another person’s negligence.
If you are sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you may feel stigmatized by others who fear they will contract the illness if they interact with you.
Creating, having, and keeping meaningful (even flirty) relationships is very possible with social distancing. There may be some important things missing in social distancing but hope for fulfilling them when all this has passed. At this point, social distancing means affection.