This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
A few weeks ago, the only concern you had about your relationship was whether you had enough money to go Copenhagen this summer and whether their weird sister actually liked you. But now that we're living through a coronavirus pandemic, well, there are other things to think about. Maybe you're self-isolating alone and the last time you saw their dick was via a glitchy FaceTime which got interrupted by their housemate yelling through the door about disinfecting the towels. Or maybe you're cooped up together, in the same room, jumping every time the other one coughs and arguing over Jenga.
Either way, a pandemic doesn't need to spell the end of romance. This might not be the ~ horniest ~ of times (that will come afterwards, when the virus burns out and we are no longer starved of physical contact), but there are ways to keep your relationship alive through this strange and unprecedented era of social distancing and working from home. To that end, here are a few tips on how to do that.
IF YOU'RE SELF-ISOLATING APART:
Make video chats a routine
Sending WhatsApps throughout the day to check in is nice when one of you is on holiday, but if you're completely alone and self-isolating, it can feel better to hear your partner's voice and see their face too. When you haven't spoken out loud for 72 hours other than saying "Thanks" to the Deliveroo driver through the letterbox, proper communication is precious.
Maria, who has been self-isolating in Ireland for the past two weeks while her boyfriend is in London, tells me that they FaceTime at least twice daily as it helps them feel connected. “We usually video when we wake up, then again later on in the day,” she says. “Sometimes we'll just leave FaceTime on while we make food or have a bath or whatever. Having this as a sort of routine helps me stay grounded and it also means I've got something to look forward to other than reading the news again or, like, bingeing The OC.”
Get creative when it comes to sex
Just because you're completely alone and no one is able to physically touch your body for the foreseeable future does not mean you have to be celibate / watch the same five videos on PornHub. In fact, now is the time to get creative, which might end up being a good thing for those of you who have sex every other Wednesday in the same position.
Kat, who is self-isolating with her family in Iceland while her girlfriend works in Manchester, says getting into phone and Skype sex has been a fun way to remain intimate. “Intimacy doesn't have to be physical,” she points out. “Use toys on yourself while your partner watches, tell each other what you want to do to each other down the phone, find ways to get each other off on video – whatever!”
“Less 'active' versions of intimacy are fun too,” she continues. “Send them a nude before you go to sleep, so you can wake up to theirs. It's hard to feel sexy when everyone's talking about handwash and isolation, so little acts like these make me personally feel like sex is still an important part of mine and my partner's relationship.”
Try not to freak out
Easier said than done, obviously – it's not like we're usually self-isolating from an infectious virus transmitted via a bat. But it's important to remember that none of this will last forever. Self-isolating, in general, is just a temporary measure. So if you're separated from your partner and other loved ones, remind yourself that you're doing it for everyone's health and look forward to the times you'll get to spend together in future.
IF YOU'RE SELF-ISOLATING TOGETHER:
Get ready for the day like you would usually
Self-isolation with a partner can easily descend into chaos. Why bother doing any work when you could both get stoned and watch back-to-back Christmas movies? Why bother getting dressed when you could both just wear pants? Why bother waking up at 9AM when you could wake up at 4PM and go to sleep in short, two hour bursts? (Note: this can happen when you're alone ofc but partners can be especially enabling.)
With that in mind, it's important to keep up some semblance of a routine together. Take a shower. Get dressed. Have a nice meal. Emily, who is self-isolating with her boyfriend in their shared flat in London suggests getting ready in the same way you might for work. “To begin with I just wore PJs, but that started making me feel like shit,” she says. “When both of us make an effort it makes us feel more normal and fresher when we go about our day.”
Have your own separate spaces, even metaphorically
“I think it's important to give each other space, regardless of the actual space you have,” advices Rosalie, who is self-isolating with her boyfriend right now in Berlin. She continues: “It's fine to be in the same room but not speak for a few hours and just do your own thing. He's currently working on music on the sofa and I'm working / speaking to you on my computer at the dinner table three meters away... There is absolutely no need to feel obliged to entertain each other 24/7 when you're in the same apartment 24/7. That just causes tension or a weird vibe somehow.”
Do fun things together
It's not easy spending every waking minute with the same person in one place, regardless of who they are. So if you're self-isolating with a significant other, make sure you have more to do than just watching Netflix box sets and going down on each other.
Elijah, who is self isolating with their partner in Brighton, recommends getting in some 'physical' entertainment rather than just 'mental' entertainment. “Having all this time to read has been great, but I've found it's equally as important to get out of my head,” they say. “We have paints here and we painted our coffee table pink. We also have badminton and play that in the front yard. Oh, and get a dance mat! We've been using that for exercise.”
Don't be a dick
Whether you're self-isolating with a partner or alone, don't be a dick about it. Yeah it's frustrating having to live in your own little homemade prison with 19 jars of lentils and, inexplicably, seven cactuses that you panic bought, but it's just what everyone is having to do. “Let the small things go,” says Elijah. “You're going to get annoyed with your partner when you're PMSing and they're hogging the duvet cover or playing their music loud, but let it go. Self-isolation isn't the right time for grudges or bad vibes; it will make you feel better being nice to each other.”