Being under strict lockdown due to a literal pandemic hasn't been easy on people in relationships. Instead of going on a nice third date to the cinema, they're having to hastily move in together or else be forced into a life of scheduled Zoom sex sessions and whatever a "Netflix party” is. And if you already live together? Welcome to a world in which "having some space” means sitting one metre apart, staring at separate screens.
For those in polyamorous relationships, though, there are a whole new set of difficulties to contend with. Who do you self-isolate with, for instance, if your poly relationship is non-hierarchical? How do you make time for multiple partners when only one of them is able to be physically present? And what do you do if your partner is shacked up with their other partner, while you're having to survive off old nudes and the occasional "you OK” text?
With that in mind, we spoke to a bunch of people in polyamorous relationships about how they're navigating this lockdown scenario and how exactly they're finding it.
“IT'S KIND OF FUCKED UP, REALLY”
So I have a partner in the States and I was due to fly out to see them yesterday, but instead I think we are probably going to break up from the strain. I've been distant with them lately and unable to process what the fuck is going on in the world. And as I've started a new relationship with someone who lives five minutes away from me IRL, they've become jealous or just upset since I'm going on social distancing walks after dark with my new partner.
Me and my partner in the States had met in person and spent two weeks together. We'd been together for about six months but it was fairly intense, with both of us coming out of long term abusive situations. We were talking about me moving over there and all sorts. I think things had been difficult anyway, since my job takes a lot of my energy and our communication was getting less, but I felt safe in the fact we'd be seeing each other. But who knows when that's going to happen.
It's kind of fucked up, really. They view me as putting more effort into the new relationship as my communication has been kind of less, but it just feels overwhelming to talk online a lot at the minute. And my new relationship has been hard as fuck, too. We were friends for two years and just started dating two weeks before lockdown. — Ame, 27
“JUST LIKE PRE-LOCKDOWN, IT'S ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT EACH PERSON FEELS VALUED”
It's actually been okay! I live with my primary partner, while my other partner also lives with their primary partner. My partner also started seeing someone a month or so before lockdown, so they're in contact too. We sustain our other relationships by making sure that we have regular phone conversations and keeping up that vital communication and intimacy. Just like pre-lockdown, it's about making sure that each person feels valued.
I do miss being physical with my other boyfriend, but it's more important that each of us stay safe, so that's going to have to wait. We regularly remind each other that this isn't going to last forever and for now we are just valuing all this extra time we have with the partner's we live with. For us, there hasn't been any strain to our situation, we're all pretty relaxed and used to being communicative if or when any issues arise. — Rory, 26
“I MISS SOME OF MY FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS AND LOVERS”
Me, my partner and his other partner live together and have been living together for the past two years. We are quite lucky and have found a good compromise – I have a bedroom, my partner's partner has another bedroom and our common partner can spend time with both of us separately. It's also nice to spend time with the three of us together over dinner or watching movies. It gives us "family time", which I think is healthy in a moment like this.
We've been navigating it quite well over the past three weeks, but I feel like this week it will be a bit harder. The blues are starting to hit somehow. I miss some of my friends with benefits and lovers and I know I won't be able to meet with them anytime soon.
My partner and I work as a performance art duo, so we have a room in our house which we use as a studio. So if we need space only for ourselves, we can always go there and work alone. The only hard part is that now we don't have any time off from each other. Any small argument gets augmented by being in the same spaces all of the time. — Riccardo, 28.
“MY GIRLFRIEND IS ISOLATING WITH HER GIRLFRIEND, WHO IS ALSO MY BEST FRIEND”
I'm not living with a partner, nor am I isolating with either of them. My girlfriend is isolating with her girlfriend, who is also my best friend. My boyfriend is isolating at his house with no partners. I'm actually breaking up with him soon, so that's going to be weird.
It's been kind of hard without physical contact. My girlfriend has been more distracted, so it has been difficult to have their attention when I've wanted it. I also find FaceTime really annoying because sometimes I just want to cuddle and not say anything. I've seen my boyfriend a couple of times, with us keeping distance. We've Skyped a bunch.
It's been fun to sext and send nudes because it's been refreshing after being used to seeing each other so frequently. Honestly, it's made me feel grateful for what I have. In the case of my boyfriend, it's given me time to truly reflect and understand that I'm not happy and need to move on. You notice that more without physical intimacy making things sweeter. — Cai, 28
“I FEEL LIKE THE CAT WHO'S GOT THE CREAM”
I'm living with my partner for the foreseeable future, while her other partner lives in another part of London. A few weeks ago, she was visiting her other partner once every two weeks or so, but now that's not possible. From what she's said, they're managing to chat regularly over WhatsApp and email, but there isn't that physical contact. They haven't been video chatting, to my knowledge.
I'm not in another relationship at present, so my girlfriend has been my main focus. I'm not going to lie, it's been really nice having so much more time with her. In the past I've occasionally felt uncomfortable about her other partner (although I'm working through that), so it's been relaxing to have some of that discomfort alleviated for the time being. Obviously things will change in the future, but for now I feel like the cat who's got the cream. — Alex, 28
“FOR THE FIRST FEW WEEKS I WASN'T TOO FUSSED”
I'm spending my lockdown at home in Kent. I've left my flat in Brighton, where I'm studying, because all my flatmates left. My girlfriend is currently self-isolating at her flat there, with her other partner, as they live together full time anyway. But I haven't been able to see her for the past few weeks because I'm immunocompromised and she's worried about getting me sick.
For the first few weeks I wasn't too fussed because we texted as much as we always do, but I've been feeling that isolation a little more these last few days because we've messaged a little less. We're keeping our conversations going though, more over the phone lately because it's really comforting to hear her voice.
We're having a virtual date tomorrow with the Netflix Party extension and I shall be Paypal-ing her money for wine because my drinks budget is high atm since I can't go out. With that, I'm basically replicating how casually we normally spend time together because that's something I really like.
I get on really well with her other partner. He's like a brother to me, so I don't mind that he's about a fair bit, and he's also really cooperative about it. He'll often hang with their flatmate in the other room for a while so we can get time together, which is sweet. So it's not that much different navigating that online. I need time with her, I know I can ask for it. — Catey, 19