Social distancing has transformed (read: upended) the dynamic of countless relationships—platonic and romantic alike. Physical touch is either an impossibility or in total surplus (namely if you aren’t quarantining alone). But for those who were in long-distance relationships before the coronavirus pandemic started unfolding and now find themselves separated without a set reunion date in sight, right now is particularly tough. It begs the question: How do you even deal with being in a relationship that’s long distance during COVID-19, an era when time is an uncertain factor and no real plans can be set as a result?
“It’s already difficult enough to have a long-distance relationship because there isn’t touch on an everyday basis, and that’s what people need in order to feel connected and not isolated right now,” says Susan Trombetti, relationship expert and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. “We rely on touch to make us feel better, eliminate our fears, to bond, and to show our love. Remove this from the equation in stressful times, and it’s hard to sustain a relationship that was already an LDR.”
“LDRs are very successful when you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel anyway, so knowing this won’t last forever helps.” —Susan Trombetti, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking
What’s more is that folks in LDRs often use their infrequent meetups as touchstones, or moments of reassurance that remind them why the geographical separation is worth its challenges. “I find that many clients in long-distance relationships see it as worth it and doable when they’re able to count down to the next trip or when they’re getting together next,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW. Times like these, she says, can spark people to end things out of pure frustration about the lack of control they feel.
That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Dating long distance during COVID-19 with success is more than possible for those who can accept the new normal but also realize it is temporary. “To stay connected at this time, you need more of what works already for you both as a couple, along with the understanding that there will be an ending point,” says Trombetti. “LDRs are very successful when you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel anyway, so knowing this won’t last forever helps.”
In the meantime, both Silvershein and Trombetti have a wealth of ideas for making dating long distance during COVID-19 a slightly more palatable experience. Check out their tips below for creating intimate and joyful moments you both can share from afar.
Dating long distance during COVID-19? These 5 practices will keep you feeling close to the one you love
1. Book more virtual dates
“Now is the time to really have fun with this,” says Trombetti. “There are so many things you can do now on virtual dates, from watching movies together on Netflix apps, to having dinner together, flirting together, and just staying connected.”
You can even “go” to YouTube concerts together or tour museums—like the Louvre in Paris—via screen sharing. For a more low-key activity, though, Silvershein suggests you both order a pizza and eat together (virtually).
2. Talk about your fears, openly and honestly
Even if your gut reaction is to let the “It’s fine! I’m fine!” response take over, it’s best right now to acknowledge your true and authentic feelings. Trombetti recommends using your S.O. as a sounding board for what you fear the most, and listening to them in turn.
“Communicate more over your fears about your relationship, your job, or the economy. Whatever it is, have serious conversations. This time will deepen your communication, which will only help you as a couple,” she says.
3. Plan your next trip together in detail (minus the actual bookings)
Even though right now you can’t exactly draw a heart around a specific date on your calendar to mark the next time you’ll see your partner, you can plan your next trip down to the very last detail. Be it a getaway to the mountains or an African Safari, Silvershein says the two of you can hours talking about where you want to eat and play tourist.
4. Start a book club or netflix club together
“I’d encourage individuals and their partners to watch the same show or read the same book to have something to discuss that they have in common currently,” says Silvershein. No one seems to want to STFU about Tiger King, so maybe that’s a good place to start?
5. Sext, like, a lot
Sexting isn’t just about, well, sex. It’s about intimacy, and Trombetti says that you may be wise to consider leaning into it during times like these. Not only are saucy text messages fun to draft, but they give you the opportunity to learn what both you and your significant other like in the bedroom. Meaning, the next time you get together, it’s going to be extra hot.
Compassion meditation will give you the warm fuzzies in a time that’s otherwise tough. And wondering why you haven’t pooped in a few days? You may want blame WFH.