Navigating the landscape of love, lust and its ardent and awkward pre-love cousin “like”, is a tricky affair at the best of times. But throw in some insidious-looking species-jumping viral cells and it goes from say, dancing in a floral meadow with unseen cow manure, to ice skating across a thawing lake, that’s been booby-trapped with mines.
Nothing is going to kill or coerce a romance quicker than being forced together or apart by the biological Berlin Wall that has descended between and around many star-crossed lovers in the last month.
We spoke to a few of these corona couples to see if love can handle a heavy viral load.
Anne, from Dublin and her boyfriend got locked down in Dublin and Donegal respectively and haven’t seen each other since. “We got separated because he was due to start an internship as part of his course soon, which isn’t happening anymore. There was a three-week gap between when he finished lectures and when he was meant to start his internship, so he was going to spend some time with his family up in Donegal before he spent the whole summer in Dublin, and now he’s stuck there.”
Netflix has proven a great unifier and pacifier of the pair’s yearning.
“We’ve been able to call each other at least once a day, which is making it a bit easier. We’ve also started watching films together, we both have Netflix accounts so we do a video call on messenger, and press play on whatever we’re watching at the same time”
Irish TikTok star Shauna the Sheep spoke to us about her own relationship and how she’s dealt with the separation.
"Being in a relationship right now during all of this is a bit of a weird feeling. I can’t see my boyfriend but it’s not really any different. I do miss him terribly but we are still talking like normal and FaceTiming more and maybe going onto online servers and playing games. The way I see it is this distance will really test the bond me and my boyfriend have. We do miss each other and we would love to see each other but unfortunately, we can’t but I’m personally okay with that because I can go a few weeks without seeing my bf but I know I wouldn’t be able to go the rest of my life not seeing a family member if I was selfish and went to go see him while he’s still working and still in contact with many people. That’s the way I see it, I’m quite jealous of people who have moved in with their boyfriends and girlfriends tho 😂."
Some relationships are thriving under the lockdown. Irish Instagram influencer and performer Jess Brennan has found herself on lockdown with her boyfriend Luke and they’ve established a routine of hosting a twisted quarantine themed party for two, with dozens of her fans commenting that they’re being genuinely cheered up by their content.
Conor Ryan, the Irish Instagram influencer who’s in a relationship with fellow influencer Ellie Kelly told us how he’s dealing with being separated from his love.
"I've been away from Ellie about 4 or 5 weeks; started off really well, we were talking to each other a lot. We always FaceTime anyway so I have seen her a lot, but not physically. We're always in contact but we're both extremely busy people so we're in contact either at night, in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon so we're not constantly talking to each other, which is quite good because talking can lead to distraction from work. We're definitely seeing the benefits of this setup, we're stronger, we've always been a strong couple, we'd get through anything together. So this hasn't been much of a test compared to what we've been through to be completely honest. I know for a fact that it's going to be better in the long term, we'll be even stronger. We do text a lot more. It's like we've just started seeing each other again, a lot of banter.”
Like many couples on lockdown, Conor says that they spend much of their time planning what they will do when they can see each other again, and talking about what they miss.
“The negative side is that we can't laugh together. Whenever we're together, we laugh and we love eating together. We haven't had a Domino's together but I actually got one sent to her, it's almost a curse because I wouldn't get one without her - it's been five weeks, I'm having withdrawal symptoms. We've holidays planned for June for L.A. and Vegas which we don't think will be going ahead, it'll be put on pause and another one for September that won't be going ahead.”
Overall though Conor is upbeat and thinks this has led to them being more inventive about how they spend their time ‘together’.
“If she's baking I might decide to bake and it's almost a competition. But we do FaceTime like seven times a day, even if it's for 10 seconds, 10 minutes or an hour. We've even watched movies together through FaceTime, it's like she was there sitting next to me. But yeah, we're still having a laugh, still having fun and we're even back Snapchatting again which is mad!"
Some men who we spoke to who’d been separated from their other halves had a slightly less empathetic view about adhering to the forced separation.
Paul, a London-dwelling Irishman was less inclined to give in to fear, or even government directive, in the wake of the lockdown measures:
“I started to see a girl just before this, we were both fairly keen, we were about five or six dates and then lockdown…I was raging and wondering what do do, as, let’s face it, texts are shite, and I think we’re too early to go down the video route. I suggested we meet illicitly, but she wasn’t having it. It doesn’t help that she's on the other side of the city. If it was up to me, we’d be meeting up, alas I think she’s got a differing outlook.”
Another rule bender from the lads' side, but in the opposite situation was Marcus. Having established an isolation group in the West of Ireland, with his surf friends, he was in the ideal situation to ride the wave of the lockdown (pun unapologetically intended) doing what he loved. “We’d a sweet situation with our isolation bubble on the coast but I’d to go back up to Dublin for one day to get some essential stuff. I decided to meet up with a girl who I’d been on one date with but had mad chemistry with. It was great, I was delighted to see her and she agreed to come back down with me to the West.”
However, Marcus hadn’t reckoned with his fellow bubble inhabitants’ hardline stance.
“I arrived back down and they kicked me out! They made me go find a B&B and self-isolate for a fortnight. I was ragin’, but I suppose they had a point. They were way more responsible than I was about the whole thing.”
Finally, the most extreme case we came across was that of an Irish Berlin-dweller who found herself locked down in a cabin in Scandinavia with a guy she was in early stages of a long-distance relationship with.
Michelle explains: “I'm from Ireland I live in Berlin and I started seeing someone who is Finnish and from Helsinki, It was relatively new I guess we only met late last year as I come to Helsinki quite regularly for work (at least once a month) and that's kind of how it started.”
“I booked a trip to Helsinki for the weekend to see him. Then things got a bit weird in Germany, it was at the start of the coronavirus, and the weekend I was there the case numbers tripled in Germany. So, I was afraid to travel on the flight back I had booked from Helsinki. I kept saying I don't know when I'll go back and I just delayed it day after day.”
After two weeks the idea of going to stay in his family cabin in the woods came up and they headed off, intending to stay just for the weekend. “So, we packed up and went there, and then that's when things really got severe with the virus and four weeks later we're still here. Finland’s a bit different, there’s not a very strict lockdown, but they did close down the Helsinki area while we were here which has forced us to stay put.” “So far it's alright we get on well. But cabin life is pretty extreme. Cabins here are kind of like summer escapes so in winter everything is freezing and there’s no running water for six months, so for the first three weeks, we had no water because the lake beside us was frozen. It’s a lot of work to be here.”
“We both have jobs where we can work remotely. So, we’re working during the week like a normal week, and then at the weekend we’re in the woods trying not to get eaten by bears, it’s a bit mad.”
When we asked how they were getting on Michelle was very chilled but positive.
“It kind of works, we’re just getting on with it. We got on well before and we’d done one road trip before. But yeah it’s a bit intense, you end up having normal couple “discussions”, let’s just say instead of “arguments”, and they’re coming a bit faster than they usually do. There’s really nowhere to go. We are getting on well, and it’s nice to discover that, but yeah usually you’d have the chance to find these things out before being locked in a cabin in the woods with someone.”
An understatement of Olympic proportions as we’re getting hives wondering about how we’d be able to shave our legs in peace. But, we are of weak mind, and Michelle was possibly the most level headed person we spoke to while researching this piece, as you can probably tell by her outrageously adult response to a space-invading situation.
When asked if she’d consider staying in Finland to be with her log-cabin love, she didn’t want to answer, as is perfectly understandable for someone of her clearly rational mindset. ”Not sure if I want to just yet, kind of enjoying this for what it is, and we’ll see what happens. So far, it feels good and we’re just going with it and if it starts to feel bad we’ll talk about it.”
When we grow up, we want to be Michelle.
Back to the far end of the scale, Charlie, another Irishman in London, hadn’t seen his new girlfriend since the start of the lockdown.
When we enquired just before going to print had there been any change in the situation, he sent us back a screengrab of a grainy looking image of what appeared to be men playing GAA (the Irish national sport) which was being viewed on an iPad along with the following comment.
“I’m fucking watching the 2000 Leinster final with 20 lads from Newbridge over WhatsApp. The sooner lads can see their mots* the better!”
Hear hear Charlie, hear bloody hear.
*Mots is the plural of Mot, a colloquial Irish word for girlfriend.
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