The Pandemic Made These People Reassess What They Want In A Relationship

Illustration by Hannah Minn
This week the government enforced the 'rule of six' in England, a new coronavirus restriction banning social gatherings of more than six people, causing a wave of fear that a second national lockdown is lurking around the corner. As many people think about stocking their cupboards with non-perishables and updating their Netflix queues, for others, another lockdown means yet more time alone.
By autumn and winter, those of us who are single may be looking for a suitable mensch to hunker down with. But cuffing season, as it's affectionately known, is a bit different this year. Thanks to social distancing rules, opportunities to court potential suitors and source intimacy in the midst of a global pandemic are slim, and time is running out to find someone ahead of a potential second wave. So how do we feel about it?
"Lockdown has opened a whole can of worms and opened my eyes to the reality surrounding my loneliness and desire to be loved, love and have a partnership," says 25-year-old TV and film producer Reannon Licorish. "It's also brought up my desire to be a parent and think about the sort of partner or partnerships I'd like to have."
Reannon, who lives in London, has identified as a non-binary femme for about five years after coming out to their mother as bisexual at the age of 16, then discovering they were pansexual in their early 20s. They now wear their sexuality with pride. In the last year, Reannon has felt the pressure to secure a life partner, and the pandemic hasn't made it any easier.
"A lot of the pressure that supports my lust for love surrounds my mother's health," they say. "She's consistently in and out of the hospital and each year without fail something major hits health-wise."
Reannon adds: "I've always preferred the spontaneity of meeting people at a function, creative space, work (office romances happen), a queer safe space like Pxssy Palace or anything that didn't involve me swiping through potential partners or sexual partners like an online menu.
"But this pandemic has forced me to consider the fact that at 25, with the hope of having or adopting a child by 28/29 and giving my mother the grandchild she deserves, I may not meet him, her or them any time soon through a sea of anonymous mask-wearing faces without taking a risk and opening myself up to online dating, socially distanced flirting or Zoom dates."

The pandemic has forced me to consider that at 25, with the hope of having or adopting a child by 28/29 and giving my mother the grandchild she deserves, I may not meet him, her or them any time soon.

With a second lockdown looming, Reannon says their low expectations, anxieties and preconceptions about dating have been thrown out of the window.
"It has forced me to dissolve my feelings of rejection and potential catfishing," they say. "I've reinstalled Lex and Bumble with the confidence of a middle-aged white man who gives no fucks but wants to be loved. I'm ready to settle down and I'm online for the long haul — or at least for as long as this pandemic persists."
At 27, Emma Bowditch from Dorset is also feeling the strain as she moves closer to her 30s. "The pandemic has hit the pause button on my life because we don't know when we will be able to move forward from our current situation," she says. "The endless questions from my friends and family about marriage and children can make me feel worried and defensive, especially as there's a societal pressure that at 30 we should have everything figured out."
She adds that she also feels the weight on her shoulders of wanting to move out of her parents' house and buy a home of her own next year, something she feels she can't do alone. "It is only now that I have really realised how much easier the whole process would be with a partner," she adds. "Two salaries makes a mortgage application much easier! Society is literally set up for couples."

It is only now that I have realised how much easier buying a house is with a partner. Two salaries makes a mortgage application much easier!

She continues: "Even though I'm happy focusing on myself at this time, as much as I rationalise it, it can be hard to deal with. I also struggle with the negative language around being single – 'Oh, you're still single' – as if it can't be a choice? At times I've disliked it but overall I'm really happy that I have spent the middle 20s by myself and living my life as I choose."
For 25-year-old Jewish charity worker Natalie*, feeling the pressure to settle down isn't new. "My first close friend got engaged at 19 and today I'm the only person left in our group who is single," she says. "I've also got a parent with cancer, so I feel pressured to couple up before their condition — God forbid — deteriorates, so they can see me down the aisle and get to know my children if I choose to have them.
"Feelings of being ancient and unmarriable have definitely been exacerbated by the pandemic," she adds. "I don't feel comfortable dating in person at the moment and I've never really got on with apps, so I've basically lost a year of dating. And losing a year in this religious bubble is like losing a decade for everyone else."
Natalie says that being 25 and unmarried – even if you're in a relationship — is frowned upon in Jewish culture. "They whisper about you and wonder what's wrong with you. At a community wedding pre-pandemic, a friend's mother came up to me unprompted and squeezed my arm, assuring me that my turn would come soon."

I've watched my friends hunker down with their spouses and even their toddlers. Mazel tov to them but watching the endless photos on my Instagram feed has been taunting me in my singledom.

Natalie doesn't want a partner just to conform to those expectations, although she does want to find someone. "During this strange period of social distancing, I've watched all my friends hunker down with their spouses and even their toddlers. Mazel tov to them but watching the endless photos on my Instagram feed has been taunting me [in] my singledom far too much."
That said, she is keeping her eye out for the failed marriages. "I've long said that because all the good guys get snapped up so young in my community, I'll have to wait for the divorces to come through before I can find a partner. Thanks to people spending 24/7 together shut in their homes for such a long time, some of those may come through earlier than expected..."
*Name has been changed

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