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Covid Journal: Finding and losing love in quarantine

During the Fall 2020 Semester, The Oppy will be publishing submissions from members of the Stern community about how the Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted their experience in and out of the program. If you wish to write about your own experience, please e-mail us at oppy@stern.nyu.edu

I’m about to get real here. I’ve noticed in the past many Covid journal entries have been about the logistics of quarantining or professional and personal development. This one isn’t going to be as even-keeled or cheery. I would expect the majority of us have experienced some personal trauma due to isolation during this time and will have some level of PTSD when we finally fully emerge from lockdown. Negative? Yes. Realistic? For sure. It’s important to be able to share our hard experiences because that is what life is – a bunch of ups and downs.

Like many, I went into the pandemic single. Not ideal, but I have always had the mindset that it’s better to be single than with the wrong person. The idea of being trapped with someone who I am not compatible with does not appeal to me one bit. Plus, losing freedom, independence, and the possibility of future relationship bliss makes me shudder. However, I am also a realist. If you want to find that person, you have to actively search for it. The idea of putting my personal goals on hold for a year or more was not desirable. So, I was all over the dating apps. I went on countless virtual dates, socially distanced walks, and outdoor dinners during the summer. 

In case you can’t tell, I am very picky. As the stereotypical MBA student, I am driven and I know what I want. In fact, I can typically tell within seconds of meeting a potential suitor if there will be a second date. That may sound harsh, but I am a huge believer in that je ne sais quoi feeling. I’ve always followed my gut in relationships and, although they all inevitably ended up not the right fit, we had a heck of a time. And the love was deep. 

Unfortunately, the same held true this time. We met on Bumble and I knew it was different from our first messaging exchange on the app. The best part about online dating is that the stakes are so low. There is no need for false pretenses or hiding parts of yourself. If that person doesn’t like you, there will surely be someone else who does. Initial messaging led to social media creeping and a scheduled FaceTime call. It was the first time in a long time I was excited to FaceTime someone.

With my glass of wine, I sat down in front of my Mac on the selected evening and we proceeded to have one of the best first conversations of my life. This person seemed to be so similar to me – from our hobbies to our belief systems. We both approached life the same way and wanted the same things in the future. We also laughed – a lot. The chemistry was there. I remember thinking, “Wow, this person is beautiful.” After a two hour call, we ended up staying up way too late texting. You know that feeling of excitement you get at the start of anything wonderful? That was blowing up.

We started FaceTiming every night. It was so fun to get to know someone through all their life stories and feel safe and vulnerable enough to reciprocate. Two weeks went by and we had to meet. When you first meet someone from online, there is always the concern that the chemistry will not translate over. That was definitely not the case in this instance, nor was the conversation ever stagnant. We had the most ridiculously romantic but cheesy first date. We walked and rode Citi Bikes all over the city. We had our first kiss in Central Park. I know, gag me, this sounds like a gross rom-com. Well, spoiler alert, this story does not have a happy ending.

The daily FaceTimes continued but we also started seeing each other all the time. Because of lockdown and limited social interactions, we spent extended periods of time together. We both live alone so we would go to the other’s apartment for days at a time. A month and a half later, we even had drawers and closet space for each other. We started talking about our long-term future. Although we hadn’t even said “I love you” yet, the intent was there. Did we move ridiculously fast? In hindsight, absolutely, but the combination of the lockdown and our confidence in what we wanted made it seem right. If I could go back and do it again, I would have pumped the brakes – a lot.

Then a family tragedy hit me. This person really stepped up to the plate and was a rock for me and my family. For that reason alone, I will always be grateful and happy we met. The circumstances of the event made us move even faster. We said  “I love you” at seven weeks and I got a set of keys. Plus, the gifts were always coming. Despite the world crashing down around us, we were very much in a honeymoon phase. We had each other.

However, tragedy affects us all differently. I was not emotionally processing the event in a healthy manner. I started falling down a dark hole. I had no control over the event and the aftermath and that was making me lose it. I went into self-protect mode. I did not have the emotional capacity to put the work in that every relationship requires and fights started happening. Man, were they emotional. We lost our way. At this point, in my mind, something had to give. So I did something very stupid. I broke up with this person through an email. 

I know what you’re thinking. “Idiot.” It was cruel and stupid. I clearly wasn’t thinking straight. My rationale at the time was that it was a way to choose my words carefully and jump ship before I let myself get hurt further. So, I sent the email and went to sleep, not knowing the damage that I had just caused. I woke up the next day and immediately thought, “what have I done!” Unbeknownst to me, I had sent that other person spiraling. 

I tried to make it right by constantly reaching out to this person and apologizing. I explained how I was not coping well and what my thought process was. I felt that I needed this person in my life and had ruined what could have been a wonderful, lifelong partnership. However, it was too much for the other person and I was emotionally shut out. I had destroyed the fragile trust of a new and vulnerable relationship. 

People can forgive certain types of betrayal. Some will forgive a cheating partner or, sadly, emotional or physical abuse. We all have a level of tolerance for what we can move past from. This person couldn’t forgive me. I am going to have to accept it at some point, but am having a hard time at the moment. When you’re hurting and have hurt another person, all you want is to be with that person and to make it right. I wish I had that opportunity.

The whole relationship lasted three months. I know, it was crazy intense for a short period of time. It may sound foolish to be so devastated from a short-lived relationship but the heart feels what the heart feels. These are hard times and true connections are rare. 

What’s the moral of this story? I don’t think there is one. Maybe don’t send an email to break up with someone? Yeah. Next time I am definitely going to do it over text. KIDDING! I needed to inject some humor into this depressing story. But the reality is breakups completely and utterly suck. At the risk of sounding like an emo teenager, I don’t think we talk about that enough. I’m trying to do currently what I failed to do last time I was drowning – to use and rely on my support systems. To all my friends and family, thank you for the countless calls and texts. With the right people around you, you can endure anything. Even if getting out of bed in the morning is no easy feat at the moment. 

So, how is your Covid love life treating you? 

Photo credit: https://www.flare.com/sex-and-relationships/how-to-break-up-during-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-quarantine/

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