Coronavirus has ruined my love life.
Not that it was exactly booming before quarantine orders descended. But I had three dates lined up after spring break, which obviously all went to hell when I found out I’d be going home for the rest of the semester. I had just steeled my resolve to jump back into the world of dating apps after an amicably failed fling earlier this semester. As a senior, I wanted to at least give it another try.
Here’s the part where I say yes, I acknowledge the importance of complying with stay-at-home orders and the severity of our circumstances. I do not claim that my dating life is anywhere near the list of top priorities at the moment. But I don’t think it’s helpful or productive to minimize the things that were important in our lives before quarantine.
I’ve stayed in touch with a few of the people I’d been talking to, but messaging back and forth with no prospect of meeting until, at the earliest, August, is strange and daunting and ultimately unsustainable. Pressing pause involved an awkward ask for a rain check on drinks to, you know, six months in the future. Hit me up if you’re still single in the fall?
My own weird time navigating these circumstances led me to wonder how other Georgetown students were dealing with quarantine-induced changes in their romantic lives. So, I sat down with six Georgetown couples (virtual human contact, yay!) to discuss their corona dating lives.
Katie Randolph (COL ’21) and Roman Peregrino (COL ’22) have been dating since September (full disclosure: Randolph and Peregrino are the editor-in-chief and managing editor of the Voice). Now, they’re separated by hundreds of miles, with Peregrino in California and Randolph in Texas. They had adjusted to the idea of doing distance this summer, but quarantine undoubtedly threw them for a loop. “I would say we were in no way preparing to be long-distance immediately,” Randolph said.
After nearly nine months of dating, Peregrino believes that they rely on each other more. “The first couple of months of a relationship, everything’s a little wonky and weird and then you figure it out. And I think we hit our groove, but now it kind of got stopped, so that’s been kind of difficult.”
Interviewing the pair over Zoom gave me a small insight into what has become their new normal, communicating digitally. Peregrino created a plan for the couple to build in time with each other, including Wednesday date nights on Zoom and doing homework together over the phone.
One of the hardest parts of being home for Randolph is her lack of privacy, as she lives in a house with six other people and doesn’t have her own room. “Earlier today I was just really frustrated with my family and Roman was like ‘hey you wanna call and talk on the phone’ and I was like ‘I can’t, I don’t have any space where one of my younger siblings won’t be listening’.”
Although they’re reluctant to name any bright sides, Randolph and Peregrino said they feel their relationship has become stronger as a result of this crisis. “I feel weird acting like there’s a bright side because it’s a global pandemic and it sucks, but I do feel like the way I’ve seen him not just support me but also his roommates, his other friends who are really stressed out, his family who’s obviously dealing with a lot of anxiety because a few of his family members have been sick and stuff like that, has made me more confident in him as a partner who’s able to handle crisis,” Randolph said. “Obviously I wish I could have found that out in a different way, but I do think it’s made me love him a little bit more.”
“There is no bright side. I miss Katie and I wish we were together,” Peregrino said. “But, I know it can be a little tough for Katie at home sometimes, so when I see her being so strong, it really influences me and convinces me to be strong, too.”
After more than three months apart, the pair will finally be able to reunite for a few days at the end of June, when Randolph visits Peregrino in California.
“I’m really excited, not gonna lie…With all the uncertainty about going back to campus, I really needed this, we really needed this,” Peregrino said of the upcoming visit. “I feel very lucky—there’s still people who are too far apart to be able to see each other. I’m just really glad she’s able to come,”
Delaney Corcoran (COL ’21) met her boyfriend, Sebastian van Bastelaer, when they were both in high school, but they didn’t actually get together until her sophomore year of college (full disclosure: Corcoran is the Editorial Board chair of the Voice). They’ve been dating for over a year, since he moved to D.C. for his job. Corcoran studied abroad this semester in Barcelona, so the couple had planned on doing distance from the start. But with the crisis escalating in Spain, Corcoran was sent home after just 10 weeks. While disappointed to be leaving, she saw being reunited with van Bastelaer as a “big silver lining.”
“If I got to go home, at least I could see him again, and I wouldn’t have to be in a long-distance relationship,” Corcoran said. “I could focus on seeing him as the one good thing.”
When Corcoran returned home to Maryland, however, she and her family were forced into a strict quarantine. She had just left a country with a Level 3 travel warning and had been in contact with several people who had tested positive. That didn’t stop van Bastelaer from visiting her any way he could.
“He brought me a card and talked to me through the glass door,” Corcoran said.
After Corcoran came home, the pair was forced to resume their long-distance routine of texting and FaceTiming regularly. While van Bastelaer’s day-to-day didn’t change much, Corcoran found it harder to keep the distance off her mind with less to do.
“I had unlimited distractions, and I was just going out and going out to dinner and being with friends,” she said of her time in Barcelona. “So it’s been definitely harder.”
While Corcoran believes technology is no substitute for relaxed time together, she did say the pair tried to find new ways to spend unstructured time with each other. For example, Corcoran sometimes FaceTimed van Bastelaer while he performed mindless quality control tasks for his job.
“At first I was like, why are you working while we’re FaceTiming? But then it makes it less like a FaceTime where you have to be talking constantly,” Corcoran said. “If there’s a moment of silence or a lag in the conversation, it’s not awkward.”
And now, the pair is reunited in D.C., as Corcoran moved into her off-campus apartment and van Bastalaer returned to his own apartment.
While it was difficult to find an upside to their time doing distance, Corcoran said that quarantine improved the couple’s communication skills. “You have to talk about things, even things that in person you might be able to overlook or not bring up,” Corcoran said. “It’s actually made me a little bit more likely to say when something’s wrong because I can’t expect him to figure it out because we’re not together.”
Everett Bonner (COL ’23) met his boyfriend Justin Bustamante (NHS ’23) on their shared freshman floor. At the time of our first interview, their six-month anniversary was the coming weekend. With Bustamante now in Maryland and Bonner in Louisiana, it has been tough to maintain the easy communication that the couple was used to when living within a minute of each other.
“The casual conversation kind of dwindles down because we’re limiting our time to just a one- to two-hour period each day,” Bonner said. “It’s just going from constant interaction, because we live on the same floor and we’d spend our entire day together to, you know, this little window.”
The pair’s short window to spend time “together,” as well as the increased proximity of their families and home lives, has prompted them to examine their relationship in a new context. “I think that college is an environment for us to kind of see ourselves in a vacuum,” Bonner said. “We are now understanding the implications that our relationship has on each of our familial lives and each of our lives outside of the relationship.”
Since returning home, much of Bustamante’s time has been occupied with household chores, caring for his three younger siblings, and nightly prayers with his family.
“He’s always taking care of them,” Bonner said. “The level of responsibility that he’s kind of showed throughout this I think is something that I was so impressed by and something that I very much didn’t realize that I needed in a long-term partner, but it’s just one more thing that I’ve learned to love about him.”
Knowing that Bustamante is so busy has made Bonner value his daily good morning and good night texts even more.
“Every time he texts me, it’s gotta be completely intentional. And every time he video chats me it’s always completely intentional,” Bonner said. “I think [that] has shown me a greater appreciation for how much he actually cares for me and how much work he’s willing to put into keeping this relationship as loving and as powerful as it was before.”
The couple celebrated eight months together a couple of weeks ago, and are now planning a trip to see each other in the very near future.
“I think the next time that we see each other and the next time many couples see each other after this pandemic, it’s gonna be from a place of increased growth with one another, increased love, and I think just increased intentionality when it comes to the amount of love and support that kind of goes toward the other person,” Bonner said.
For some less serious or unofficial couples, quarantine has presented a different set of challenges. I interviewed two Georgetown students (both of whom wished to remain anonymous) about the contrasting effects of quarantine on their undefined relationships. For one, it prompted them to make things official. For the other, they were left confused, having not defined the relationship before quarantine separated them indefinitely.
The first couple started seeing each other in January. After they returned from spring break, the prospect of quarantine gave them the push they needed to make things official.
“For me it didn’t feel rushed, but it definitely, that was the reason the discussion happened when it did,” said Hailey, whose name has been changed for this article.
Now, they navigate the distance by FaceTiming most days, texting, and Snapchatting. “We’re both very busy, which I think works to our advantage,” she said. “I think both of us don’t really have that much time to dwell on it as much.”
“When you are communicating, you know, it’s because obviously they’re making time for you, you’re making time for them. It’s an intentional thing,” Hailey said. “But what sucks is you can’t have those non-intentional things. You can’t just do work next to each other in Lau, you can’t just hang out and watch a movie. There’s no going on dates or anything like that.”
The pair made a point of distracting each other by checking in on mundane, daily things rather than constantly discussing school—or pandemic—related stress. “We’re still getting to know each other at this point because we’ve been in this relationship for three months now,” she said when we first talked in April. However, doing long-distance has made her realize how dependable her partner is. “I feel like it’s more of an even playing field than what I’ve experienced in the past. And so I think it’s just made me feel like, okay, this can work,” she said.
Hailey and her partner are also now reunited in D.C. for the summer, as her previously uncertain internship plans solidified. “Quarantine gave us the time to really get to know each other even though we were far away, and I appreciate being together again so much more,” she said.
For another anonymous pair of Georgetown students, quarantine left their budding relationship painfully in the lurch. The two had been friends for a long time but hooked up at the beginning of the year. “Because we were friends already, it was kind of like a little higher stakes because your friendship’s all of a sudden at stake,” said Jess, whose name has also been changed.
As spring break loomed, Jess felt things could become official, but they didn’t have that discussion before they were separated. The kicker is that the two actually live relatively close to each other, but because of quarantine were unable to see each other.
She said neither are very skilled at digital communication, so they struggled to stay in close contact. “Even though we were friends, we’re still getting to know each other in a more real way, and you don’t want to do that over text message,” she said when we spoke in March.
Questions in the back of her mind about their relationship were only amplified as she wondered whether lapses in communication were caused by the circumstances or disinterest in pursuing the relationship. “I wish I didn’t avoid it for so long,” she said. “I’ve realized it’s worth it to just get it over with and talk to the person.”
Over time, communication between the two began to fade, and at this point they’ve stopped talking.
Jess said she rarely ever feels comfortable opening up with people, which has made quarantine’s blow to her relationship sting twice as much. “I was kind of willing to try something for once,” she said. “It just adds to the list of things that have been taken away from us, you know?”
Leina Hsu (COL ’22) spent the past few months quarantining with her boyfriend Eric Ren (MSB ’20). (Full disclosure: Hsu is a contributing editor for the Voice). They’ve been together for over a year and a half and were both approved to live on campus for the rest of the spring semester. While they received individual room assignments, they instead decided to move in together into one of their Vil As.
She views this time as a test run for their future. “It’s a good indicator of what living together would be like in the future, and I feel reassured,” Hsu said. She discovered that she and Ren have similar priorities when it comes to homemaking. “We like vacuumed twice before we moved in, we Lysol wiped every surface, and I was like huh, I’m glad that you’re willing to do this.”
Living in isolation together has prompted them to take on roles in each other’s lives they had not previously. “You don’t have access to so many other people who used to fulfill those roles, so you end up needing to fulfill a lot more roles than you did before,” Hsu said.
Hsu remarked that quarantine has encouraged them to plan creative dates they can look forward to. “We wanted to maintain some normalcy, so we still do date nights on Friday, but now we have to actually think about what to do instead of getting to pick a random restaurant and go there,” Hsu said. “It’s definitely hard trying to create experiences for yourself just inside a Vil A, but I think we’ve been pretty successful.”
The couple cooks together, plays board games, and has created a specific “movie night couch” out of a double bed in one of the apartment’s bedrooms. They also do regular tea nights where they make their own tea. “You have to find some sense of normalcy, some sense of entertainment, some way to show that you’re still connected,” Hsu said.
They hesitate to plan for the future as much as they used to because of this moment’s uncertainty. They once envisioned living together in New York after her graduation, or getting a cat. But now, the couple is much more focused on making the most of the present. “Because everything, at least on campus, feels like it has stagnated and it almost feels dangerous to do any future planning right now, I think it’s more about getting through the day-to-day,” Hsu said.
Hsu was initially anxious about the general prospect of getting married and living together one day, feeling that marriage could be socially isolating. But she has discovered that she views living with Ren as an opportunity for shared vulnerability. “There’s this one person who you can literally ask anything to, like what did you think about me when we first met? What do you think other people’s perceptions of me? That kind of vulnerability and complete accessibility is something that’s super new and I think very valuable.”
Quarantine has taken a lot from each of us. It can feel hopeless, endless, discouraging. But talking to a range of Georgetown couples navigating this uncertain time made me realize we can be resilient. We’re learning how to adapt and make things work. We’re recommitting ourselves to our partners. We’re proving that we’re up to the challenge, that we can carve out time for the important people in our lives. That’s not to say that quarantine relationships can’t or won’t fail. A good number of them probably will. But the ones that emerge on the other side, while arguably not unscathed, will be stronger for it.
This pandemic isn’t the end of romantic love as we know it. Or maybe it is. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Image credit: Olivia Stevens