They say the first few months of a new relationship is the getting to know one another phase, the honeymoon phase, the we’re going to stay together forever stage. It is a blissful beginning decorated in dates and coloured in clichés. What is not expected, advisable or even preferable is to start a relationship when a national pandemic is declared.
I finally thought I was at a stage in life where I had learnt from all my experiences and embraced all my flaws. I had nearly finished university, had the first break up and the first breakdown which shortly followed, could make two meals from scratch, and could confidently talk on the phone to the GP and arrange my own appointment. I had preached the line ‘I don’t need a man to define me’ to friends (drunk and sober) and even written about it. But then, as if Nora Ephron had written about my life, I had begun a relationship with my friend.
The beginning of this relationship is already unconventional because it is with someone I know fairly well. To abide by government guidelines, I had to socially distance myself from the very person I did not want to distance myself from. I’ve gone from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘You’ve got Mail’ (I like Nora Ephron, ok) where my phone and messenger have become the only evidence I have of a relationship.
There are many out there who say distance does not need to be a problem and there are countless ways to contact one another and keep the fire burning (I cannot think of a different way to say it but I’m cringing with you). While that is great advice and appears to work for many people, I am just not one of them. It is not only the problem of thin walls and rural Wi-Fi, it is the confidence to do it and everyone is different. I spend more time checking if I’ve got double chins in the camera rather than looking at him.
Instead, we revert to the discussion of hypotheticals, watch ‘Killing Eve’ and have conversations about the current political situation and it is great. But with time limits and poor Wi-Fi, most video call apps freeze or end abruptly. Texted words become as sacred as sonnets, and the very act becomes ritualistic whereby if the other person has not replied in enough time or did not wish you goodnight, they must not like you anymore. You want to appear spontaneous and outgoing at the start of a relationship (so you can let them down gently later when all you want to do on a Friday is paint your nails red rather than the town), but this becomes difficult when you exhaust all possible answers to the inevitable question: “What are you doing today?”
I’ve gone through all the possible responses of “might go on a run”, “might bake something”, “might read a book” (as you can see I like to paint myself as a well-read amateur baker with a healthy lifestyle), to simply and mundanely “nothing much.” I know that this response instantly stalls any conversational thread. But sometimes, and I think maybe because we were friends before, the mundane can be miraculous: “I just ate the best sandwich” is a message I do not mind receiving.
Many nosey female relatives past the age of forty have told me “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and “when it was the war I couldn’t see him for months on end” (that last one does painfully put things into perspective but I’m dramatic and will continue). Truth is, distance is a test and a worthwhile one no matter what stage you are at in a relationship. Missing someone is a good sign. If anything, our ability to chat about absolute nonsense for hours with the casual “I miss you” thrown in now and then is all we need.
It is not exactly how I thought things would pan out and at times it is frustrating when you miss a person that much. Yet why should the best parts of a relationship come right at the start? If anything, you only have the best to look forward to.
Luckily, it also means ruining a friendship was not a mistake.
– Emily Coleman
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