• Lucia Joyce

What Social Distancing With My Boyfriend Is Teaching Me

I didn't want to make it public information before we had a diagnosis, but it seems we may be waiting a day or two longer. After mild cold and flu-like symptoms, Shane got tested for COVID-19 last Monday in Las Vegas. The nasal swab test cost $1000 in Nevada (paid for by his work client, fortunately). His symptoms lessened quickly and getting a Coronavirus test seemed like a pretty intense move, but we feel lucky that it was available to him at all. He was told it would take at least 4 days for the results to come in, and in the meantime he should take precautions to quarantine himself.

So... we haven't touched each other. We've been sleeping in separate rooms, using separate bathrooms, and constantly disinfecting shared spaces. We sit on opposite ends of the couch. He wears a mask pretty much all day and night, and I've been in charge of shopping trips. We are constantly cleaning and inhabiting different rooms, and we have quickly realized that we are navigating bizarre, uncharted relationship waters.

In nearly five years of loving, living, and traveling together, we've never really limited physical touch. We've done plenty of long distance, but we usually make up for lost physical time together with endless hugs and handholds and kisses when we reunite. We hug before coffee every morning. We hug to say goodbye when one of us leaves the house for work. We hug to welcome each other home (even if we've only been gone an hour). We hug when one or both of us is stressed. We hug and peck each other in public. We give each other massages in front of the TV. Historically when one of us has been sick we might take a little more care, but hugs have never been off limits.

The result of this 'new type of distance' has been a lot of anticlimactic brush-by's and a spectrum of emotional conversation. Until this week, we never truly understood how much comfort we took from wordlessly holding each other, and how that comfort affected our daily life together. Instead, we feel more like roommates who go way, way back. Sometimes the boundaries make me feel like we can't quite get on the same page. Sometimes a smile and a long shared 'mind hug' can be enough. But it is a constant reminder of how quickly the ground underneath us can change, and how many more ways our relationship might be tested. When you spend half of most years apart and the other half in close proximity, you understand how much communication and vulnerability is required to stay present and nurture the full expression of your love together. Now we're adjusting to a new thing we couldn't have thought to prepare for... and the result is: some courageous conversations, some much needed laughs, a lot of self awareness (why am I so irritable that you didn't do the dishes and what do I actually need in this moment?) and compromise.

We're working and playing entirely from home, for added complexity, and it's our FIRST time living on our own, without a roommate. Not to mention, we are processing the pandemic and all the fear around it each day, and we're finding out our processes require different things. My instinct is to lean more heavily on news check ins than escapist content, and spend more time to myself away from screens when I'm not on the phone with faraway friends and family. Shane wants to hang out more, watching comedy, making meals, and planning woodwork builds and house accents together. Luckily, we both want to get high and dance around and watch long Tik Tok compilations. The lack of physical touch seems even harder on him than me... although it's entirely possibly that I'm just ignoring how hard it is just to get through it.

All of these interactions, plus the conversations I've had with others, have made me aware that every single one of us has different psychological and physical needs, and being vigilant about tending to them is a job no one else is fully qualified for. Communicating, with yourself and loved ones, how you best function and what you are good at and struggle with in relationships is incredibly important--this time of unprecedented isolation has made that very apparent. I find myself appreciating all the little ways people take care of themselves or speak kindly to others. I think more about my friends and family in a 'daily life' capacity than from the angle of our future plans or past memories. I just genuinely want to know how everyone is doing, and let you all know that I care about you. Even when things are busy. Even if I haven't responded right away in the past. I think about you going about your day and I wish you the grounded feeling of knowing you are loved and appreciated.

Shane is almost back to 100%, although he has a lingering cough. So far I feel fine, if a bit exhausted from all the exposure to media and conjecture. The fact that there's no way to deal with this whole thing except for one day at a time, is not lost on me. I love how present we all have to be with the world exactly as it is, and I'm grateful to have equipped myself with a few tools for self awareness and self acceptance and can generally face the day head on and stay centered.

**Speaking of staying centered... my interview article on Lauren Ritchie, founder of The Dance Podcast, was published today! Dancers, dance teachers, and all humans can find some support and guidance in Lauren's words.

Check it out:

Resilience & Growth In Difficult Times: Lauren Ritchie Is Here To Help

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