Culture, Lifestyle

Young Love in a Coronavirus Age: How the love lives of Manchester students have been affected during the pandemic

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“Do you want to watch another episode, babe?” my boyfriend of nearly two years asks.

Lately, we’ve gotten into American Horror Story. While it may induce nightmares about homicidal clowns and demonic nuns, it’s definitely worth it.

“Sure,” I reply. “Three, two, one, go!”

We both press play on our devices and gear up for another night spent miles apart. Long phone calls and watching Netflix via FaceTime has become our ‘new normal’.

When news of lockdown emerged, isolating together simply wasn’t an option, so we’ve found ways to make it work. While our bond has never felt stronger, it’s still frustrating to know that I’ve seen my Hermes delivery driver more than my boyfriend this year.

Research collected by Relate and eHarmony show that lockdown has affected people’s love lives in a myriad of ways. 59% of new couples ‘feel more committed to their partner in the wake of COVID-19’, leading to ‘turbo relationships‘, while ‘29% of people realise they’re happier on their own.’

It’s also suggested that 16-34-year-olds are feeling most under pressure in their current relationships.

Although young couples are affected, Sociology and Cultural Studies Reader, Dr Christian Klesse, believes that younger singletons may too be struggling, as there are now social distancing obstacles to contend with when striking up new relationships or encounters.

He says: “Younger people have faced many restrictions, which undermines casual and relaxed encounters with new people and potential partners, free from risk considerations.

“I think the dynamics of the pandemic and the policies and discourses around it imply serious challenges for – and undermine – a culture of dating and sexual and intimate experimentation. This renders it also more difficult to develop romantic relationships.”

To learn more about this issue, I caught up with five Manchester Metropolitan University students to see how COVID-19 has affected their love lives during lockdown, from long-distance struggles to newfound love.

Meet… MA Multimedia Journalism student, Andy Wong

Being 200 miles away from your partner during lockdown may seem unimaginable, but that’s the situation that Andy’s currently in.

Having met at a Freshers Fair in 2018, Andy, 24 and Charlotte, 21 instantly bonded over their love of anime, so much so that he asked her out within a fortnight.

Though the pair were used to time apart while visiting their hometowns of Liverpool and Wimbledon, lockdown is the longest they’ve ever been separated.

“I was home in Liverpool before lockdown and she’d come to stay with me. It was literally a day before lockdown that she made the decision to go back home because we didn’t know how long lockdown would be and she didn’t want to be separated from her family,” he says.

While the early days of lockdown weren’t too stressful, as they approached the three-week mark, it became more much challenging. Though they always make time for each other, setting time aside to play online games, watch Netflix or even just talk, it doesn’t quite compare to seeing each other in-person.

Andy and Charlotte enjoying some quality time together

Andy explains: “I just really miss her company. When you get to wake up next to that person, you get to have that feeling of ‘I get to spend the whole day with you and not have to worry about leaving and at night I get to go to bed next to this person’, that’s something you can’t get through video chatting.”

If there’s one positive to come out of this situation though, it’s that the couple are excitedly making plans for once lockdown lessens.

“Lockdown has made us seriously think about wanting to live together, it’s something that we feel we are ready for. It does help to plan for the future and having that light at the end of the tunnel,” Andy concludes.

Meet… BA Politics with History student, Georgia Wicks and BA Creative Writing student, Rebecca Ward

Georgia, 21, and Rebecca, 28, couldn’t stand the thought of being separated throughout lockdown – so they decided to take a leap of faith and isolate together.

The couple met on Twitter after joining a group-chat for fans of the show Killing Eve and according to Georgia, they just “clicked”. Prior to lockdown, they’d been dating for one year and four months.

Rebecca (l) and Georgia (r) snapping a selfie together

Following the death of Georgia’s grandmother weeks before lockdown, Rebecca moved in with Georgia to provide her girlfriend with emotional support. When it became evident that lockdown would be taking place, they decided to make this permanent.

Georgia says: “Myself and my grandma were very close and I needed emotional stability, which is something that Rebecca gives to me whenever I’m with her. I was worried that if she went back to her hometown for lockdown our relationship would suffer, but I think that was due to my anxiety and grief.”

Although living together brought them closer, Georgia’s mum and sister struggled with the living arrangements, causing tension in the household. To relieve the stress, Georgia and Rebecca moved into their own place.

The house is far from perfect, even having succumbed to a water leak or two, but they love having a place to call their own.

“Georgia and I have been able to put our own little touches on the place, including an office space for me to write in, which I didn’t have before and really needed. I feel really at home here,” Rebecca says.

And that’s not all, they’ve even adopted a kitten together.

“It feels surreal that only a few short months ago she didn’t even exist. She’s changed our lives so much – we’re parents!” adds Rebecca.

While they did consider naming her ‘Villanelle’ (in honour of Killing Eve), they settled on ‘Teddy’ instead.

Teddy enjoying a nap during lockdown

Meet… BA Mechanical Engineering student, Giordy Diangienda

For many, university is the time to socialise, try new things and create new experiences, although this is proving much more difficult to do while lockdown rules are in place.

Prior to lockdown, Giordy, 23, was a regular on the social scene. Whether there to perform as a DJ or to simply have a good time, you’d find him there with a smile on his face and a drink in his hand.

“Before COVID-19 I was in the pub a lot, DJing a lot in clubs and house parties and what not. And when it came to my social life and women, I was definitely having fun. I had a lot of female friends and would have a casual fling here and there. I had a pretty average social life for a guy of my social status and of my calibre. I was enjoying life,” says Giordy.

However, following the introduction of social-distancing measures and the closure of venues, both Giordy’s social life and love life were drastically altered.

Like many singletons during this time, Giordy has tried online dating in the effort to stay social, but has found that it simply doesn’t have the same effect as meeting someone in-person.

“I’m on Tinder but it’s crap. I think social media has ruined dating in general, it’s made everyone very vain. I don’t suit the persona of Tinder,” Giordy continues.

Though Giordy may not be able to party and mingle as he once did, for him, one good thing has come out of lockdown – rediscovering his love of cricket. 

Giordy showing off his cricket gear before heading out to play

For the moment, Giordy is content playing sports and focusing on himself. 

“During the pandemic, you shouldn’t worry about dating, worry about yourself and your mental health. People in relationships are lucky but you shouldn’t use their relationship as your goal. Do something that’ll make you happy,” Giordy resolves.

Meet… BA Adult Nursing student, Jade McNulty

Jade, 24, had no intention of dating this year, having just left a long-term relationship at the end of 2019. However, as the old saying goes: the best relationships are the ones you never see coming.

While in lockdown, Jade was focusing on herself for once, fitting in nature walks, family time, sketching sessions and practicing her ukulele, all while working shifts at a local hospital.

One day, after posting a video of herself playing the ukulele online, Jade got a rather unusual reply from Luke, one of her followers.

“Luke had sent me a clip of himself singing along to it, which I thought was so sweet if a little odd,” Jade tells.

Jade and Luke, 32, met at a Hozier concert in 2019 and the pair instantly bonded over their mutual nursing careers. Though after the concert they began to follow each other on social media, it was only after his reply to her ukulele video that romance began to blossom.

A drawing that Jade sketched with Luke in mind

After weeks of hour-long video chats and talking about every topic imaginable, they decided that the time was right to meet in-person.

Jade recalls: “We decided to go for a socially distanced walk in the park. It was strange at first because I knew this was the guy I wanted to spend forever with, but I wasn’t allowed to behave naturally or spontaneously. I couldn’t hold his hand or be physical in any way.”

And then, following the introduction of ‘support bubbles’, the couple were finally able get within two metres of each other, which Jade vividly remembers.

“It was just electric. You can really click with someone on an emotional level and it’s just not there physically, but it was just amazing to be physical and intimate with him”.

Jade and Luke enjoying being part of each other’s bubbles

Since then, they’ve been on holiday together twice, have met each other’s families via socially-distanced walks or video calls and are even planning on getting matching tattoos.

So, if there’s a lesson to be learned from Jade’s story, it’s that true love can be found at any time, even during, what feels like, the apocalypse.

How has your love life been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Let aAh! know in the comments below!

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Andrea Maria Petrie

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