Quarantining has been practised for centuries to keep infectious disease outbreaks at bay. In fact, it was used to end the second recorded plague in mankind’s history — the Black Death.
And that pretty much explains the idea behind the CDC’s instruction on practising social distancing. Nigeria, like the rest of the world, gave lockdown directives but only in three states.
Although the now relaxed lockdown was well-intentioned — to flatten the curve — love and relationships were affected, some in not so pleasant ways. The lockdown somehow ended up being both good and bad news.
Bad news first
It appears some marital relationships turned sour. There’s something odd about transitioning from seeing each other only for a few hours a day to every hour of the day. Presumably, the first few days of the lockdown may have been like a honeymoon until the days gradually turned to weeks.
For those dating, the reverse was the case; they ironically went from seeing each other a few times a week to scarcely in a month or more because of the lockdown.
In both cases, the sudden change can be a rude awakening, especially considering the fact that no one braced for this.
In China, for instance, there was a spike in divorce cases in March. Asides being mostly attributed to fussing over trivial matters, a common problem was poor communication.
In the US — several miles from that region — marriage therapists are experiencing an increase in demand online, also in the same month.
These challenges seem to be the reason extramarital affairs on dating websites are thriving among some couples who have either realised they have mismatched personalities or have always been unfaithful.
What does this mean? During a lockdown, everything is digital, even infidelity! But, given the vast possibilities when it comes to Internet use, with many pursuing their indiscretions online, it is alright to flip the coin.
Now to the good news
While it strangely seems being together is causing married couples to drift apart, the experience in courtships is quite different. Clearly, familiarity breeds contempt and absence makes the heart fonder.
It is general knowledge that as humans adapt to change, disruptions in their systems can occur. While a number of discussions have addressed the psychology in this, the crux of the discussions have always been either the necessity of having one’s space shared or having it invaded when it comes to a relationship.
For someone who has been in a long-distance relationship, Andrew* takes this period as one of the challenges he and his partner have weathered in the past, and handles it rather well with a very potent hack.
“I’d say the effect of remote relationship has been no less than close proximity relationships. I say this because one thing that binds a relationship is constant communication, whether remote or not. If this is missing you have no relationship, to begin with, and for I and my partner communication is primary.”
With Ola*, although the lockdown period had been frustrating, it has taught her a valuable lesson.
“It has taught me to cherish every minute I spend with my partner. It was easy to take those times for granted because we didn’t think we would ever run out of weekends to spend together, but here we are.”
On a different note, Drake* thinks a remote relationship has “saved his wallet” because he would have splurged some funds on dates by now.
Asides the cost of Internet data, it is clear that online dating is quite economical, and Eugene* even took advantage of this to profess his love and begin a relationship which has blossomed all through the period of distancing.
Obviously, it is not all gloom as there are some people forced into relationships characterised by distancing who are having a very good time.
Needless to say, the Internet and its tools might be the answer to these questions.
Cheers to tech!
We discovered a common trend in how digital tools have helped partners connect despite the distance — video chats.
This further validates the report that video calls are fast becoming as popular as voice calls, primarily because of the face-to-face feel they give.
“Since we cannot see each other, the video calls (on FaceTime) help with keeping in touch. Sometimes you just spend the time watching the other person eat, work on their laptop, or scroll through social media while you’re doing your own thing. It just helps to know they’re there,” says Ola.
Most of our respondents have stuck with WhatsApp video calls for different reasons. One feels that the VAT on conventional voice calls and messages has made her stick with WhatsApp video calls. Others have connected through social media networks like iMessage, Instagram, and Twitter.
But in spite of how well they have handled the period, it remains to be seen what will be after it is all over.
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Will the new normal be altered post-lockdown?
Andrew is of the opinion that this depends strongly on what each person thinks is best for their relationship. Hence, most of our respondents expect a different reality after lockdown.
Drake fears that busyness after work resumes will again put a strain on their communication.
Ola, on the other hand, says she has a lot of togetherness planned post-lockdown since they have come to appreciate how much of that is needed in their relationship.
“We’re definitely spending more time together doing fun things. We’re already making plans to go out more, and find new activities that we can do together.”
Since another respondent is of the opinion that it has put a stress on their sex lives, it is the first thing on their list to be sorted out after lockdown.
As pointed out by the respondents, the current strain on the Internet, brought on by the movement of most activities online, will persist as long as the online dating trend continues.
Asterisk(*) – not real names