I want to start by acknowledging how lucky I am. Many of my fellow LGBTQ+ people at Oxford will have been forced to lockdown without their significant other. Some are even shut away in hostile family environments, or trapped in the closet with no clear reprieve. I know how fortunate I am that that is not my experience.
While I may be isolated, I am not alone.
My partner, James, has been an invaluable source of strength and sanity in these trying times. My relationship is something I’ve discussed in Pink before, and I am happy to report that in the confusing and chaotic COVID-ridden world, he is one certainty. That said, I would be remiss to pretend that a relationship in lockdown didn’t come with its own set of challenges. Especially a queer one.
Perhaps the most obvious area of difficulty has been over intimacy. Any queer couple will know the risks of a romantic relationship slowly slipping into a sibling-style arrangement without proper intimacy. And intimacy has been a confusing prospect to say the least when attempting to adhere to social distancing directives.
For James and I, the solution has been to put in the effort to keep the romance alive. We make sure to have regular date nights and cook for each other. We make time away from Zoom or Teams to spend together. He has also taken the opportunity of weekly shopping trips to bring home bouquets of flowers for me. In times like these, it really is the little gestures that make all the difference.
For us, it has also been therapeutic to plan for life beyond lockdown. He has promised to take me to my favourite restaurant once it opens again, and we’re already planning the post-lockdown big night out with our friends (hardly my scene, but relationships are all about compromises!) There is also some talk of a 2021 post-Finals trip to California. This one may be more of a fantasy on my part, but the escapism it is giving us is a welcome respite.
When we need space, we speak up. When we need intimacy, we make it work
Another challenge of sharing lockdown with my significant other has been finding space apart from one another. James and I have been together since I was 17 and we live together during the Vac, but we still both appreciate finding our own private time. For both of us, this has involved adapting the state-approved hour of daily exercise into much-needed time for quiet solo reflection.
Both of us like to run and by going at different times of the day we can give each other the space we need to focus on ourselves. This has the added benefit of making our romantic moments more special: we both feel like we’re choosing to spend time together rather than being forced into it.
It’s also helped that we’ve been able to respect each other’s working environments. James has been working remotely for over a month now. I’ve had collections to revise for and am now facing my Trinity term workload.
This could easily have become a source of friction. Luckily, we’ve each been able to find our own spaces and have focused relatively well. I count myself very lucky that we weren’t stuck together like this before we’d really gotten to understand our relationship: I don’t think either of us would have made it through!
Relationships are all about good communication. Having an open and honest dialogue with your partner is important to ensure that both of you are happy and healthy. For us, this has also been the real key to tackling lockdown together.
When we need space, we speak up. When we need intimacy, we make it work. We have certainly had to adapt to the challenges this lockdown has brought with it. Ultimately though, I think we’ll come out stronger for it. In the few moments of frustration, I ask myself: ‘is there anyone else I would rather be stuck with through this?’. No, the honest answer is no.