My Isolationship

Writer: Daisy Henry
Artist: Gabrielle Poh

While COVID numbers grew, Victoria entered lockdown after lockdown and many people’s worlds slowed down, but mine accelerated at an unprecedented pace — I reconnected with a childhood friend, found myself in a relationship, and moved in with a man for the first time.

Usually, I’d say the two- to three-month mark in a relationship is a fun, relaxed, no-commitment period. You go out, keep it casual, and spend time getting to know each other. But in March 2020 (a few weeks into my relationship with N), seeing your ‘intimate partner’ became the one exception to the state’s lockdown rules. Suddenly, we went from simply being old friends reconnecting, to two people in an exclusive relationship with each other. 

Instead of trying out new restaurants, bonding over gigs and going on long road trips, our date nights looked a little different. But we did try to keep it fun — we made forts, perfected our cookie recipe, had our own dance parties in the back room. He tried (very patiently) to teach me guitar, and we had great, albeit quiet, sex in his childhood bedroom. But ultimately, entering into a relationship during the pandemic was always going to be unique, for good and bad.

N wasn’t just my new partner, he became my best friend and support system, my only movie buddy and prime form of socialisation. Having this, especially in isolation, was incredibly lucky. I couldn’t hug my friends or my grandma, but at least N and I were able to give each other that much-needed physical intimacy. 

We bonded by going back in time and laughing over old memories together, and then again as we rekindled. The young kid with the overly gelled side fringe now worked full time as a graphic designer and could kiss extremely well. It’s a crazy world.  

We also bonded over the foreign and scary feelings that came with experiencing a global pandemic. When the ground beneath my feet felt shaky and unstable, N was there to hold me. As we awaited press conferences and checked daily case numbers, he was there to crack a joke and ease my dread. As trips got cancelled and I turned 22 in lockdown, he was there cooking me a special at-home birthday dinner.

However, our relationship was formed in a period of isolation away from the world, away from our jobs and away from our friends. Although we were getting to know each other incredibly intimately and incredibly quickly, we weren’t getting to know each other as we naturally exist. Our relationship was built on having every weeknight and weekend free to dedicate to each other — a rare lockdown-induced environment. 

Relying on one person for everything is far from ideal, and we were naturally placing a lot of pressure on each other. When curfew was introduced, it only exacerbated some more strenuous times. If we’d had a fight after 8pm, we were stuck with each other until the morning (read: very awkward).

Then, in October 2020, Victoria’s 111-day lockdown ended just as we were transitioning into summer. It was great; the days were longer, and we were making the most of them. Suddenly, there were all these exciting things happening in the world and it felt special to venture out and experience them together. I felt giddy at the thought of other people seeing me with this wildly funny, sexy person in public for the first time. 

But then lockdown was mandated again.

First, it was five days in February. Then 14 at the end of May. 12 in July. And then 77 days, beginning in early August. Compared to the two long lockdowns the year before, the fact that these were short and constant made me feel more on edge. Rather than submitting to the fate of being stuck at home for weeks on end, I found it difficult to adapt to moving in and out of these states of being. I was growing restless and craving something exciting to push me outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to feel in control and as though I was moving forward, but instead it was turning into another year of feeling stagnant. 

Though it began with each of us browsing casually on realestate.com, we started to consider moving out together. We wanted to feel independent and grown up, and desperately wanted something to distract us. Although we’d had many passionate discussions on buying versus renting (I was a strong advocate for renting, he for buying and investing), we didn’t want an overly serious commitment, or to feel trapped and tied to an intimidating mortgage. Not long after, we ended up moving into a cute two-bedroom rental on a leafy street during lockdown six. 

Though we’d imagined a housewarming party and having friends over, we ended up spending the first two months in isolation together, and initially it was difficult to hold onto our own senses of self. We both worked out of the same room during the day and went to sleep in the same bed each night. Of course I adored his company, but it felt like he was always there. Before, we’d had our own houses to retreat back to and families that provided additional company and conversation. Now, it was really just us.

So, we were forced to find a balance. We made sure that we went for separate walks with our own families and friends, and had alone time to lean into our own hobbies. I loved nothing more than reading and watching my uni lectures outside in the sun while N had Zoom meetings inside, and enjoyed cooking and illustrating when he clocked off.

Forming a relationship and moving out with someone during multiple lockdowns taught me a lot about love, commitment and independence. I was scared of moving too fast, or how to make sure we remained separate people. But I wanted to try something new, so I risked the fact that it might not work out. And now, after nearly two years together, we’ve become experts at reading each other’s moods and giving each other the space to be. 

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