When Quarantine Breaks Relationships

There is no immunity to break-ups.

While it is likely that Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green broke up simply because things were cracking apart before the pandemic — Fox had met her new paramour Machine Gun Kelly during filming of “Midnight in the Switchgrass” prior — the same case is less clear regarding fantasy author Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Apparently, their relationship hit a rough patch in New Zealand as quarantine hit full force, leaving Neil Gaiman to flee the lockdown in New Zealand for a town in Scotland. On his blog, Gaiman and Palmer deny a divorce is imminent, rather, they’ve hurt each other’s feelings and needed some space.

All of which may be true, but for many couples all over the world, the efforts to social distance and shelter in place have hit hard in unexpected ways. ABC News in their report on the issue put one of the reasons that coronavirus is taking a toll on married couples quite elegantly: “Tension bred by forced proximity”.

So what happened before the quarantine? What were these couples doing differently?

It raises questions about how long it takes to truly know another person. Our modern day life has made it easy to fill our every waking moment with distraction, so we are only compelled to meet our significant others for a limited number of hours.

What happens when the tables turn, though, and we are consigned to be in front of each other for days at a time? There is no way now to hide our ugly parts. We are painfully exposed for all our less pleasing habits, forced to jostle up against the uncomfortable nature of our vulnerable, naked selves.

We can pretend to be perfect for a long time before we are caught off guard on the wrong day. But being held captive in one location changes everything, and we are not able to keep up the pretense.

There’s a lot to be said for the art of romance. One of the concepts most of us intrinsically know is that to attract and have a partner, you too must be attractive, and sometimes that requires extra work on our part, work that takes effort to maintain. We wear a personae, to some extent, the personae of that ideal lover that can be all, perform all, and love through all.

Some may scoff at that sentiment, but this serves as the dividing line for lovers who aspire to work hard in their romances and those who want to do a minimal amount of work and call it “honesty.”

Of course, you want some measure of authenticity in your relationship, to be able to have open communication. But making no effort to couch your terms in consideration of someone else, or making no effort to be pleasing to another person isn’t “honesty” — it’s doing what comes easy, and most of the time, what comes easily is also low value. We recognize low value when we see it. And often, that low value is someone who is not trying.

This is why quarantine partners are falling apart. Being forced into close proximity isn’t necessarily the problem — it’s proof that these were people who loved each other greatly, but the work required to demonstrate that value is too great, and exhausted them in the long run. The mask of the personae slipped away, or people simply couldn’t recharge to take on the job of romance. Underneath all the effort, we need love and care, and sometimes that love and care must be administered alone.

Couples need time apart to continue this level of romance. Too many marriages and relationships grow stale over time, but are considered successful because they stayed together. 

That’s just not so. Being in a relationship without satisfaction is a failed relationship, even if you’re still together. A lesson that the pandemic is forcing us to know, whether we like it or not.

Don’t Go For The Thirsty Lover

Julian Assange’s Undercover Romance is Exposed, Teaching Us About The Hazards of Love In Captivity

Source: By Cancillería del Ecuador — https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgcomsoc/14953880621/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34813739

We primarily know Australian Julian Assange as the rogue journalist founder of Wikileaks who enjoys upsetting nations everywhere when it comes to airing out their dirty governmental laundry. But this post isn’t a political post. Instead, it’s about love in literal captivity, and reasons you might want to avoid it. Hear me out.

The South African lawyer Stella Morris revealed via the New York Post on April 11 that she had become Assange’s lawyer, then friend, then ultimately, lover, and mother to two of his children (yes, conceived during his isolation in the Ecuadorian Embassy!)

My principal fascination with any person of interest in news or entertainment is the odd twists and turns of their personal lives, and I immediately honed in on this one. Forget Wikileaks and it’s paradigm changing presence in the world of government conspiracy in the age of the internet. Can we talk about the screwed up decisions we make in romance when we have no access to a wide variety of choices?

Stella Morris by all accounts appears to be a wonderful, hard working woman, but you can’t help but wonder why she chose a wanted man with a dubious future as the father of her children. What I didn’t wonder was why a man imprisoned in an embassy would have chosen to begin a romance with her: because no one else was available.

I know it sounds harsh. But we can’t possibly ignore that Assange’s dating choices are bit bleak, considering who he is and his inability to freely move about. This is not a man who will be buying you drinks or opening the car door for you anytime soon.

One of the most overlooked elements of love life in popular culture is environment. That said, many of us understand the challenge environment poses early on. After all, it was not that long ago that dating in a small town for a woman meant you were limited to the men who showed up at the local dive bar. If you didn’t like what you saw, your options were slim.

Fast forward to online dating, to swipe apps, and the equation changes radically in your favor. You have more options. Your pool widens. You don’t have to hope that Icky Mickey or Angry Angelo will strike your fancy and do something to impress you, despite the long list of deal breakers that are already on display. Now you can click a button or swipe on Ravishing Roberto or Well Educated William who are already ticking off your boxes.

Having more options means you’re less likely to visit that dive bar, and you’re less thirsty if you think the desert plain isn’t so empty after all.

Call me crazy, but engaging in a romantic relationship with a guy who can’t leave a building for fear of extradition to a foreign country is an unequal power dynamic for the same reason. Assange is a thirsty man who doesn’t know when the desert will end. That sounds all right for a fling, but doesn’t the create the conditions for a lasting love if one partner was chosen simply because …. they were there. You know. The same way if I crawl out of the desert with my throat on fire, I’m not terribly picky about the first water cooler I come across.

And while the situation between Assange and Morris is surreal and seemingly the stuff of tawdry spy novels, we often see it played out closer to home. I’ve seen countless office romances unfold beneath this guiding principle: because the other partner was there. People rely on what’s easy and convenient, and what’s easy and convenient is usually a matter of geography. And the other person had no desire to seek any further than the local dive bar I mentioned above.

Makes you feel special, right?

The lesson in all this isn’t that love or romance needs to be a struggle, or necessarily that what’s closest and easiest isn’t a good option for those who find love there. Some people are happy at the local bar. They aren’t interested in finding more beyond that. The problem is when someone isn’t actively electing to be in that relationship. Will it breed resentment? Will the situation change, or stay the same? What happens if all the elements that made the relationship easy, geographically accessible, suddenly go away?

We’ve all seen what happens when an office romance is interrupted — either by a breakup, or one leaving for another job. Some survive the changes in this power dynamic, and some don’t, and that’s a part of life.

More importantly, when we know it, we realize that we ourselves don’t have to go into our relationships thirsty, either.

Photo Source: By Cancillería del Ecuador — https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgcomsoc/14953880621/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34813739