Partners in crisis: A look at relationships during COVID-19

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Lucy Marx and Nate Stephenson

Relationships have always been difficult, even before COVID-19 swept across the globe. They require work, compassion, empathy, the list goes on. But at the end of the day, the person you choose to be in one with can make it all worth it, and be there for you when you can’t be for yourself. And although the world as we know it has been undoubtedly shifted into the unknown, these values still hold true. So, how have relationships been affected by this pandemic?

Lucy Marx (right) and her girlfriend Liliana Johnston at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, Calif.
Lucy Marx
Lucy Marx (right) and her girlfriend Liliana Johnston at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, Calif.

Lucy Marx, News Editor

Two days before California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide shelter-in-place order, I said goodbye to my girlfriend and drove to San Diego to visit my family. 

What I expected to be a weekend visit suddenly forced me to make a decision: stay with my family, or go back to Santa Barbara with no idea when I’d be able to visit them again.

I’m very close to my family, so I decided to stay. But that also meant that I’d just signed up for an unexpected long-distance relationship with my girlfriend. 

Long distance can be difficult even when premeditated, so this abrupt change was hard to adjust to.

While of course it has been difficult, nearly a month in this situation has taught my girlfriend and I how to work through unplanned obstacles together. 

Sending postcards, letters and packages may seem outdated or cliche, but those pre-cellphone sweethearts were on to something. It’s so much fun to receive something in the mail from your significant other, and it gives us something to look forward to even when we can’t see each other face-to-face. 

We still talk every day, but I’ve found that the lack of planned visits and dates has been difficult. So, we set up a time every few days where we can sit on the phone and do the same thing together, like watch the cartoon “Bob’s Burgers” or eat dinner. 

One of my favorite things we’ve been doing was my girlfriend’s idea—reading out loud to each other before bed. We’re currently reading Pride and Prejudice and I’ve been having a little too much fun developing voices for all the characters. 

It’s hard not knowing exactly when and how we’ll see each other again, but these little things have made a huge difference. It can be hard to connect over the phone, but I’m happy we can feel just as close as when we could see each other every day. 

So until we can see each other again, I’ll just sit by the mailbox with Pride and Prejudice. 

 

Photo Editor Nate Stephenson and partner Megan Stewart on June 23, 2019 near Grand Teton National Park.
Nate Stephenson
Photo Editor Nate Stephenson and partner Megan Stewart on June 23, 2019 near Grand Teton National Park.

Nate Stephenson, Photo Editor

My girlfriend Megan and I live together in a small apartment on the Mesa. On April 20 we will have been dating for one year, but we’ve lived together for 18 months.

She draws pictures and climbs rocks, I take photos and like to play music.

We do everything together and sharing a home has fit our relationship perfectly in every way, though the lockdown has brought up some new challenges

Before the lockdown Meg and I lived busy lives.

I was working at a photo printing lab on Cota Street and working weekends with a wedding photobooth company—along with my Photo Editor role at The Channels—and Megan was a nanny and full-time student at City College studying marine science.

Almost overnight, classes went online, our travel plans got canceled and we lost our jobs, leaving us stuck in a room we had only used to sleep before the world just shut down. 

Within a week my everyday schedule faded away and the days began to blend together. 

The structure of my life served as the foundation of my progression in the things I love to do, and it feels so good to be productive and be with someone you love. 

But the sudden absence of structure placed an unfair burden on our relationship where we felt like we had to fill in the gaps for one another.

I’ve never felt so codependent in a relationship before. 

We are both highly independent people and we realize that love and respect for yourself comes before giving that to another. 

But maintaining self love takes work and has its roots in overall mental health—something that’s been increasingly difficult to maintain in times like this. 

But, to be honest, I feel ill at the thought of life right now without her. 

A few days ago Meg asked me if we’re becoming codependent. I laughed and replied “Oh yeah.” Then I told her everyone is messed up right now so it’s okay.

Now we are able to joke about it and say things like “I’m feeling a little ‘co-D,’ will you come outside and sit with me?” Because I know we can overcome the obstacles of codependency once the world turns back on. 

We still laugh and dance together, go on walks and appreciate the ocean, make art and talk about the world. Our dynamic is special and strong enough to last the circumstances of the pandemic.

On April 20 I’ll make a blanket fort and watch movies with my partner and roommate to celebrate one year together, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.