Even before COVID-19, I was set on being single.
I was continuing to work on my own healing. I have been in recovery as an adult child of an alcoholic and dysfunctional family for about four years.
My lifelong devotion has been not just to liberate myself from dysfunction and codependency but to stop cycles of abuse that have shadowed my ancestral lines for generations.
When someone at a socially distanced birthday party piqued my interest, I had been completely closed to any possibility of romance.
It wasn’t until we got coffee a week later and we talked, quite easily, for five and a half hours, covering varied topics, that I got the feeling something was afoot. I saw an unwavering light in her, a deep kindness shining from her heart.
This budding connection was beginning in my periphery, whether or not I expected it. And truthfully, I’d come to a place where I knew what I had to offer in a partnership was valuable because I’d learned how to give to myself first.
At the time of our third hangout—a backyard fire and a beer at my place—I was grappling with whether or not this was an actual “date.”
What made it a date anyway, in a time when we couldn’t hold hands or hug, and the idea of a kiss was far beyond reality?
After midnight, I started to get some nerve—I spoke my feelings out loud to her. I knew I’d wake up with anxiety if I didn’t say something. I expressed that I hadn’t enjoyed someone’s company so dearly in a long time, that “I’m trying to be cool,” and that “I am committed to doing things differently than I’ve always done.”
I want healthy, reciprocal relationships, and that’s all I’m willing to accept. I want to build trust and have compatible communication.
“I don’t know if you’re feeling friendship or otherwise, but I am open to either.”
The words hung in the chilly September air. The fire had transformed into burning embers. We know the common feelings of a moment like this, our minds wandering to the familiar questioning: was it even possible? Did we misread everything?
My thoughts were soothed when she agreed to what I had spoken. She was intrigued to help me write our new recipe for romance.
We began dating at a safe distance of at least six feet. Masks became second nature in close quarters. We enjoyed movie nights over Zoom, where I shared my screen and audio. In my backyard, we laughed and even cried on occasion. We went on neighborhood strolls together with moments where she almost reached for me. We hugged ourselves when we parted.
This was really different! Who knew taking things slow could feel so exciting yet manageable? Even with the pandemic surrounding us, we enjoyed our time together not with a mindset of lack but rather with a generative approach to gratitude for each moment.
I had been sleeping with a weighted blanket at night, but as my longing for this person grew, my physical self wasn’t going to be fooled much longer. After months without touch, I told her that my body was starting to need hers. We both needed to physically express our connection. We agreed to become a pod once our Covid tests had cleared us.
In this unprecedented time, when hugs and physical touch had been (for so long) just a daydream, our first hug was incredibly powerful. Our bodies were warm, heat rising from anticipation. We embraced one another for no less than 45 minutes. I felt her face nuzzle into my neck and a few tears hit my shoulder. I was overcome. Grateful. Humble. Joyous.
Opposed to many of our histories in dating—act first, think later—this was a revisioning, coming to a relationship with full consciousness. A snail’s pace was our only safe option, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t choose it. By taking time to authentically get to know one another, we could build a solid foundation with someone else.
Instead of dissociating from our lives by having drinks together at crowded bars and texting all the live-long day, we found our footing, separately, first. When we choose, actively, to approach this opportunity together, we have the opportunity to build it from the ground, brick by brick.
I don’t wish to downplay the devastating effects of Covid. There have been losses of lives, jobs, and livelihood for even the well-positioned in our society. The need for social interaction and touch is something I continue to think about and can’t take for granted again. We have each suffered through this time, reestablishing who we are in all this and recognizing the bright spots that we might not have noticed before.
Knowing what we each know from past experience, I would like to think that we would have moved this carefully had there not been a pandemic. However, the pandemic allowed us the chance to write our relationship agreements almost organically. We’ve now been sweet on each other for six months, enjoying so many firsts here, with more gifts coming each day.
We all have the power to change the way we do things. Now that I know how the strong, conscious bonds of trust are built by taking things slowly, I will not go back to the old ways and the old tapes.
I hope this new approach can encourage more healthy relationships for all of us. Perhaps now, we can date with bright consciousness, like we’re living in a pandemic without actually being in one.