By: Shea Shattuck-Faegre
“Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.”
Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone— taking with it the stuffed bears with heart-shaped boxes holding chocolates with unfailingly dubious fillings, and those little paper cards with saccharine proclamations of value or devotion: “You are great!” and “Be mine, Valentine!” Yet, while the candy displays at the grocery stores are changing over to shamrocks and bunnies, the search and hope for romantic love will continue for those endeavoring towards a connection.
The quest for love on Valentine’s Day and beyond brings new challenges this year as we navigate the confluence of social distancing and efforts at deepening our intimacy with others. The modern dating ethos for many these days, younger generations in particular, often includes ideals which are at odds with reducing the spread of Covid-19. Many individuals may not intend to maintain a connection long-term, and at the heart of so-called hook-up culture there exists a desire to keep options open, perhaps maintaining sovereignty in romantic love to the point of forgoing attachments altogether. While this shift away from the heteronormative and monogamous-centric relationship escalator is a welcome evolution, the need for adaptation to this era of uncertainty remains.
In a time when young people are adept in the language of consent, yet the soft no of ghosting and breadcrumbing is an accepted stand-in for being direct with rejection, where on this spectrum of communication does asking about Covid-19 exposure and risk lie? Those who navigate dating in this new paradigm may need new skills- for example, the requesting of information on a potential lover’s bubble, or perhaps advocating for a type of fidelity that lasts only as long as the risks of transmission of the disease remains high, a so-called Covid cuffing. Whatever one’s needs and goals in romance may be, a few words of advice follows.
First, check in with yourself about your own needs, desires, fears, and standards for being safe. You can get out a journal and get to writing, or talk with a friend to share your thoughts. You might practice saying or writing things, in a process called scripting, which can be a great way to try on various ways of stating your position or asking questions, helping to align your communication with your values and goals. Second, know that in choosing to be direct in your communication with others, you are helping create a dialogue, inviting others to examine their own choices and needs in the process. Self-disclosure creates connection, which is at the heart of romances of all kinds, and can make intimacy more enjoyable and fulfilling. Finally, take time to appreciate your efforts and your own self for being authentic and brave in this uncertain time. At the end of the day (or night), our love and care we show to ourselves is sweeter than anything that comes in a heart-shaped box.