Yet Another Coronavirus Love Story

I know how cliched this is but hear me out.

I owe COVID-19 a big “thank you”. I know, I know, It’s a deadly disease that’s killed 400,000+ people, turned us survivors into alcoholic shut-ins, and canceled every single fun activity for the foreseeable future, where’s the upside? Overall, it’s been pretty shit. But for me and my now significant other, it brought us together.

I’ve been ashamed of most of my decisions during quarantine. Instead of learning new skills or writing I overdosed on Netflix, alcohol, take out food, and depression. I came out of my hibernation 15 lbs. heavier and really invested in a show called “Summer House” where a bunch of aimless New York socialites get drunk and argue. I even followed the cast on Instagram and check in on them weekly.

But I wasn’t alone in neglecting my physical and mental health, I had somebody by my side. A person that I somehow hadn’t met even though they’d been right next to me for most of my adult life. We both took a huge chance and decided to get shut in together, quite possibly the worst thing you can do with a new relationship, but against all odds, everything worked out.

I tell this story not to rub it but to offer some hope as Coronavirus continues to run rampant across America even though it’s August and most other countries have recovered. Unfortunately, we live in a country led by a needy, narcissistic con man with a child-like understanding of the world who thinks that 1,000 Americans dying per day “is what it is“.

It doesn’t matter if the world is ending and meeting new people is impossible, or if you’ve been single for years and resigned yourself to the fact that you’re going to be alone forever, or if your career is the only thing that matters to you and you’ve stopped looking. As much as I hate to admit it, love will find you when you least expect it.

The Start of a Coronavirus Love Story

I started an Instagram friendship in 2018 with this girl who lived and taught in Thailand. It was a simple relationship, I needed advice and she lived there. We had planned to meet up when I left the country in 2019 but she left earlier than she had intended and I arrived later than I had intended. We kept in touch and she hooked me up with countless recommendations and connections along the way. That should have been the extent of our relationship.

I got back to the states in October 2019 and we finally met in person. There was an immediate attraction between us but this wasn’t a “love at first sight” situation. We vibed and enjoyed hanging out, that was it.

But there was something about her that kept me coming back. I made the trek to DC as much as I could to see her and the more we hung out, the more feelings I caught. I was smitten but I denied it because I wanted to leave Virginia ASAP. We were two jaded, perpetually single people that were convinced we’d never find a significant other.

But we just kept falling in love. And honestly, it sucked. I had finally found my missing puzzle piece but it didn’t make sense to stay together. Doing long distance with somebody you barely know almost never works out.

Normally, I would have given up. But this one felt different. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop falling for her. I have an addictive personality so when I like something, I want as much of it as possible. And I really liked her.

When I finally landed a job I was depressed. This was the end of this awesome thing that felt so right, there was no way she would want to stay together. We had the relationship talk and surprisingly she felt the same way. Against all logic and reason, we agreed to do long-distance. Things started off smoothly, too smoothly.

We had just started this relationship and didn’t have the history and trust that most couples do when they decide to spend that much time apart. After a few weeks, the cracks started to show. I was way more insecure than I thought. I immediately put my heart in her hands without thinking and it was terrifying.

It was intense, too intense. I was not dealing with it well. I’m not a jealous person but the fear of losing this woman erased my “live and let live” attitude that I had built up over the past 3 years. I wasn’t going to tie somebody down in a relationship they didn’t want to be in. In my mind, I had a healthy view of love until I deeply, truly cared.

I was about to break it off because I was being a toxic, self-destructive asshole that didn’t resemble the man I had worked so hard to become. The stress I put on myself had me approaching a full-blown mental breakdown.

We visited each other once a month or tried to, but it wasn’t enough. I could feel us drifting apart, her slipping away. We needed more quality time if this was ever going to work.

Society Falls Apart

As I’m reaching the breaking point, COVID happens and in 2 weeks we go from “COVID is a spicier flu” to “We’re all going to die”. Even though we didn’t say it, we both knew that if we weren’t together during Quarantine that would be the end of the relationship.

We discussed getting shut in together which was a massive gamble. What if we started hating each other week 1? What if the pressure was too much? How long would we be stuck together? I asked her to come out and if she would have said “no” I would’ve understood. I hadn’t been the best person during this whole long-distance thing.

But she booked a flight out here. And in the ensuing months, we both experienced the full spectrum of emotion from being overjoyed to being clinically depressed. Despite the challenges of being couped up all day, we were acting like that “annoying couple” that couldn’t keep our hands off each other.

Unconventional? Sure. Ill-advised? Probably. But this “stress test” is something that all new relationships should go through. We were either going to love each other or hate each other and either way, it was OK. Neither of us had invested that much time so it would’ve been easy to go our separate ways.

We learned how to live with and love each other being stuck in a 1 bedroom apartment for 3 months. What killed most other relationships made us stronger than ever. And despite being stuck, there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

Invest Yourself

In a time where everything seems uncertain, it feels good to be certain about her. I thought I could handle the feelings but years of distancing myself made it really difficult to love somebody in a healthy way.

I had become accustomed to having the “upper hand”. Making sure I never cared more than she did. It’s how I protected my feelings/heart but it also meant I never truly connected with anybody. I kept everybody at an arms distance and then pushed them away if they started getting too close.

Once I let her in I had no idea how to deal with it. I felt exposed, naked, I had given somebody the power to hurt me and it terrified me. Adjusting to this new, healthy relationship dynamic forced me to look in the mirror. All of the anxious, paranoid thoughts came from a place of insecurity, and I had to face it all at once which was overwhelming.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the same scenario, where you fall for somebody who doesn’t give a fuck about you but won’t be upfront and honest about it. The hurt and embarrassment makes you never want to try again. I became jaded and selfish thinking I was protecting myself but in reality, I was subjecting others to the same thing that crushed me in the past.

When we were long-distance, I was so fearful of what negative things could happen that I wasn’t present. I ignored what was right in front of me because I was focused on what might happen. The endless worrying got to me, the stress I put on myself was unbearable.

Part of me was probably scared of the commitment and looking for any reason to break it off. Subconsciously trying to find an escape plan instead of admitting my flaws.

COVID ended that nightmare. It forced us to be together and figure all of this out. Once we were together I realized that everything I had been thinking was irrational. This person cared about me equally. And even if she didn’t, that wasn’t my choice. Being invested in a relationship shouldn’t depend on how invested the other person is.

Taking a chance and being open to the possibility that things may go wrong is the most mature thing you can do. Risking your emotions is a high stakes game that you rarely win, but if you do, you could have a best friend and partner for the rest of your life.

You should stay in a relationship as long as it’s healthy for both of you. If and when it becomes toxic, be OK with letting go. If you really care about somebody you want what’s best for them.

Pride and ego are powerful drugs. You won’t pursue the person you love for fear of rejection or hold on to somebody that treats you like shit because you’re too prideful to admit they don’t care. I didn’t know it at the time but I needed to let go. Now that I have, I’m going to love this person unconditionally for as long as I can.

Thanks COVID, despite your best efforts you did something positive for the world.

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