When 2020 started, Sam was happy in a five-year relationship and thinking that maybe she would end this year with a ring on her finger.
In March, the country went into lockdown, and with it Sam (not her real name) found herself spending more than than she ever had with her boyfriend.
Before, they worked shifts and he was often away for work meaning they struggled to spend time together.
And being together 24/7 opened up a lot of problems in their relationship.
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Now, instead of planning her wedding, Sam, now 27, is single for the first time in her adult life, having gone quickly from one serious relationship to another since she was 17.
She explains: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt so isolated. The break up was tough – it always would have been – but it happened in April when there were still lots of restrictions.
‘I had to leave my home because it was clear we couldn’t live together and I ended up getting a studio flat alone.
‘I couldn’t see friends at that point and I was miserable. I know everyone was miserable during lockdown but my life had just been flipped upside down and I just wanted a hug from a friend.
‘There were points where I would write out messages to my ex asking if I could come back, but it wasn’t that I actually wanted to – I just didn’t want to be locked down alone.’
Sam says that while it has been difficult, she knows that lockdown was what made her realise that things weren’t right.
When she was forced to spend all her time with her partner, she noticed there were huge cracks in their relationship.
‘We tried to talk and fix them but it just wasn’t going to work. I am grateful that lockdown exposed a lot of the issues because long-term, they would always have come out,’ she says.
‘We were going to get married and have children, and I think that without lockdown, I would have just walked blindly into that, only for it to all fall apart further down the line.’
Sam isn’t alone – lawyers are reporting a rise in queries about divorce during the pandemic and Dating.com has seen an increase in single users.
In a survey, it found 67% of users who responded said that they went through a break up in the last year, which is a significant increase from last year’s findings of only 34% admitted to have gone through a break up.
Tom, 28, from Manchester, had a similar experience to Sam. He wasn’t living with a his partner before lockdown but when the news hit, he decided to move in with her.
He adds: ‘We’ve been together for about a year and probably weren’t ready to move in together but also didn’t want to spend months apart so just went for it.
‘It’s hard to know if it was the circumstances or not but it quickly became clear that it just wasn’t going to work.
‘Lockdown meant that I didn’t really feel like I had the option to move back to my place and I really tried to cling on and make it work but after a few weeks, I was sleeping on the sofa and we would barely speak.
‘As soon as restrictions eased slightly, I left and we ended things. I think that would be my number one piece of advice – try to find a solution where you’re staying covid-safe but you don’t have to stay together. That really gave us no space to deal with it, and we ended up parting on really bad terms.’
Even when restrictions lifted both Sam and Tom found the whole situation tough.
Sam adds: ‘Because it had all happened during lockdown, a lot of my friends didn’t know, or didn’t realise the full details.
‘Lockdown made me feel really distant from my support network. The Zoom calls dwindled quickly and it was just me in my studio flat.
‘I think if you are going through a breakup now, you have to just message your friends and be like “I’m struggling, can we talk?” With previous relationship difficulties it would come out over a few drinks with friends but I realised I needed to be a lot more up front about my feelings when I needed support this time.’
By mid-September, Sam decided she wanted to casually date again but meeting someone in a pandemic isn’t straight forward.
She explains: ‘After the initial sadness, I started to enjoy my new found freedom. I was young, free and single for the first time and I really wanted to just date people.
‘Lockdown could be lonely but I got used to my living situation and I knew there was no way I would want anything serious any time soon, but I also wanted to have sex and experiment a little.
‘But I felt like that wasn’t a great option with the pandemic still going on. I joined dating apps and matched with some people because I couldn’t really go to a bar to meet people.
‘When restrictions eased, I went to the pub with friends a few times but we had to sit in our group with table service. There was no chatting up strangers at the bar.
‘Meeting up with anyone was still tough and then more restrictions came in again.
‘I feel like I’m ready to move on and have some fun but my life just has to be in limbo.’
Tom adds: ‘I’m lucky that I could move back to my old flat where I live with friends so at least I have them to chat with but I know it’s unlikely I’ll be able to date anyone else any time soon.
‘It’s such a weird way for things to end and I’m not sure I’ve quite accepted what has happened.
‘I know there are worse things going on with lockdown but this is absolutely the worst break up I’ve had, purely because of the weird situation around me.’
Maria Sullivan, Vice President and Dating Expert of Dating.com, adds that while the end of a relationship is hard at the best of times, it’s important to look after yourself as you also deal with the added issues from the current situation.
She says: ‘Break ups can be challenging with or without a global pandemic. With people still being encouraged to stay home and limit social interactions, being able to move on can sometimes feel impossible.
‘People should look at a break up during quarantine as a blessing in disguise because it allowed you to see who your partner really is and otherwise you might have went through life never really knowing that person at all!
‘While it’s no surprise that breakups are hard and leave people feeling lost and sometimes lonely, it is a good time to self-reflect and focus on yourself.’
Maria has four tips to help you move on and deal with your new found singledom.
She says: ‘Let yourself be upset. It is important to allow yourself to properly reflect on what went wrong in the relationship in order for you to learn and move on.
‘Keep yourself as busy as possible. Reach out to family or friends and plan socially distant outings to spend time with people who make you happy.
‘Switch up your routine and environment. Look for easy activities like a virtual morning workout class or a tennis lesson to help yourself focus on other things going on in your life rather than the break up.
‘Finally, start a journal. Keeping track of how you feel each day can help you see how far you have come and make you realize that you have moved on from your ex-quicker than you thought imaginable.’
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