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Illustration by Alyazia Alblooshi

Love in The Times of Covid-19

From forging new connections, to maintaining existing relationships and loving whether you’re closeby or far apart, explore how our ways of connecting have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oct 11, 2020

“Over the [months, we have all] reached the same wise conclusion by different paths: it [is] not possible to live together in any other way, or love in any other way, and nothing in this world [is] more difficult than love.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Times of Cholera
“Love is in the air,” we would sing in the past. In the present, however, is a deadly virus. Covid-19 has radically changed the way human connections work. Distancing from others is the new normal, one that we must accept and adapt to, or else we will literally die.
For many of us, adaptation is easy. We open our laptops, send a link to our contacts and connect. Some of your contacts, however, do not have what is needed to adapt. For instance, in some countries in the developing world, good internet connections are not the norm but the exception.This difference in accessibility to stable Wi-Fi creates a gap between the way people from different countries can interact with each other. Lagging connections and poor Wi-Fi may distort sentences or force students to keep their cameras off during Zoom meetings with friends. Some may not even join at all.
Friendships — Old and New
Whether it is the four person limit at restaurants around the city or six person limit within dorm rooms, the way we navigate friendships has changed. Pedro Velasquez, Class of 2023, created a meme that exemplifies the conundrum faced by friend groups — what happens to the seventh friend? Do they have to call in via Zoom?
From what I have personally noticed, groups are getting smaller, friendships are becoming less superficial and random pop ups are a thing of the past. Just think about the necessity of selecting the three friends that will go with you to Abd El Wahab on a Tuesday night. In this way, we've come to establish “a Covid-buble,” a group of friends who we meet with often. In a sense, it is like a family unit.
Before the pandemic, we all had an opportunity to meet new friends at university in the classroom; perhaps if one of us felt like it, we would start chatting and bond over what we were learning. The most fundamental opportunity, however, came during Marhaba. We all had friends from Marhaba; while some remain acquaintances, others turn into meaningful friendships that lasted well beyond the first few weeks of school. However, things are very different for first-year students this year, who got to experience Marhaba only virtually.
In Mexico, Andrés Ugartechea, Class of 2024, is living with four family members and seven cats. Despite the busy house, he is finding it hard to establish meaningful friendships with his new peers. Ugatechea describes the friendships he has been able to form as superficial.
“Neither Zoom nor social networks are useful to bond with people, other than that, time differences really [ruin] conversations,” lamented Ugatechea.
Although friendships don’t always fit into mainstream conceptions of love, we cannot ignore the fact that the way we navigate friendships has fundamentally changed this year. Distance, the constant theme of this pandemic, has altered both platonic and romantic relationships alike.
Long (and Very, Very Short) Distance Love
As seen in both pop culture and real life, long-distance relationships are hard. The general consensus still stands that long distance relationships should be avoided. Yet, what more people should be weary of is short distance. In China, for example, there were reports around many cities of spikes in divorce rates after the Covid-19 lockdown, as couples stuck at home were constantly fighting. Cases of domestic violence surged, worldwide issue the United Nations has described as a shadow pandemic.
There is an interesting dichotomy to consider here in terms of distance: relationships with individuals who are thousands of miles away and relationships that have forced lovers together in closer proximity than they ever expected.
In terms of long distance, Isabel Ríos, Class of 2022, said that the uncertainty that comes with Covid-19 makes things harder.
“I visualize being with someone as charging my batteries; every time I’m with [them], my batteries are fully recharged,” Ríos described. “With the uncertainty, it can feel like you’re running on empty and you never know when you will be able to charge [your batteries] again.”
Seif Amr, Class of 2022, expressed how challenging it was to not see his girlfriend in the beginning.
“We were frustrated because our relationship was through the phone and that generated misunderstandings,” Amr added. “It was mostly texting [when his girlfriend] was at home, and she was mostly at home because of the pandemic.”
Amr went from a long-distance relationship to living just a few steps apart on campus. As Amr explained, the proximity was less challenging because he had been in his relationship for a long time.
”It's really nice, I am not annoyed that we are together a lot,” he said.“This situation could have been harder when I was a freshman because of the novelty.”
For others, however, the onset of lockdowns and travel restrictions forced unexpected conversations and living situations for many around the world. Couples living together stressed how proximity could be detrimental to their mental state, while others explained how the pandemic had brought them much closer.
While Ugartechea paralleled these concerns in the context of his family home, residents on campus face a similar experience. Students deal with the challenge of finding their own space and creating an often necessary separation between school, work and personal relationships.
Forging New Connections
Another aspect of love that will resonate with single folks is the changes to the dating scene. It was already hard to find love, and the pandemic didn’t make things easier. The Latinx, perhaps universal, way of meeting someone was going to a party, dancing and talking. So what are the options of meeting new people now, and getting to know a person behind a facemask?
For some, dating apps allowed them to meet a potential love of their lives. For others, they allowed for some unsocially distanced fun, for which the stakes are now higher. How do we go about social distancing with people we do not know? Are we comfortable asking them how careful they are to not contract Covid-19?
One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains how her increased use of dating apps since the pandemic started, came from a place of boredom.
“I know I am not going to go out with any of these people now… and likely not later either,” she explained. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable nor safe meeting a stranger when cases [in the UAE] are rising,” she added.
On the other hand, Andrea Columba, Class of 2023, started using Tinder when she came back to Abu Dhabi and had to stay entertained during two weeks of quarantine. After texting for two weeks, and eventually meeting the lucky guy, she realized how nice he was.
“I had met people at parties before, and dated before and it was nice. Yet, I really loved starting a real conversation through Tinder,” Columba explained.
Ever since, they have been dating. So, my fellow singletons, love is in the air, it is just a matter of catching it — just make sure you don’t catch anything else.
The pandemic has changed many things in life, including how we connect with and love one another. Our modern problems thus require modern solutions — dating apps, private Zoom chatbox and being extra communicative with challenges and boundaries. We all still love, just in different ways.
Andres Ancona is a Contributing Writer for The Gazelle. Email them at
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