It’s going on four weeks since South Africa locked down, and we all became prisoners in our own homes (sulky, but aware of the fact that having a home to hunker down in while this pandemic plays out is a privilege). I’ve been watching a lot more trashy reality television, and doing a lot more reading than usual. In short, spending a lot more time online on account of not having much else that I can actually find he motivation to do. It was on one of my daily journeys across the net that I came across this Buzzfeed article, titled The Pandemic Is Pushing People To Revisit Relationships That Fell Apart. After a few PTSD-shaped flashbacks to relationships I definitely do NOT want to revisit, I found the idea quite intriguing, and dived in.The article, written by Michael Blackmon tells the stories of multiple people who have turned the crisis we’re all trapped in into motivation to be more vulnerable and open up to loved ones they haven’t spoken to in a while, even if they were the ones who got hurt. Some have gotten in touch with old friends they lost contact with, others have contacted exes and sought the safety of old romantic relationships. In some cases, writes Blackmon, “the uncertainty of the moment has emboldened people to lean into sincerity and confess their crushes ” and start entirely new relationships that they may not have had the courage to if they hadn’t been prompted to by that uncertainty.“There’s something about feeling like the world is going to end that makes you fearless to becoming vulnerable,” he quotes Stefanie, a 31-year-old woman in California, “I guess this is how we should all live in the first place”. For those who are trapped apart, this lockdown can be a much-needed opportunity to engage in dialogue about why relationships fell apart in the first place. Without the distractions of everyday life there’s room to focus on the relationships themselves, even if that’s only possible over the phone. There’s also very little pressure now that you’re probably not going to bump into them soon if you do reach out and they reject you.It may also be helpful that so many of us are having to maintain friendships and relationships in the digital realm. Friendships that just faded away due to distance or a busy schedule can now be rekindled because we no longer have places to be and as far as we’re concerned, any relationship with someone we’re not living with has now become long distance, regardless of which city or country they live in. I’ve found myself calling friends I haven’t spoken to for months and catching up for hours with a bowl of popcorn, glasses of wine and bathrobes. Even our relationships with those with which we’re forced to share spaces are undergoing changes, many of those for the better.It’s quite heart-warming to imagine a world in which people are no longer afraid of sharing their feelings, but there’s one caveat here: Some of these relationships ended for a reason.Often the people we come to think of as friends and partners aren’t good for us, and escaping those situations should be seen as a victory– permanently. Yeah, we’re bored out of our minds and Netflix isn’t releasing trashy reality TV series as fast as we can watch them. We’ve already learned all the TikTok dances despite bing too old for that kind of behaviour, and we’re out of bananas and flour with which to bake more bread. Eventually, texting some of the people from our past begins to look like a good idea.It was suggested to me by a friend during one of our wine-and-bathrobe discussions that being trapped at home and surrounded by uncertainty and stress-triggers may cause our minds to seek solace in happy memories of our lives before coronavirus. These memories often include people we, for whatever reason, don’t have contact with anymore, and no matter how tempted we may suddenly feel to drop a casual “hey there” into their DMs, it might actually be better that that we refrain. And here’s another thought to keep in mind: if they’re the one texting you first, it might have more to do with how bored they are in quarantine than with them actually missing you. It stings, but it’s true.Poppy Noor writes for the Guardian that “while any person who views a pandemic as a get-out-of-jail-free card is not to be trusted, this is a particularly bad kind of person. It’s like the deadbeat equivalent of stockpiling, only instead of toilet paper, your ex is hoarding external validation”. If you reply to the text, and tolerate the video call your providing them with that validation and the incentive to keep seeking it. And if the millions of screenshots on Twitter and Instagram are to be believed, this new quarantine-flavoured booty-call may as well be a symptom of the virus itself. Those who managed to get out of emotionally or physically abusive relationships in particular need to practice the challenging art of putting the phone down and walking away. Noor says, “if your ex only wants to get in touch when they think it’s the end of the world, it probably wasn’t meant to be”.It can be helpful, when the feeling to text your ex arises, to call another friend until the feeling passes. Often they’ll remind you of your own words and behaviour towards the end of that relationship, and all the reasons you and your ex parted ways will come flooding back. Alternatively, channel that energy into getting closer with someone else in your life, whether it be over a Skype call or just in your living room. Loneliness can drive us to make poor choices, and one of the easiest ways to avoid that is by finding another way to quell that loneliness.So yes, it’s lovely that people are expressing their feelings and becoming more emotionally vulnerable as a result of this otherwise bleak situation but let’s also keep taking care of ourselves and our emotional wellbeing while doing so. The pandemic is a massive grey cloud looming over all of us, but seeking solace in toxic places will not make the situation any better. Yes, please be vulnerable and open, and share as much love and compassion as you possibly can– We all need it right now– but PLEASE focus on the people who really do care about you and who are going to reciprocate that compassion in a genuine way, or at least not cause you any more trauma than your exes and COVID-19 already have.
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