Love in the Time of Covid-19: Maintaining your relationships and your polycule in a pandemic
I really debated whether to write and post this. First, because I wanted to try to make my posts mostly useful forever, or at least annually, and second, because I’m loath to step on the toes of readers with different risk assessments than my own. However, now that 90% of the USA (where I live, if you haven’t been a regular reader and caught that yet) population is under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, and the timeline of those looks to be lasting minimally another couple months, and maybe longer, I think it’s worth it to make a post about how to maintain a polycule and your connections with non-nesting partners, or partners you haven’t chosen to bunk down with for the duration.
These ideas are especially important to solo-poly people, or people with non-nesting partners, who didn’t get a partner to socially distance in their house; but they apply to anyone with non-nesting or not able to be in their social distancing pod partners.
Here are some ways that you can maintain individual relationship connections:
That old standby, the regular phone call. Hearing your partner’s voice, a little more often than you’re used to, can fill in some of the warm fuzzy feeling you usually get from seeing them.
Video chats on typical date nights (or a similar frequency, if your regular date time requires a distance from kids that is impossible with everyone staying at home) that approximate your real date behavior as closely as possible.
So, if your date includes sexual/physical contact, include some in your video chat (or revert to the phone if you lived through the 90s and early aughts and are more comfortable that way)! Masturbate for each other or together. If it applies, incorporate D/s or kink at a distance in whatever way you’re comfortable with; instructions about what to be wearing or what toys to use might be a good example; some people can do hypnosis at a distance and that’s “their thing.”
If your dates don’t often include sex, or distance sex makes one of you uncomfortable, but includes snuggling and chatting, snuggle with pillows or large stuffed animals while you talk. Tuck a hot water bottle or heat pack under the pillowcase; it’s not the same as a person but it can make it more similar.
If movie watching or watching “your show” is a thing you do, either start a movie at the same time and chat in another window, or use the Chrome Netflix Party extension to chat and sync your Netflix accounts. You can add it to your browser here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/netflix-party/oocalimimngaihdkbihfgmpkcpnmlaoa?hl=en
Use zoom or hangouts (I find zoom way better at handling folks talking over one another) if the movie isn’t on Netflix. You can find zoom at zoom.us .
If you work on crafts together or co-work, still do that - enjoy your chatter interrupted by companionable silence! Keep each other in touch with what you’re up to.
Set goals and use each other as your accountability buddy! I tell my boyfriend every blog post I write and schedule, and he checks in if I haven’t mentioned it in a while and it’s possible I’m getting behind. We’re both trying to get outside every day while we aren’t sick, and that’s an easy thing to check in with each other on.
Don’t take this to mean “revamp your whole life during this time”- it’s a stressful time for all of us and big or unreasonable goals will only make it worse; but if you had a project or goal already running that you can share with your partner(s) who aren’t with you, now is a good time to do it. My partner and I both write, so he’s been asking me for feedback on drafts in a way he hadn’t previously done, and I’ve been spinning post ideas off him, and that feels pretty intimate for us - your goal sharing or activity sharing will include different things that feel intimate for you.
Read books together and share your thoughts as you go! You can also read different books and chat about what you like about them, if you have very different taste from each other, but it’s just a bonding activity, and since we have months coming up of separation, it looks like, you can account for free time differences or speed of reading differences more easily than in a book club scenario. (If you’re not book people but can’t get a live in partner or roommate on board with you taking over the TV to watch ‘your show’ with your other partner at date time, you can also watch the next episode this week and talk about it during date time!) Maybe read Love in the Time of Cholera, it’s brilliant and weirdly timely, and I’ve parodied it for this post title.
If you’re local and have the self-control to maintain distance, meet up for socially distanced chats or walks. Shouting a bit from 6 ft apart while going on a hike, or staying in your cars 6 ft apart with the windows down sounds like something I personally don’t have the self-control for, but I don’t even have that control for walks with friends, I think, so your mileage most definitely may vary.
Look up advice and references for long distance relationships and apply those principles here. There are a lot of great advice columns about this, and aside from the points about how or how often to schedule seeing your partner, all the advice applies here. We’re all in long distance relationships now, even if we weren’t.
Some thoughts on ways to make a wider polycule bond stronger during this time:
Those movie and tv show sharing options we talked about above? Get your metas and telemours in on it.
If you have an extended network who are friendly and missing monthly potlucks or similar, have Zoom and Polycule Dinner dates, where everybody meets up in a meeting for as long as they can on a given night. Do this with cocktails or mocktails if a lot of you are drinkers or the timing works better.
They can come along (and maybe make up for the self control you and a particular partner who they nest with lack) on a socially distanced walk or hike.
If you’re close with your metas and used to do coffee or drinks meetings with them, keep up that habit, either with a phone chat or a video chat, at about the same frequency.
I hope that some of these ideas help or work for you, and that we all make it out of this difficult time healthy in ourselves and our relationships.