Shakespeare’s assertion that “the course of true love never did run smooth” has never felt quite so true as it has during the pandemic for couples who don’t live together.
This has become especially complicated with the introduction of different restriction levels across regional boundaries.
From the beginning of lockdown, clarity on how to live and love responsibly in a pandemic has been complicated to establish.
Couples were left emotionally reeling from the advice of deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries at the start of the pandemic in March, when she urged non-cohabiting couples either to move in together or stay apart. Subsequent laws explictly banning overnight stays led to the UK government being ridiculed, with #SexBan trending on social media.
When the rules and government guidance changed, stating you didn’t need to socially distance from “someone you’re in an established relationship with”, the health secretary was unable to define what exactly that meant. Couples consulted the YouGov Poll to figure out what constitutes a serious relationship for Brits (apparently a toothbrush in your lover’s cup is a more valid qualifier than meeting the parents), and jumped back into each other’s arms.
However, the introduction of the new three tier system of local lockdown restriction, combined with the government’s abject failure to provide clear messaging on the implications of these rules, leaves lovers again at a complete loss.
Is the #SexBan back for people loving under different levels of Covid restrictions? Are people allowed to travel across the boundaries of different tiers of restrictions to be with their partner?
For example, if you live in Tier 1, does that mean that physical love is off the agenda with anyone in a higher Tier where households cannot meet indoors — and if so, for how long?
And if you are in Tier 2 and the love of your life lives in Tier 3, does that mean you’re back to Zoom dates and celibacy, unable to even meet in a private garden?
Even established couples are now being forced to navigate an intangible formula to establish if the state grants permission for them to be together: COVID*(Tier ? + Tier ?)= LOVE.
The government has thrown couples who don’t live together back into the quagmire of trying to read between the lines of regulations to interpret if their relationship is back on Covid embargo. Couples who get it wrong risk fines if they attempt to cross the Covid barricades in pursuit of their love.
And what about those seeking a new relationship? Perhaps we will see a surge of dating profiles stating: “single woman would like to meet like-minded person in Tier 3 for Zoom chats and someday outdoor dates”.
One never imagined that Boris Johnson would be the Prime Minister to urge Brits to commit to celibacy or cohabitation. We should not be surprised if bewildered couples look at the mess of misleading regulation, and choose to follow their hearts rather than the guidance.
Main image credit: Getty