How to get over an ex during the coronavirus pandemic

Photo by Keenan Constance, Unsplash

Humour as a coping mechanism

I first drafted this piece as a self-deprecating satire, making light of my recent breakup. I then realised how unfair I was being on myself around the realities of breakups (in all honesty the global pandemic has made getting over my ex a billion times harder). Originally, my three piss-take tips on how to get over an ex during a global pandemic were:

  1. Download dating apps. Actually, delete them — you’re not allowed to meet new people because of physical distancing. Actually, download them again because now you’re in self isolation with limited other ways to meet people. Actually, forget all of that. Text your ex instead.
  2. With so many new boundaries introduced into our lives against our own will, throw out your old ones — free yourself up!

Confusing times make confusing breakups even more confusing

There’s been a lot of talk about how the global pandemic has forced us to pause; with everything stripped away we’re apparently set up to gain better clarity on life. Not necessarily. Everyone’s experience moving through this pandemic is different. The approach that helps one person may belittle the experience of another.

Three months post-breakup: an update

In the beginning it was pretty easy committing to not texting my ex. Being on the other side of the country from her solved the issue of potentially running into each other. I’d flown from Melbourne to Perth for a two-week holiday and in February made the decision to stay indefinitely, living until further notice with the few possessions I’d packed for a quick trip.

Some things you may experience when processing a breakup during a global pandemic:

  • The sense that you’re on a tight deadline in making big life decisions. With everything closing — shops, gyms, borders, countries, there’s this underlying pressure to make decisions quick before life-as-you-know-it changes exponentially overnight.
  • A strange sense of comradery. Virtually everyone on the planet is in the same position. To varying degrees, we’re all facing the potential of losing our incomes and security; having our health or our family’s compromised; experiencing the death of someone close to us; having their mental health worsen. I’ve been couch surfing since January, so with everyone on the planet suddenly feeling like everything in life is pretty precarious for them too, I felt some strange sense of comradeship, as if we’re all on the same team going through the same hardship of ongoing uncertainty.
  • Heightened loneliness. This one is obvious. With self isolation and physical distancing this is clearly not an unusual side effect.
  • More YOLO moments. With so many deaths reported daily, we’re reminded of our own mortality. We only live once. This may bring us to make recklessly brash decisions as we forget the fact that there WILL be a life post-Covid19. OR it may lead us to be refreshingly honest with ourselves and others when we realise “what’s the harm in telling someone how I really feel?”

Messy breakups: how a global pandemic makes them messier

In January, I had a plan on how to move on. I would go out more, meet new people, go on dates… Then physical distancing was introduced; then self isolation. What wonderful timing to be mourning the end of a long-term relationship.

In order to respect someone you love while also respecting yourself, you may have to let them go

A week or two into re-communicating I started to realise that for a few light-hearted conversations in my day, the emotional costs were too high. After each phone call I found myself at square one in the grieving process. I was back to missing her, wishing things could be different, reflecting on our relationship with rose-coloured glasses, beating myself up for not having done more, twisting memories and blaming myself…

Sometimes, we only learn about our own boundaries after they’ve been crossed

It was through this relationship that I learnt about the boundaries I had needed to set many years ago when I first started dating.

Me, today

So, how am I going today? Different to yesterday; different from tomorrow. It’s honestly been so up and down I’m exhausted by the unpredictability. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months (none of us do about anything). I’m still confused. I still miss her. I still long for groundedness in a time of uncertainty and daydream of her being that solid rock for me. But that’s breakups. They’re not linear and clearcut. Different feelings arise as the process unfolds, but we don’t have to act on all of them. We don’t have to be with someone to love them. We don’t have to abandon our own values and boundaries to respect them. We don’t have to play an active role in someone’s life to show them compassion — we can do that from afar.

Registered Counsellor & Narrative Therapist specialising in relationships, LGBTQI+ topics, chronic illness, self-connection & finding purpose.