Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Corona...
April 17, 2020 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I know everyone's tired of coronavirus questions, but... help a brother out. Gay guy who had a weird couple of years meets another gay guy who had a weird couple of years. Separated by distance, but with a glimmer of a possibility of ending up in the same city in the near future, these guys end up striking up a conversation. It blooms. Just as the flower opens up and announces itself to the world, an asshole virus puts the kibosh on it all. Recognizing that this is far from the worst thing happening in the world right now, I'm looking for insights into how people handle non-negotiable separation at that point of interest in something bigger. Bathe me in your wisdom, mefites.

After a rocky couple of years--divorce, health, etc.--I met a guy late last year whose company helped shake me out of the fog. We don't live in the same city. Not even close. I was on a work trip to a city where I was considering relocating to when we met by absolute chance, and, whaddya know, we hit it off. Like... we really, really hit it off (there are hints of this in my previous Ask). We've visited each other a couple times since then, and we talk pretty much constantly via video chat. We're both being extremely cautious because of our recent pasts, but... damn, something is there. It's been thrilling and engaging, these last 6 months, despite the geographic barriers. I had a work trip in his city scheduled for a few weeks ago. We were making all sorts of loose plans, understanding fully that we would be missing a lot of those planned things to just spend time with each other.

And then, COVID-19's little bitch face showed up. Sigh. By mid-February it was apparent we weren't going to be able to see each other on that trip. Slight dread. Within the week, it was starting to sink in that we weren't going to see each other for a long time. Now... I don't even know, the timelines are real and sobering. We're probably not going to see each other for, what, a year? Two? That's of course barring possible surprises in the trajectory of this pandemic, both on the positive and negative ends of that spectrum.

Teach me, wise ones. What does your personal history and wisdom have to offer us? Are there historical stories we can turn to about star-crossed lovers that *don't* end morbidly? Who has done this well in the past? Are there voices out there now speaking with care and consideration about how we will handle this particular thread of life on lockdown in the present and future? In your literary field, hobby reading, life experience, have people managed this situation with grace and aplomb? What does one do? What do I do?

I know that adversity makes us stronger, but that's easier to see in the rear view mirror rather than staring at the long, lonely road ahead. I'm very much interested in salves and optimism rather than doomsaying and harshness. Trust me, the latter is my field and I have plenty of professional insight into that angle. Hit me with your best shot. Please. Because, seriously: goddamnit.

Here's hoping you're all well.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel to Human Relations (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
All I know is I'm in a very similar boat, and my girlfriend and I have just tried to talk about how we feel about it when we need to. That seems to help. Time will tell. I'll be watching this thread with interest.
posted by k8lin at 5:14 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Feeling the same, except I never got that close with the fellow in question and now I guess we never will because he doesn't seem to be in the mood to communicate beyond proof-of-life texts. I will be watching this thread too.

I continue to be baffled at all the "you can still date!" advice everywhere. I read all of it like I'm watching a trainwreck. I really haven't heard too many people address the weirdness of doing this. So far I've just got one: I was listening to the "Love Letters" podcast today and the advice columnist even asked the potential dater about what was going to happen in the future. Around the 39 minute mark or so:
Meredith: "There is this sort of bummer part of this, where like, how long can this go and how much can it escalate when there's no, like, I'm going to see you in person plan? Like third base is, I'm going to stand twenty feet away from you and wave? I can't figure it out, how people who are making connections right now can let those connections grow."

"I ... am not thinking that far ahead, because i can't. I completely agree with you. I'm doing my best to live in the moment and get to know him,"
the girl said.
I actually keep thinking the same thing, especially since bloody everyone is now trying to find distance dates online and I'm like, how the hell are you going to figure out if you have physical chemistry? How are you going to date online with zero physical anything for years? Though uh, a friend of mine's been doing that with a guy in the UAE for over a year now so I guess it's doable.

On the other hand: LDR's have been happening for years on end and these days we have better technology. Plenty of folks did eventually get together with their LDR's, which were for whatever other circumstances.

What's probably the crucial thing is that both of you keep maintaining the interest for that long, and keep working on developing it. If one of you stops the communication, you're probably dead in the water.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:02 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

My aunt got married last December, at 64, after 20+ years of being single. She had dated plenty but hadn't ever found the right guy.

Until she struck up a conversation with a man in an airport. They hit it off. He lived 1000 miles away. They dated long distance for a year and a half. Many, many hours on the phone. Many.

They are *deliriously* happy together.

Life is so weird right now, but if it's right, it'll be right. Call him, talk with him, woo him, get to know him. Hang in there.
posted by Sublimity at 6:06 PM on April 17, 2020 [31 favorites]

Yeah, hang in there, OP! If you have chemistry, it expresses itself in other ways even if you can't physically be in the same space. I've noticed this a lot with the increase in video calls - if you're relaxed and comfortable, if you have good energy, that totally expresses itself without the need for physical proximity. We have so much tech at our fingertips to make distances feel smaller than they are. I'm rooting for you. This too shall pass.
posted by unicorn chaser at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

A lot of us are sheltering with a loved one. We do everything we can to keep each other safe, but if one of us gets it despite our best efforts, we're in it together.

If your relationship develops to the point where you want to live together, and in particular deal with this together, then one of you should just move into the other's established home. I assume you are both in the "reality-based world" together and can come up with a realistic plan for doing this safely, based on the information we have about how this is spread. It will be hard work to do it safely, involving weeks of isolation, and a safe plan for travel (pretty much, driving a car alone is the only method I can think of).

Folks from different countries have long distance relationships and move and get married all the time, and it's hard and takes a lot of work, but it's very possible. Your situation is no harder. But you very much better be sure it's what you both want.
posted by fritley at 7:36 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've been in a similar situation in some respects, and I feel confident in the capacity of people to try things out and find a path. Commitment can look different then it usually does, by mutual agreement; you could go exclusive together, for example, just because you choose to; and the opportunity cost of not dating other people is likely to be a bit less than if you could both be out dating others IRL. In terms of next steps, you can consider creative solutions—move in together; you move to that city but not together; you take precautions and then form a quarantine "household"...

There are ways forward that take you beyond digital, if it's what you both want.
posted by rockyraccoon at 8:13 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is the possibility of relocating to his city out of the question? It sounds like you were thinking of moving there when you met him. I say continue to pursue the possibility of moving there. Even if you each live in your own apartment, if you interact only with each other, I don't see how it matters all that much if it's one apartment or two? Or else, if one of you is working from home right now, why not throw caution to the wind and just decide to live together for a while?

I know this isn't the version of the story you want to hear, but I had a similar situation a few years ago. A guy was visiting my city, visiting a family member who had moved here, and was thinking of relocating. We met and had a great time. Visited each other about once a month for a few months. We were in touch all the time. We got along extraordinarily well in so many ways. There was some strain that I thought was mostly because of the distance. He moved to town about nine months after we met, which now sounds astoundingly fast, but at the time it seemed like forever. He broke up with me within about a month. Which was for the best. Because it turns out that long distance isn't really quite the same at all.

I'm sharing this not to rain on your parade, I promise. I'm sharing this because I think spending more time together in person, if that's a logistical possibility, is a fine idea. If it works, you'll know! And if it doesn't, you'll know!

I'm so glad you've met this lovely person, and I wish you the best.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:52 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

This relationship sounds international, and international travel is very difficult right now. And if one or both of them after vulnerable, throwing caution to the wind and moving in together may not be feasible.

I thought this article on queer dating in separate quarantines, with the perspectives of two therapists, was useful although not exactly what you are looking for.
posted by k8lin at 12:45 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I feel qualified to answer this because I'm in an LDR with someone I met online in late 2018. So we've been together longer than you, but even if we had been together for only 6 months by the time the pandemic happened, I feel like we could have still kept what we had at the 6 month mark going. Maybe? Who really knows.

Quick background on me (queer cis woman) and him (cishet guy), both early 40s: Had really great chemistry off the bat, before we met in IRL. He's in the PNW, I'm in Toronto. Have met 5 times IRL; it's been great every time. We text every day and have twice weekly scheduled video chats; we've been doing more during the pandemic. I last visited in Feb which was great timing, right before COVID really hit.

When we first met, it was so easy with him and that has stayed throughout. He is so lovely and sweet. I realized that I loved him about two months after we met. I didn't tell him until the second time we met; it took him longer. We've never had a define the relationship talk, other than to say let's keep doing what we're doing: texting and video chats :D We're fine with each other hooking up with others (though not right now of course) - mainly because we don't want to limit each other, not so much because it's LD. So no one's worried about cheating. We established pretty early on that we're not moving to either person's city for reasons. Neither of us are into relationship escalator things like cohabitation, marriage and kids (I have one, he has none, we both don't want a(nother) kid). I've questioned myself quite a bit, is this what I want, to have an LDR forever? Will this inevitably end at some point due to the distance? Should I try to find someone local? But am I saying that local relationships are superior to LDRs? Would this work out if we were local (even though that's not a possibility)? All I know is that I love him, I like what we have and this works for me. Who knows if that will change in the future.

Now with the pandemic, we acknowledge we won't see each other IRL for several months. I'm hoping that things will be ok enough that September is a possibility. In the meantime, he's not working or going to the gym because of the pandemic. He's more able to video chat (I work from home 9-5), so we've been doing more things like online workouts (he sends me the link, we press play together on our computers and we video chat on our phones), watching Netflix using Netflix Party. We cooked something together the other night, and we also do sexy stuff over video with our toys :D

LDRs have a reputation for being super difficult and people say the long-distance MUST end otherwise it's not worth it. I disagree. We work well together as people, we want to talk to each other (and visit each other) and we established early on that sex with others is ok and that we're not moving so I feel like we've avoided the typical challenges of LDRs. I'm actually ok with the pandemic taking away the possibility of travel because a lot of logistics are involved - having my kid stay with her dad, booking time of work, flight costs, and while I love airports and flying, it's still pretty gruelling. Of course I'd rather meet up than not, but I'm a little glad I don't have to deal with those travel logistics.

So hopefully you can gain something from my story. As I read your post, I'm not really sure what your concern is? That because you can't see each other IRL that your thing with him will just end? Depending on your chemistry and each person's needs and preferences, it's totally possible to keep building something (will probably happen at a slower pace, but generally speaking LDRs have different pacing than local ones) and keep getting to know each other. Keep talking and having those discussions, and there are lots of things you can do together online. Of course it's not the same, but the fact that the both of you are willing to do this speaks volumes for how invested you are in each other. My dude always shows up for video chats so I'm never worried about his interest or if he cares (also a typical challenge in LDRs, but all relationships generally). That you're video chatting everyday is great!

Ideas for online activities: playing games together, watch videos/shows/movies, "travel" to a city together on Google maps, explore a museum online together, do the NYT "36 questions to fall in love", cook together, read books together, meet each other's friends on the House Party app then play a game together, do sexual stuff as well... Even do offline things, like write snail mail, send each other gifts - like buy something from a local shop in his city so they can deliver and you're supporting small business in these tough times. There's so many things. I think LDRs have to be a little more intentional than local ones and you both have to be more upfront earlier on about what you want. If those conversations aren't happening, then maybe you aren't right for each other, or the situation isn't. At the very least, I think what you want is to keep what you have with him going. Right?

Are there historical stories we can turn to about star-crossed lovers that *don't* end morbidly?

Not sure if you meant this more tongue-in-cheek, but if you didn't, it's a little overdramatic? Your thing doesn't have to end morbidly at all. Yes, LDRs are challenging, but talk through it and acknowledge the situation. That goes for all relationships.

Other idea: Would it be possible to have work relocate you to his city for an extended period of time (e.g. a month)? I know there are travel restrictions, but if that's possible, what if you and him self-isolated separately for 14 days, had no contact with other people, and then you could get together in person? There'd be tons of logistics to sort out (what if you got sick on the way and had to go to hospital once there, as a worst case scenario), but it's an idea.

I'll close with this: LGBTQ people have always thrown out the script when it comes to relationships so be sure to tap into that here! I've always challenged my and society's assumptions about what a relationship should look like, and that's helped me here for sure. I think being honest with yourself and each other about having something that works for you is all that you really need to manage right now. That goes for non-pandemic times too. Would love an update if you feel like posting one. :) It sounds like you have a great thing going and I hope you can continue it!
posted by foxjacket at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

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