The COVID-19 pandemic took a serious toll on our dating lives. If you were going on dates, FaceTime and the internet became pretty much the only option. If you were dating but not living together, even living a mere block away could bring the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Yet, we adapted — and, I think, even became better daters.
In March 2020, when the lockdowns first began, I had been in a serious relationship for just over a year. We stayed together throughout the pandemic and we’re now engaged. As I reflect on the development of my relationship, I believe the pandemic prepared us for marriage in three key ways.
1. We put more effort and intention into spending time together.
Before the pandemic, it was so easy to go to a movie or a restaurant for date night. Trying to make our time together special while many of our usual date spots were closed required much effort and planning. For many months during the pandemic, the most we could do for dates was go on long walks - but those walks led to fruitful discussions about ourselves and the future. We began reading 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged by H. Norman Wright, which gave a new intentionality to our conversations.
Also, the time alone to focus on our relationship was so valuable. As an extrovert, I can get distracted by my desire to build as many relationships as possible. But when my fiancé was one of the few people I saw regularly for months, I was able to slow down and truly discern where God was calling our relationship to go.
2. We learned to speak other love languages.
Early on in our relationship, my fiancé and I took the Five Love Languages quiz, created by Gary Chapman. A marriage counselor and Baptist pastor, Chapman identifies five distinct “languages” of expressing love: physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, gift giving, and quality time.
Physical touch is my and my fiancé's primary love language. So, during lockdown, we had to rely on our secondary love languages. I sent him encouraging texts every morning; he called me on FaceTime in the evenings. This time apart taught us how to love each other in multiple ways and how to communicate when our needs aren’t being met.
3. I took ownership over my own faith journey.
I’ll be honest: Staying inside for months straight didn’t fix my prayer life. So much of my spiritual life revolves around community and going to Mass.
One of the biggest lies I believed as a single person was that finding a religiously committed boyfriend would automatically make my faith stronger. My fiancé is a fiercely devout Catholic, and has inspired me to grow in my faith over the course of our relationship. But it's not our relationship with God that will be weighed and judged, it will be my own. Learning to take ownership over my spiritual life (even if it differs from my fiancé’s) has been extremely important for my vocation.
Even in the midst of a heartbreaking and challenging year, I’m thankful that I received the grace to grow closer to the man I love and strengthen our relationship.