Written By Sonja Chua, Singapore
My relationship with my boyfriend began while I was abroad last year. We had been friends for about four years, but started growing closer and getting to know each other better via text for about a month. When I was back in Singapore for a short break last August, we decided to explore dating and began a long-distance relationship (LDR) for another three months before I finished my overseas attachment and moved back to Singapore.
Those three months were not easy given that we were still in the “grey-zone” stage of our relationship, and compounded by the distance and time difference, it sounded like a recipe for disaster. But we held on by constantly communicating with one another and instantly clearing up any miscommunications we might have had. By God’s providence, we made it through that difficult phase and finally became a couple on February 29 this year.
So when COVID-19 broke out, and our government announced circuit breaker (CB) measures restricting our movements back in April, I jokingly texted my boyfriend that we would be back to having another LDR—this time, a locked-down relationship.
With our previous experience in an LDR, we thought online dating would be easy for the both of us. But our first online date didn’t quite go as we hoped—we just winged it via Zoom. We watched some videos, then ended up playing random online games before having a mutual friend join our conversation.
It wasn’t horrible . . . but virtual dating takes a fair bit of adjustment when you are used to seeing the other person face-to-face regularly. I’m sure there are many other couples out there who are facing some of the same challenges we did. If so, here are some key lessons we’re learning as we navigate dating during lockdown:
1. Keep Communicating
After our first Zoom date, we concluded that it is key that we communicate effectively and regularly during this period. Even though communication is the bedrock to maintain any relationship, it is not always easy to do.
One thing that I have learned about my boyfriend is that he is not a texter but prefers to talk face-to-face. I, on the other hand, am fine with just texting. However, since we’re unable to meet each other during this Circuit Breaker period, we have had to figure out how best to work around our personal preferences and communicate effectively with each other.
This is where it is important to know how the other person would interpret and perceive your text. And if any miscommunication arises and escalates into conflict, we resolve the conflict via a phone or video call instead of text, so that we can clarify the intended meaning and tone of the message better—which can’t be hidden behind a screen. We’ve also learned to avoid discussing sensitive topics, such as personal struggles via text. Those must definitely be done at least through a call.
2. Set Aside Specific Times to “Meet” Each Other
Besides the means of communication, the frequency (how often we communicate with each other), intensity (how engaged both parties are), and duration (how long the communication takes) of the conversation are important as well. My boyfriend and I used to meet once a week for dinner on weekends for a few hours but face-to-face meetings are now out of the question during this period.
When I asked him how we should do our dates, his reply was, “Call me anytime.” While I struggle with that concept as a planner and scheduler, his rationale was that it wouldn’t be hard to do so since we have more flexible schedules while working from home and have no other major commitments.
In the end, we found a compromise and set aside a specific time to “meet” so that we would both be in the right frame of mind, and have the mental and emotional capacity to engage with one another. While we still text daily to ensure constant communication, we found that sweet spot of Saturday afternoons to have our dates, where we do activities like watching videos or movies together, playing games, and praying with one another.
3. Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Anger
Unsurprisingly, we have had a number of conflicts over the course of the Circuit Breaker. One of our major conflicts was over a ministry we are both involved in. This was one of the most emotionally and spiritually taxing arguments as the topic was so important to the both of us.
In one of our arguments, I was personally so upset with my boyfriend that I wanted to call it quits. However, after talking through it with him, I realize that the root of the conflict was the difference in our working style, and some miscommunication and misinterpretation of our text messages. I had to submit the conflict to God and realized that instead of allowing the conflict to divide us, we should work together for the good of the ministry (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We also resolved to have a separate group chat for ministry matters and reserve the personal chat for other topics.
Through this episode, my constant reminder comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV): “Love is patient and kind, … [it] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” It is always easy to want things done our way without consideration for the other person and to be quick to anger when differences arise. But this verse reminds me to not be so insistent on my way of thinking or doing things, but to be open to listen to the other person’s point-of-view. There is a higher purpose for our relationship when we serve in ministry together as a couple—to glorify God. I am learning to be slow to anger and to work out conflicts better with my boyfriend.
Even though no couple would voluntarily choose to be in an LDR, the challenges we’ve faced this lockdown has brought us back to the core of the relationship—Christ. I have been reminded that regardless of what form our relationship takes, or the adjustments we have to make in the way we relate to each other, as long as we keep Christ at the center of it all, loving each other because we have been first loved by God (1 John 4:19), our relationship will survive and overcome any circumstance.