In Love During Lockdown

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...right?

Written by Christina Van Waasbergen // Designed by Andrew Kwa

Like almost every facet of life, romance has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how the relationships of two Northwestern students have been impacted by quarantine.

Taking Things to the Next Level

When Medill second-year Gia Yetikyel first arrived at her partner’s apartment, she noticed how small it was and was afraid of imposing.

Her sorority house unexpectedly closed right before spring break, leaving her with no place to go. She couldn’t stay on campus, and it wasn’t safe to go back to her family in New York, the epicenter of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

“I felt a little homeless,” Yetikyel says. “I felt like a nomad for a bit.”

Yetikyel’s partner, Weinberg third-year David Isaacs, offered to let her live with him at his apartment. At this point, Yetikyel says they were mostly just friends with benefits. Isaacs even says he felt the relationship had gotten “a little rocky.” Nevertheless, he invited Yetikyel to stay with him.

“I felt like, regardless, this is a person I care about,” Isaacs says. “I want to take care of this person.”

Originally, Yetikyel only planned to stay for spring break, after which the sorority house was supposed to reopen. When that didn’t happen, it quickly became clear that their living arrangement was going to be long-term. While stuck in an apartment together, the two began to realize their relationship was deeper than they previously thought, and they decided to make it official.

Isaacs wanted to make Yetikyel feel comfortable during a difficult time. For her birthday, he messaged her mother to help recreate her usual traditions. Isaacs surprised Yetikyel with balloons, just like her mother always did, and he prepared her favorite meals: french toast, like she would get with her friends in New York, and a Lebanese rice with chicken dish that her grandma often made. He also bought a red velvet cake — just like the one she had last year when her mother visited for her birthday.

While this is the first time Yetikyel has ever lived with a romantic partner, she says there have been few difficulties, thanks to the couple’s emphasis on carving out alone time and discussing issues as soon as they come up. Yetikyel says this is the healthiest relationship she has ever been in and that her relationship serves as a reminder of all she has to be grateful for in this difficult time.

“I have a sense of home in him,” she says. “...As scary and hard everything is at the moment, I see him, and I’m content. I’m happy.”

Apart, but still together

Since the quarantine began, Communication fourth-year Kendra Gujral sees her boyfriend about once every week when they go on a physical date. On nice days, they’ll take a walk or ride bikes together. They have to be careful to minimize touching, which is difficult for Gujral.

“I want to be all mushy and I want to cuddle, but I’m trying to be safe and good about it all and not put people in danger,” she says.

When they don’t see each other in person, the couple copes by following a routine: He’ll text or call her in the morning, and they’ll text throughout the day.

At night, they’ll chat over Discord and play video games or watch anime together. Gujral says they both enjoy gaming and have been playing games like "Overwatch" and "StarCraft II".

This consistency is comforting for Gujral.

“No matter what’s happening,” she says, “I know that I’m going to get a good morning text, and I know I’m going to play games with him at night.”

When Gujral felt chest pains — which she feared could indicate COVID-19 — her boyfriend drove her to the hospital. It ended up just being some lung inflammation, but the whole affair frightened her. However, she felt very grateful her boyfriend was willing to go through challenging times with her:

“He was like ‘I’m not here for just the good days, I’m here for the bad days too, and I want to help you, and we’re a team.’”

*Yetikyel is a current contributor to North by Northwestern.