What do the latest lockdown rules mean for couples living separately?

As lockdown rules ease across the UK and pubs, cinemas, hairdressers and hotels reopen, Stylist investigates what has changed for couples who are living separately.

UPDATED 5 JULY 2020: Yesterday new measures came into place across England to ease the lockdown restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Alongside pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and hairdressers reopening, the new rules allow two households to meet in any setting (including inside a home) with social distancing measures in place. Two households can now also go on holiday together in shared accommodation or neighbouring tents, as long as they maintain social distancing.

Although this isn’t the news separated couples may have hoped for – such as two households being able to merge without social distancing in place – it’s still a step in the right direction for those who have been living separately from their partners throughout lockdown.

AS REPORTED 11 JUNE: The 9 June marked the three month anniversary since I last saw my boyfriend. We’ve been isolating at our respective family homes in different areas of the country since the middle of March just before lockdown was imposed – the last time I saw him, we had no idea how long it would be until we’d see each other again.

The hardest part about all of this has been the not knowing. My boyfriend and I have been long distance at one other point in our relationship, so it’s not like we don’t know how to cope with not being able to see each other for an extended period of time (our Zoom date nights remain the highlight of my week). But because he lives in a houseshare with four other people, I’m not sure when I’ll see him again.

We’re not the only couple struggling with the uncertainty surrounding when we might be able to see each other again. Alice Greedus, 24, hasn’t seen her boyfriend for two and a half months. They were finally able to see each other over the weekend for a socially-distanced bike ride, but, as Greedus explains, it’s just not the same.

“It’s very strange not being able to kiss or hug your boyfriend,” she says. “I admitted to him that it doesn’t quite feel like I actually saw him when I had to stay two meters away at all time.

“I think the worst part is not knowing when we will see each other again. At the beginning I was dealing very well with it, when I thought he might be able to visit again by June. As this looks less likely, I’m growing increasingly anxious and it’s certainly having a negative impact on my mental wellbeing.

“It’s really difficult being separated, we’re used to only seeing each other at weekends, as he lives in Bournemouth and I live in Fleet in Hampshire but this has been a new test. We wanted to lockdown together but we both live with our parents so it wasn’t really an option.”

It’s undeniable that being separated from your partner during such a hard time is incredibly difficult – even for those people who are experts at long distance dating. If there’s one thing many of us who have found ourselves separated from our partners in lockdown want to know, it’s when we might finally be able to spend some quality time with them again. So what does the situation look like right now?

The “support bubble” system previously announced by Boris Johnson means that some couples have been able to move in together, but only in very specific circumstances.

The measures allow single adults in England to spend the night at another house in a “support bubble”. The imperative word here is “single” – to be eligible for this change in the rules, one half of the couple must live alone. And if the other half of the couple live with a flatmate, for example, then that flatmate cannot form their own bubble with another person (the rules do not apply to people who have been shielding).

This means that many people living separately from their partners in houseshares across the country are unable to see their loved one under the support bubble rules – but under the new rules introduced on 4 July they’ll at least be able to spend time inside or on holiday with their partner, as long as they social distance.

Unfortunately we don’t have any update on when we might be able to give someone from another household a hug. 

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the restrictions look a little different. In Scotland, you can meet with one other household, as long as the group is no larger than eight people. You can also form an ‘extended household’ under the same restrictions of the support bubble system in England. In Wales,two households are allowed to meet outside, as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines. People in Northern Ireland can meet in groups of up to six people indoors from Tuesday, as long as they practice social distancing.

It seems couples who have found themselves separated may have to wait some time until they’re able to freely see each other again. For now, we’ll have to make the most of spending our evenings on virtual dates and FaceTiming over breakfast, in the knowledge that, one day, we’ll be able to see our loved ones again. 

Coping with feelings of isolation

If you’re struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness in lockdown, you’re not alone. We’re facing a situation unlike any of us have ever experienced before, so it’s completely normal to find things difficult. However, if you’re looking for a way to alleviate some of these feelings, here are three articles that might help:

  • Free online therapy and wellbeing resources you can access for free during the coronavirus outbreak
  • It’s OK to admit that you’re lonely. In fact, it might help
  • 8 of the most comforting podcasts to listen to if you’re lonely

For more information and resources on coping with feelings of isolation and low mood in lockdown, you can check out NHS Every Mind Matters or visit Mind’s website.

Images: Getty

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