Cover Photo By Danni Lim
Cover Photo By Danni Lim.

Love in isolation

In times like this, distance does make the heart grow fonder.

By Ralph Regis | Monday, 30 January 2023

The shift to an online setting has drastically changed the way humans interact and form relationships. But as the search for love, intimacy, and connection in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic develops within the four corners of a screen, consequences to online relationships loom right around the corner.


A pandemic inquiry into online relationships

In an interview with The Benildean, Ms. Alicia Serrano, a Clinical Psychology graduate from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and a Relationship Hero coach, shared that couples see relationships as more important than ever. It’s undeniable that we as humans long for connection, “given how community and belongingness are major struggles in the pandemic context.”


Lonely and isolated people tend to romanticize being in a relationship, and they often see relationships as a “solution” to escape from this loneliness. “In the past two years, I have seen many relationships end in breakups because the parties involved have other concerns to tend to, and with limited emotional and physical resources, the relationship ends up being collateral damage to people’s understandable shifts to prioritizing their own wellbeing first,” Ms. Serrano shared. 


With limited emotional and physical resources, the relationship itself becomes collateral damage to prioritizing one’s own wellbeing, not to mention the alarming global health concerns in the thick of it all. Online platforms, on the other hand, provide convenience, accessibility, and avenues for bolstering positive and attractive qualities. “Many people can feel anxious that they present better looks online, be it by filters or knowing one’s angles, and that they may disappoint others in person,” Ms. Serrano stated, citing online dating as a coping mechanism, which can also be harmful at the same time. 


However, technology hasn’t gone far as to replicating physical human touch, and there is only so much it can do. “As human beings, we are built to respond positively to physical touch, and it is a fundamental part of human communication and bonding,” she added, citing the biggest gap that online relationships would have to overcome is the lack of physical touch. “This is to say that purely online relationships exist, though not all are meant to stay that way.”


Game, set, match

In an interview with The Benildean, “Jenny,” a Development Studies undergraduate from the University of the Philippines-Manila, met her current partner on online dating app Bumble in January 2021. Being active on Bumble, she stated that one can meet a lot of people with various motives, “Meron ‘yung mga hindi pa nakakamove-on sa ex, meron ‘yung mga naghahanap ng ka-threesome or ka-sex. Meron ‘yung for casual dating lang, meron ‘yung wala ‘yung dating in mind, like usap-usap lang talaga.”


When asked about the usual problems that Jenny and her partner experience as a couple who primarily interact with each other online, she pointed to frequent misunderstandings. “Like may mga masasabi ‘yung isa tapos the other person will take it differently. [...] Hindi nagkakaintindihan.” Jenny and her partner solve this by first talking about the issue by asking each other how they both feel. Eventually, they would try to work towards a resolution to ensure that it does not happen again.


While couples who interact with each other in person attribute this physicality as an important factor in building a stable relationship, this doesn’t mean virtual interactions are a bad thing–it really all boils down to communication. After all, understanding and compassion is a two-way street. Negative emotions and sad feelings still linger even after a misunderstanding. “So it’s hard to be back to normal again after a misunderstanding. We try to solve this by making a conscious effort to be okay,” she added.


“Fights happen only because both of you miss each other,” Jenny shared, further elaborating that offline relationships have the advantage of easily resolving misunderstandings. “I think it’s a lot easier for offline relationships kasi misunderstandings could easily be resolved by physical touch.” It really goes a long way in meeting the needs of your partner. However, despite this being an integral part in a relationship, couples do still find a way to compromise and meet each other’s needs. 


It takes two to tango

For better or for worse, communication is key. Whether it’d be an online or offline relationship, open and honest communication with your partner should come as second nature. We may find ourselves struggling to say what we truly mean and think about how the other person would feel, but there’s no harm in trying. At the end of the day, false assumptions, expectations, and misunderstandings only stem from being unwilling to communicate your needs in a relationship.


“What kind of support do you tend to give? Is this the kind of support your partner is looking for? What kind of support have you responded well to in the past? These kinds of questions are important because the support we may give might not be in the correct currency for our partners to receive and appreciate,” Ms. Serrano emphasized. 


“Without acceptance and willingness, solutions do not even begin to form, much less be given a shot at.”


This article is also published in The Benildean Volume 8 Issue No. 2: Reacted.


Last updated: Monday, 30 January 2023