The Coronavirus and Relationships: Be My Quarantine?
By: Vanessa P. Anagnostou, Esq.

March of 2020 has been a memorable month thus far. With the rapid spreading of the COVID- 19, aka the coronavirus, our daily lives have been turned upside down. As more positive coronavirus cases are discovered, more and more negative effects of the virus are materializing. The effects of this pandemic are spreading over various aspects of our lives from the stock market to the supermarket shelves, and considering the emergence of social distancing 1 1 and quarantining, relationships of all stages are not being spared.

Friendships. For most of us, we feel closest to our friends when we are regularly socializing with them in person, face-to-face. This socialization usually occurs in bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters or even in the home. However, with the government mandating closing of bars, restaurants, etc., the simple task of meeting your friend for dinner or a movie is no longer possible. The policy of social distancing is causing the cancellation of all plans indefinitely.

How are people coping with the inability to socialize with friends? It is no surprise that in this technological age, the venue of friendship socialization shifted to an online venue. Friends, couples, family members and even coworkers are virtually hanging out online. For example, this couple shared their quarantine plans with us:

My wife and I love to meet our couple friends for happy hour. Now that we cannot leave our house, we decided to host a Zoom happy hour where each couple set up their computer and a bottle of wine. Of course it was not the same as meeting at a bar, but it was a fun time. We all had a good laugh and were able to take our minds off this crazy pandemic.

Dating. While there are those couples that bump into each other and fall in love, most people these days meet online. Apps such as Bumble, Hinge, The League, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, etc., make dating easy and accessible to everyone. These platforms allow singles to get to know one another and have some light conversation before meeting in person. Anyone who has dated online knows that the time line from introducing yourself to a potential partner to the first date cannot be dragged out too long. Since the pandemic requires social distancing and self-isolation, it is actually impossible to go out together in public. As such, the world of dating has come to an abrupt stop for many. The idea of making small talk to someone you have never met is not very attractive. Even if you met someone new, this pandemic is putting the pause on budding relationships, for example:

I went on a first date with this guy. He seemed great. We decided that we would go on a second date, but then the corona news broke, and bars and restaurants closed. He still wanted to plan a second date and even suggested that we meet at a park and walk around with coffees. That is not my ideal second date, so I declined and told him that we would have to put our relationship on hold until this whole crisis ends.

Social Distancing: Measures taken to restrict where and when people can gather to stop or slow the spread of an infectious disease

Engaged. A couple’s engagement is supposed to be one of the happiest times in their lives. Although planning a wedding is stressful and expensive, the resulting celebration of the couple’s love is worth the work. The unfortunate impact of social distancing for engaged couples is that pre-wedding activities such as engagement parties, bridal showers and bachelorette/bachelor parties are being cancelled. To make matters even worse, the “big days” themselves, the weddings, are being postponed indefinitely. It is not clear what wedding venues are going to do to accommodate brides and grooms in this position, or whether they are even willing to do anything. One California couple did not want to postpone their wedding, so they sent the following invitation via Google Calendar:

We’re doing our wedding ceremony at home today, please join us online if you can. Click the hangout link in this calendar invite!

Married. There are two opposite theories with respect to coronavirus’ impact on married couples. If you have been on the internet recently, you would have seen the premonition that there will be a baby boom in 9 months, and in 13 years, there will the rise of the “quaranteens”. The converse of this theory is the idea that there will be an influx of divorce proceedings at the end of this pandemic as a result of couples being forced to spend every second together in quarantine, when their marriages may have been shaky to begin with. China illustrated one-half of this theory when a manager of one of the Country’s marriage registries reported:

The divorce rate [in the district] has soared compared to before the [coronavirus outbreak]. Young people are spending a lot of time at home. They tend to get into heated arguments because of something petty and rush into getting a divorce.

Couples in ongoing divorce proceedings. This is a hard time for couples enduring a divorce, especially if they still live together. This pandemic has forced the Governor to extremely limit the workflow of New York courts. Emergency applications are still being accepted, but what is considered an emergency is left to the discretion of the Court. The Court may frown upon applications brought that are not true emergencies which may result in unfavorable outcomes. This means that couples have to maintain their status quos. If the Court sees that people are taking advantage of this time, it is expected that Courts will deal with these people accordingly upon reopening.

Daniel Wolfe, When your friends get married on Zoom because of a coronavirus pandemic, Quartz (March 22, 2020)

Zee News, Divorce cases rise in China as couples spend too much time together during corona virus home quarantine, MSN (March 17, 2020)