When they ask you the inevitable question, “So what happened?” over another round of mimosas [insert your choice of brunch beverage], maybe you’ll take a sip and look off into the distance long enough to reminiscence, but not long enough for your company to notice. Maybe you’ll take another sip before replying, “Oh… you know. Some things just don’t work out.” That’s the easiest answer we can give post-breakup. That’s probably all we can share unless you want to half-jokingly say a truth like,” Well, if there is anything good that came out of this pandemic, I know I saved myself from wasting any more time with someone.” Or “I thought I only had to worry about COVID-19, not having my heart broken too.”
Maybe you can just blame the pandemic and not two incompatible partners. Maybe the pandemic forced you to stay indoors and look inwards and at each other. Maybe if this pandemic never happened you wouldn’t find yourself tending to a broken heart.
Whatever the answer is, heartbreak is heartbreak—but heartbreak during a pandemic feels like a different ordeal.
The following women have been brave and kind enough to share their stories. All names have been changed and some details have been omitted to protect any parties involved.
- Dated: 7 years (married for 2)
- Date of Breakup: November 2020
- Dated: 3 years
- Date of Breakup: Late March/Early April 2020
- Dated: 2.5 years
- Date of Breakup: Mid-December 2020
- Dated: 1 year and 1.5 months
- Date of Breakup: Mid-December 2020
Were there signs before the pandemic that made you think that your relationship was not going to work out?
April: Yes. Every six months I questioned if we were compatible.
Brenda: I don’t think we took time to pause and think about it. Looking back on it, I think there were signs, but I’m not sure that I noticed them.
Monica: Our relationship had its fair share of ups and downs, but at the beginning of the year, I was determined to do better on my part. We got engaged in 2019 and had set our date for October 20, 2020. We had made each other a promise to put in the work.
Violet: We had the worst timing. We began to date right before the lockdown happened. It was going well at first. Yes, there were moments of hesitation, but I chalked it up to my own issues. We had been together officially for about a week before everything shut down in March.
What was the turning point of your relationship?
Brenda: The pandemic highlighted a lot of our issues. We were leading very separate lives and extremely invested in our careers. When we quarantined together, it was the first time in our 7- year relationship that we had spent that much time together. A lot of things came to light that we didn’t realize we were doing.
Monica: I thought the quarantine would be good for us, because it would allow me the space I needed to grow and be better (same for him). The second week in, I was contacted by a girl who claimed to be my fiance’s girlfriend. She asked, with all assumed authority, if he and I were “still talking.” I was completely sidelined. I gave him a chance to explain himself, and he eventually came clean.
Violet: I caught him cheating with multiple girls. The pandemic just escalated the amount of girls he would contact. He’s been doing this all his life. There were other things that were already waving the biggest red flags, but I was so in love that I thought I could love him into being a better man. The minute I caught him lying, sending money and gifts, and much more I realized how lost I had been in this relationship. Unfortunately, I found out the truth when we tested positive for COVID-19, and had to quarantine together for the following two weeks.
April: We broke up because, unfortunately, my family contracted COVID-19 from a small Thanksgiving get-together. He attended and then gave it to his own family. The way he handled the situation showed me who he really was when I needed him the most. He showed me that he couldn’t be there for me.
Were you living together? If you were, how did you deal with having to quarantine with an ex? Are you still living together?
April: I moved out when we first broke up in August.
Monica: Two months prior to quarantine we made the choice to move back in with our respective parents to save money as we were both going to school.
Brenda: We were living together but quickly made arrangements to live separately. The time between the breakup and us moving out was tough and uncomfortable. There was a lot of crying involved and it felt like I couldn’t escape the situation.
Violet: Thankfully, we didn’t live together. Quarantining for those two weeks did give me a taste of what living together would be like, and it made my heartbreak even worse. I could see what could have been if we had just worked out. I do not recommend having COVID-19 and dealing with a breakup at the same time. We were stuck in this one-bedroom apartment with no space for ourselves.
Are you still in contact with your ex?
Brenda: Yes, we are actually still friends. I feel fortunate that it was an amicable split.
Monica: No, but he’s still friends with over 50 of my friends and family on social media.
Violet: I wasn’t for almost two months… until now. He reached out. I picked up.
April: No, and I don’t plan on reaching out to him. But he’s not my enemy, so he’s not blocked.
Do you think you will ever reconcile?
Monica: I don’t know. Probably not. I think about him often. I wonder if I was too rash for blocking all contact with him without digging a little further by asking the hard questions, because I was afraid of the answer. I think about how badly I treated him at times. During quarantine, I’ve come to terms with the way I treated him. Sometimes, it was a direct reflection of my own unhappiness with myself. Sometimes, I wonder if I pushed him away and into the arms of someone else. Overall, I understand that a reconciliation won’t solve anything, because at the base of our relationship, I wasn’t happy. There was something essential missing: love and respect for myself. Both are still a work in progress.
Violet: I don’t know. He’s worried about what other people will say. I told as many people as I could about what he did. I felt justified exposing him because he had been living this double life for years. I’m not worried about what other people will think right now because I’m too busy trying to figure what I want with him, and trying to figure out if my mental health is something I am willing to risk again. My therapist said it best, “What is his intention and what is your desire?” Right now, my desire is to not lose myself again.
What are you doing right now to help you heal?
April: Working helps, and I also have met someone which was unexpected. Dating someone new and spending more time with my family has gotten me through a lot of my turmoil.
Brenda: I have spent a lot of time hiking and trying to talk to as many friends as possible. Keeping busy has been paramount for me.
Violet: Working out. I can’t tell you how badly I need to feel my body again. Therapy and staying sober as much as possible also has been really good, because I have a tendency to run towards alcohol, empty sex, and sad poetry/music.
Monica: I’m learning to love myself. I knew from the beginning that it was a big issue in our relationship. I’m cherishing the moments I’m having in this journey and I’m not letting the pressures of getting older or feeling like I have to settle get in the way of my growth.
Who is your greatest source of support?
April: My best friend and my family.
Brenda: My family and friends have been there for me every step of the way. Actually, my ex and I have supported each other as well! I’m also in therapy and that has been very helpful.
Monica: My best friend. She was the only one who would ask me if I was truly happy or if I was still in the relationship because I wanted to satisfy others around me. She never once made me feel guilty for being confused about how I felt.
Violet: My mom and my sister. Honestly, having no judgement from my mom as I try to figure out things has been a saving grace. She reminded me to get angry and fight for myself. My sister taught me to be kind to myself. My friends! I really have the best people. Daily texts and FaceTime chats, funny stories, and reminders that I am a badass bitch after all!
What is one lesson this breakup has taught you about yourself?
Monica: Listen to your heart and don’t settle for less just because other people guilt you into feeling like you should. Most importantly, it’s okay to recognize the ugly parts of yourself. Ignoring the issues we carry within ourselves won’t allow us the opportunity to confront them in order to grow. This past year has allowed me to do that.
April: To never let myself cry that much again. To make myself feel worth it. To remind myself that I am smart. To remind myself that there is nothing wrong with me. I can’t make someone fit me.
Violet: This won’t be the end of me, but I do need to kill this version of me so that I can grow and find love in myself.
Brenda: I learned to choose myself.