My boyfriend and I made a decision that led to us moving in permanently after only dating for five months. I was sitting in his apartment when his dad called to say we could quarantine at his childhood home. They would be staying at a friend’s place. It seemed like a no-brainer to say yes: we’d have more space and not be crammed in either of our apartments with our roommates.

That was the last night of our Pre-Pandemic Relationship.

It was the last time we spent a night apart.

I met my boyfriend three years before the pandemic. We don’t quite remember the exact day we met, but our best guess is that it was at my 26th birthday party. I went to college with a few of his friends from high school, and one of them threw me that party. At the time, I was dating someone else, and so was my boyfriend, but that didn’t stop me from noticing how unfalteringly kind (and very cute) he was.

A few years later, when we were both single, I worked up the nerve to ask my boyfriend out on a date. Well, I knew it was a date; he thought we were just grabbing brunch to catch up. But by the time our second date came around-- paint night, wine, and dinner-- he realized I wanted to be more than friends.

Even though I’d been friends with my boyfriend before we dated, I didn’t know much about him. Learning more about his childhood and what he loved to do was still an adventure, like it would be dating someone you’d never met. We went on museum dates and watched The Breakfast Club in the park. My boyfriend planned a trip to Joshua Tree, which he swears was the moment he knew he loved me.

A honeymoon phase cut short

We were deep in one of the best parts of a relationship: the honeymoon phase. Everything we did was new; every moment between us exciting. Waking up to my boyfriend’s morning texts still gave me butterflies, and the wonder of when I’d see him next filled me with anticipation.

But that all collided to a halt when the pandemic hit. There was no more sleeping at our own places or nights out dancing. No more wondering when I’d see my boyfriend again because we were always together. And though quarantine felt like an adventure (different yet exciting!) in itself, sometimes I look back on things and miss my pre-pandemic relationship.

It’s like the song goes: “you don’t know what you have till it’s gone.” The beginning of a relationship is something any couple goes through, but it’s easy to take it for granted. I think back to my other relationships and feel silly for trying to rush through this phase. Falling in love with someone and all the feelings that come with it is something to savor; unfortunately quarantine made that nearly impossible.

Most of all, I miss the choice we had before everyone’s world changed.

My boyfriend and I used to choose when to see each other, which made those dates more special. We’d talk about significant relationship milestones rather than being presented with the ultimatum of living together or spending who-knows-how-long apart. The pandemic took those choices away, and, like a lot of things, they’re something we’ll never get back.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond grateful both me and my boyfriend are making it out of this pandemic with our health. We’re blessed that, for the most part, our job and income flow stayed relatively the same. And I’m beyond happy that I found my person with whom I can weather something like a worldwide pandemic and not have it break us apart.

I thought it would take longer for me to find out things about my boyfriend.

Like how he’s apparently incapable of throwing dirty clothes in the hamper or that he’ll forget to eat when he’s gaming. But I also never predicted that I’d feel comfortable enough around someone to act as weird as I want and still feel loved. So I guess there are trade-offs.

Illustration by Anđela Janković

Now that it’s been over a year since the pandemic started, sometimes I'll think about how we lost something intangible: our pre-pandemic relationship. The spontaneity, the anticipation of seeing one another, and being able to watch our relationship slowly blossom were all snatched away from us.

Those might seem minor or unimportant, but when you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, they’re moments of your relationship you don’t want to rush past.

But that sadness only lasts for so long.

Because I know we could’ve lost so much more.

Kirstie Taylor