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5 things I’ve learned about love and romance in 2020

Looking, finding and maintaining love can be difficult at the best of times – throw in a pandemic and we were all caught off guard, writes LISA BENT of her reflections on romance over the past year

Illustration, Maggie Stephenson


In the discussion of love, love of self is often left out. But the pandemic put the focus and importance back on us. We stayed home, masked up and sanitized to protect ourselves to ensure we didn’t inadvertently harm others. The spotlight on self-responsibility was at an all-time high and attention to self-care rose.

I have always believed that my partner doesn’t exist to make me happy. In our partnership, we listen to and support each other, but I have realized more and more that it’s my responsibility to work out how I keep anxiety at bay and nurture myself. It’s a theme I explore in Symona’s Still Single, my debut romance novel, with self-love and self-responsibility at the forefront.


With nowhere to go this summer, the search for love exploded on all online-dating platforms. Cuffing season was replaced by ‘Covid cuffing’ – a more intentional form of dating, according to Hinge and Match.

Existing couples had to decide whether they should move in together or be prepared to not see each other for the foreseeable future. This sped up timelines for the move-in milestone and birthed the term ‘turbo relationships’, which saw some couples cohabiting from weeks after their meeting.

This might seem a bit intense, but leading relationship charity Relate and dating website eHarmony have conducted research and found that ‘turbo relationships’ are doing quite well so far. Of the participants, 36 percent agreed that two months in isolation felt equivalent to two years of commitment; 63 percent say their relationship feels stronger, with 58 percent expressing they want to be with their partner long-term.

So, I wonder whether ‘turbo relationships’ will be the new norm? Will people be more likely to move in with their partners first, rather than their friends?


Never before have we all, at the same time, had such space to slow down, think, feel, reflect and rediscover things about ourselves in order to reshape what’s important to us. We do a lot of do-ing and go-ing because there is always something to do and somewhere to go. With fewer distractions, it was impossible to avoid our feelings. For me, be-ing, being thankful for what I have, has been an important acknowledgement in this space of doing less.

It made me consider that perhaps our ‘normal’ discourse on love and romance centers too much on the dreamy niceties, rather than a focus on the here-and-now realities.


Maintaining a relationship takes work, and lockdown forced us to become even more creative.

Video-chat functions were added to dating apps and virtual dinner dates and drinks over Zoom became the norm to keep romantic sparks alive. We all have different ways of expressing and receiving love. American author Dr. Gary Chapman says there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation; Acts of Service; Receiving Gifts; Quality Time; and Physical Touch. With such love languages disturbed during the pandemic, we have had to find new means and mediums for our affection to be translated through.


Lockdown famously put a stop to physical sex for those not in the same household, but what about the other types of intimacy that have nothing to do with sex? While importance is often placed on the physical, bonding can also come from emotional, intellectual, experiential and spiritual closeness. I wonder, has 2020 given rise to the value of these other ways to enhance our connections?

In my book, Symona is consciously single because she knows that time and space is needed to reflect and realign her ideals and expectations of relationships. Her self-imposed ‘lockdown’ brought her peace and a healthier outlook on love. Reflecting, then, on what I learned during my own lockdown, it is that uninhibited expression without judgement means it is safe to share and discuss without causing an argument. Shared experiences and quality time – however they are found – intensify connection. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. What have you learned about love and romance during it?

Symona’s Still Single, by Lisa Bent, is published by Jacaranda