Feeling disconnected? How to find love in an age of social distancing

As many of us around the world are focused to social distance due to the pandemic, we explore the benefits of ditching dominant love narratives, and share some science-backed tips on finding love and connection in the COVID-19 era



Ditch the fairytale love trope

Now could not be a more potent time to explore what it means to love. A loneliness epidemic was already brewing before the pandemic, but now so many more of us are feeling more isolated and disconnected. However, just nothing can stop the very human desire for love and connection, and as such we wanted to explain the concept of psychological flexibility and give you a few ways to help you rediscover your relationships and find love in our age of social distancing.  For too long we have understood love in binary terms; in it or out of it, married or divorced, partnered or single…the list goes on. Unfortunately, these long held rigid taxonomies are cause for much suffering, as people struggle to find the perfect kind of love they see in movies. However, science suggests that the Disney film fairytale love narrative is troubling, with research actually showing a rigid interpretation of relationships is bad for our mental health.

Embrace psychological flexibility

At Paradym, we like to apply the principles of psychological flexibility, when it comes to thinking about love and relationships. Psychological flexibility can loosely be defined as the ability to persevere with our long-term goals in spite of distress. People who practice psychological flexibility are able to adapt to changing situations, balance different aspects of our lives such as work, hobbies and relationships and, focus on actions, in ourselves and others, that we value. Furthermore, people who adopt psychological flexibility are not only more accepting of their emotions but also focus more on living and relating in a meaningful way (and less say on short term wins or experiences like happiness), which research shows increases our wellbeing.

Get to know your relationship with love

So what has love got to do with this? Well, our relationship to love, has fundamentally got to do with our relationship with ourselves. This is why understanding the way our own minds work, and becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours is the very first step to improving our relationship to, well, relationships! Psychological flexibility can help us in the pursuit of love because it teaches us to reframe our expectations when it comes to relationships, challenging us to focus more on the experiencing self and less on the cultural narratives.  Reflect: What do I want from love? What do I need from love? How do I connect best with people? What do I need to connect?

Cultivate awareness & self-acceptance

Psychological flexibility also encourages us to accept our emotions which can be helpful in improving our relationships. This is because when we accept our emotional selves, we feel more confident communicating our feelings and needs. This increased awareness tells us what fulfils us, and helps adjust our wants and ways of thinking when we don’t feel fulfilled. Such an approach can improve the quality of our connections, meaning that when we do finally meet that special someone, we will be in an even better space to connect with them. Reflect: What are my emotional patterns? Do I like these traits in myself? How can I bring more awareness to my emotional patterns? How can I come to accept them?

Focus on cultivating meaningful relationships

Take for instance, the desire to be in a committed, long-term relationship, but unable to find a partner. This may be particularly distressing at the moment, given rules around social distancing. You may be struggling to accept this reality, because a rigid mindset may make you feel you’re failing at love. However, if you were to adopt the principles of psychological flexibility you may instead be able to, for the short term, focus on cultivating the meaningful relationships that already exist in your lives – be it family, colleagues or friends – as well as thinking about other ways to experience meaning. While a dinner date may not currently be possible, is there an option to have a phone or Zoom call, or even write a letter to a potential partner? Reflect: How do my actions impact the connections I make? Can I change my actions to make more purposeful connections? So while it may not seem to quite fulfil our love dreams and desires, it instead seems trivial, there can be as much relational value in sending a friend a surprise text, or having a video call with a loved one from across the world as there is sitting beside a family member, or a very old friend. We can show our love in many ways, and find connection in many realms, but in order to do so we must let go of outdated binary conceptions of love, and instead adopt more psychological flexibility. 

To dive further into your relationship to love, romance, connection and relationships, download the Paradym app, and head to the Love Pillar.