#MenAskLikely: Can You Still Be Romantic While Maintaining Social Distance?

“Hey Likely, can I still be romantic while abiding by the social distance rule?” – S.J.

If you’re doing your part to help slow the spread of COVID-19, you’re practising social distancing. And, I’ll be honest – I didn’t take the time to look up the “social distance rule” until it became a thing in Tik Toks and memes (is this what it’s like for Gen Z to consume information all the time?). If, like me, you were aware of the fact that you needed to stay far away from people but didn’t actually look up its meaning, here it is:


Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections. The idea is to maintain a distance — in this case, at least six feet.That also means minimizing contact with people. Avoid public transportation whenever possible, limit nonessential travel, work from home and skip social gatherings.” – NY Times


This means putting all your plans on hold, but that does not mean you have to put your whole life on hold. Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be romantic – a good example is the show “Pushing Daisies”. And, let’s be frank, your relationship will simply be shifting from a normal one to a long-distance relationship (LDR) for an extended period of time. And while we here in Malaysia are presently looking at a two week period of time apart (this may be extended based on the situation with the COVID-19), there are couples who have been in LDRs’ for months if not years on end. They know what’s up and their secrets to keeping their romance alive is through…


1. Send good morning/good afternoon/good night/thinking of you text messages.

As corny as this sounds, this is one of the best ways to keep the romance alive. Not only are you showing the other person that you are thinking of them, you are showing that you are thinking of them when you wake up, in the middle of the day, before you go to bed and at other moments in between. Follow up with questions that will make the other person feel that you care like, “Did you sleep well?” or “What are you up to today?”. You don’t have to be blowing up their phone with texts, however. Keep it at a good amount that works for the both of you.


2. Laugh together.

A couple that laughs together, stays together. Okay, that might not be the exact words of the phrase but I’ve got science to back me up here. Recent studies have found that shared laughter was “positively associated with global evaluations of relationship quality” – simplified, couples who laughed together were more likely to have stronger, more positive relationships. This is because when you are with someone you can laugh with, and laugh often with, you are more likely to have a stronger bond that will help you overcome stress and conflict (like those arising from having to be forced into social distancing because of COVID-19). How does it help you be more romantic? Simple. It opens you up to each other – when you’re laughing, you’re less defensive and are able to let go of your inhibitions (and more spontaneous!).

3. Stay positive, together.

Being each others support systems is just as romantic as being able to hold hands on a walk in the park. While you cannot be there personally to hold your partner’s hand, you can be there to emotionally support your partner by being positive. As scary as it is now with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be scarier to be alone with your anxiety or loneliness through it. This fear is then doubled when it’s close to impossible to interact physically. Check-in on your partner, ask him/her what concerns they have and focus on shining light on the positives. If it is to look on the bright side of your time apart, do that and find meaning in being together through something that is as scary as it is difficult. It’s important that you reassure yourself (and your partner) that no matter what separates you both, they’re still the most important person in your life.


4. Practice active listening

What better way to let your partner know that they are important than by listening to them? Active listening literally means paying attention to the person as they are talking to you. This involves using more senses than usual when listening, i.e. reacting with the right body language, keeping eye contact. This holds true for video calls, but what about active listening when on phone calls? It’s more or less the same – react to what they are saying. Rather than responding with, “Mhm”, “Yes”, “Ah”, “Okay” or other mono-syllable answers, ask questions. By showing that you are fully in the present and engaging in what is being said, you are showing that you care.


5. Bonding through mutual tasks


Coordinate time for each other. If you have date night on Wednesdays, continue with that. Order in the same food and set up a video call or watch movies together using things like Netflix Play. This gives you time to bond even though there are restrictions on time together. Get creative and set mutual goals that allow you to feel like you are both with each other. Clean while on call or exercise together while still being in your respective homes. It can be as simple as when to call each other and who is going to make the call. There are also tons of games that you can play together. Whatever the task, no matter how insignificant – use that to bond and appreciate each other.


Through these steps, it is obvious that romantic gestures are not limited to buying flowers, showering your partner with gifts or going out to fancy places. It can be as simple as listening to them. All in all, they say that absence makes the heart fonder, and this can be true – there are benefits to being apart from each other that will only work to strengthen your relationship. Take this time to really communicate with each other and grow a better understanding of each other.