A new SBS Voices special series 'Love in Lockdown' explores how couples and singles are navigating love and relationships during Australia's coronavirus restrictions. In episode two, SBS Voices talks to three couples on one special lockdown ritual they use to stay connected as they manage long-distance under COVID-19.
SHERI AND ADAM - Face Swapping
Sheri Davis-Hall, 45 is a social worker and Adam McDonald, 43 is a auctioneer. They met on Tinder two years ago. Sheri lives in Canberra and Adam lives with his 12-year-old son in Sydney. The pair usually meet up in person fortnightly.
We’re really well practised in maintaining a long distance relationship but without the option of actually being able to catch up with each other face to face, it’s been quite challenging, to not have our usual lounge room disco and be in each other’s glorious presence. I’m an extrovert. And I’m a hugger. It’s a double whammy for me. Being able to be with your partner and your soul mate in difficult times can bring so much comfort. Whenever I think I might be starting to feel a bit heavy and I need a laugh, then up goes the face-swapping image and bring on the laughs.
I will send Adam an iconic image from a popular movie and he will use the Face Swap app to render our own faces over the movie characters. He’s really creative and we get a massive laugh out of what our heads look like. And posting them across our Facebook pages allows for those moments to be shared with our community, with our family, with our friends who also seem to get a bit of a laugh out of the images. Being able to maintain humour during difficult times for me has been really important in maintaining some sort of regularity in my relationship with Adam.
When we first hooked up, I knew, that’s it. She’s the one. We held off (meeting) because of the bushfires. Then Covid hit and now...I haven't touched my girlfriend for three months.
Sheri and I will make sure we send each other a message via FaceTime maybe every two hours. Just so we both know we’re thinking about each other. I thought if I swapped her face for mine, it would make her smile, to let her know that I’m thinking about her.
We even have Tupac Tuesday! We wear the same T-shirt. She bought me a pair of glasses, they’re the exact same as hers. It’s all these little things that just make you feel still connected. The best thing is we’ll come home on Friday night and we’ll have a drink together. I’ll sit on my veranda and she’ll sit on her back yard and we just FaceTime. We drink wine together, smoke some cigarettes, and just shoot the breeze. We’re just like a regular couple, and the only thing we don’t get is touching each other. It will come back. God help us, it will come back! The other thing we joke about - we had my accident (in 2018), we had the fires, we have Covid. Babe. What else? What else is gonna stop us? Alien invasion? If we’re still together at the end of this, nothing is gonna stop us. So you’ve got to look at the silver lining on every dark cloud. I’ve met the woman of my dreams, I just can't get to her yet.
JASMINE AND LAURIE - Trivia and Houseparty
Jasmine Wallis, 23, is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. She was due to fly to join her partner Laurie Goodwin, 27, a film student in Bristol, UK. The couple have been in a long-distance relationship for four years. Wallis was born in the UK, and migrated to Australia as a child. The pair were childhood friends and re-connected while Jasmine was on her gap year in Europe.
I was meant to move to the UK in May after finishing my media degree. On our four-year anniversary, we found out that Australia had put the travel ban in place and that was six weeks before I was meant to fly out. I was really looking forward to starting a new life with Laurie. This year was supposed to be our year of moving in together, starting our careers and finally ending this period of long distance. And because of coronavirus, this has been extended indefinitely. It’s been devastating. It’s probably been one of the hardest things that I’ve had to deal with. On top of everything else like losing work in hospitality, and just the craziness of this period, to have something booked and then be excited for it for months, and then have it taken away, is quite difficult. But we actually are stronger than ever because we know even more clearly that this is what we want. We want to be together. We have a phone call every night. It’s quite rare if we don’t FaceTime so we can see each other’s faces and it’s a really nice way to end the day.
Adding activities like trivia has definitely helped during this time. It is just a good distraction and creates a bit of lightness around what is a really hard and scary and uncertain time. Playing Houseparty just kind of takes you out of the news cycle and the constant scrolling and worrying. Our conversations used to be like, ok I’m so excited to be with you. Five weeks to go! Where are we going to live and what are we going to do. Now those conversations we can’t really have because it just makes us sad. By playing some games we distract ourselves. He makes me laugh so much, like my stomach hurts, so I am glad that I have him. He makes me really happy.
I think the four years we’ve been together, we probably haven’t been together for more than two years in the same room through exchange and holidays. It has been four years of really tricky times and frustrations of - 'when am I going to see you again?'.
She is 9000 miles away. No one would ever have thought this would happen so it’s kind of comical in a way. We’ve got this far and it’s just another setback.
Sometimes if we are not in a particularly chatty mood, we will play games on the group chat like on Houseparty which is pretty good and all the trivia stuff. It’s just another test. We will get through this. When we are finally reunited, it will be even more worth it, than it has ever been.
BELINDA AND ANTHONY - 'Eight (virtual) dates'
Belinda Sutherland, 41, is a Disability Services Manger and Anthony Moore, 38, is a National Partnerships manager. They previously worked together and started dating 12 months ago. Belinda lives in Brisbane and Anthony is based in Sydney.
I just miss him. I miss the physical contact. It’s a really upsetting and anxiety-provoking time and sometimes you just want a hug. And you can’t source that from your other family and friends. We always saw each other every Saturday night or every second Saturday.
Under lockdown we thought we would structure our Saturday nights around virtual dates, using the 'Eight Dates' book by John and Julie Gottman. They include topics like money, trust, commitment, sex and conflict. We recently did the sex and intimacy date. With that date, you were supposed to create a romantic scenario. Things like have a naked picnic or dress up in some lingerie. We made the effort to both get ready for the date and have some music and candles on. It was about exploring what we both like and that was uncharted territory for us. It was like going on a real date. It did result in a bit of sexy time at the end. I woke up the next day and I just felt really fulfilled. It feels like we’re putting the time to good use rather than just sitting and dwelling about the fact that we can’t be together.
I’ve been taking sexy pictures. I’ve been sending sexy text messages. He’s been doing the same. There’s been a few videos here and there. We’re both consenting adults - it’s opened a new world. It’s helped me explore my own sexuality and share that with him. It’s been liberating to be perfectly honest with you. I’m a 41- year-old woman and it’s something I’ve never done before, but I trust him implicitly. I love him implicitly and it’s a safe space for me to do that.
When we finally see each other again, there will be a massive hug, which will lead to other adult things.
Belinda and I said a pretty emotional goodbye five weeks ago. Prior to Covid we were seeing each other about five days a fortnight. It's our first real foray into distance relationships. Belinda has two children from her previous marriage. I have one. It was Belinda’s idea to do the Gottman Institute's Eight Dates book over the period of enforced separation. Just as a way to address some of the past issues that we’ve had in our relationships and to set ourselves up for success once we can see each other again. Like most guys, when faced with something like that, I balked at the idea of having a structured conversation around the topics that are included in the eight dates. I figured that that was the sort of thing that we should hash out as a couple over a meal or over dinner. But I have found the process rewarding and really useful, particularly coming off the back of two failed marriages.
The conflict one was probably the most interesting one for me. We started working through these structured questions. And five and a half hours later, we were still talking freely about how we wanted to improve our relationships, and how to avoid past traps with behaviours and attitudes towards conflict. We did the sex and intimacy date two weekends ago. It was an eye opener. It was really fun and a great way to stay physically connected despite the distance.
Doing this interview is definitely something that I would have run from a year ago. I would have seen my business as being my business. Belinda’s brought me out of my shell in that regard, and has helped me to talk honestly and openly about how I feel about what I want for the future and for our future.
As told to Sarah Malik. Interviews have beed edited and condensed for clarity. This video is episode two of a three-part SBS Voices special series, 'Love in Lockdown' exploring how couples and singles are navigating relationships under coronavirus restrictions. Episode three will be out soon.
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