Two hearts wearing surgical masks.


Navigating Relationships During a Pandemic

February 17, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what it means to spend time together. Some relationships have seen a lack of boundaries, as individuals isolate indoors, with the lines blurred between the classroom, workplace, and home. In other cases, relationships, friendships, and dating have gone digital, with partners and friends spending more time physically apart.

So how are members of the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) and New York Tech communities navigating relationships during this unprecedented time?

At a Facebook Live event on February 12, students joined Liat Jarkon, D.O., assistant professor of family medicine and director of the Center for Behavioral Health, to explore the intersection between mental health, love, and friendships. The panel discussion focused on how the dating landscape has evolved, the importance of resilience, the new meaning of quality time, societal pressures around Valentine’s Day, self-care, and ways to make new friends during the pandemic.

Participants included NYITCOM students Michael Vutam, Akito Nicol, and Kimberly Fasciglione, as well as Denesia Mitchell, a graduate student in the M.S. in Energy Management program

In the new landscape of dating, Mitchell observed that a growing number of her peers are entering into serious relationships. Jarkon added that under these new circumstances, people are forced to be choosier with whom they spend time, and seeing a significant other during the pandemic has the potential to quicken the pace of a relationship. 

Jarkon also noted that as some relationships are forming more quickly, others may be ending. Some married couples may acquire cabin fever from the forced time indoors together. Quality time is changing, and that can be overwhelming when a couple is not used to spending so much time together.

Relationship adaptability also found its way front and center during the pandemic. Fasciglione explained that in her relationship, she had to adapt to spending more time apart from her partner. She said she tries to be more honest in their conversations, which she believes helps strengthen their bond.

Taking Care of You

While relationships, whether romantic or platonic, may offer solace during uncertain times, each person must also take responsibility for their health and well-being to make the relationship work. Nicol noted that people should spend their free time on self-reflection and growth. Jarkon followed with some practical advice and encouraged participants to compartmentalize their day so that self-care is incorporated into their routine and remains separate from the workday. Ideas for activities include journaling, exercise, yoga, meditation, tapping into one’s creativity, and enjoying a personal hobby.

Towards the end of the discussion, Jarkon asked the panel about any pressures regarding how this year’s Valentine’s Day would be different and if they thought there would be less pressure put on them to plan for the regularly expected romantic rituals.

The group seemed to think so, chalking up this year’s event as yet another opportunity to practice patience, understanding, and adaptability. Vutam, whose one-year anniversary fell on Valentine’s Day, noted that while it will always be a special day, the holiday would temporarily take a different, more casual form.

The bottom line: navigating and maintaining relationships during this time is not easy, but the strength and resilience of the human spirit shine through.