MADRID (Reuters) – Andrea Chabant Sanchez, a Madrid-based publicist, normally travels to Paris once a month to see his girlfriend. In January he booked his flights through to July.
Andrea Chabant Sanchez, 29, video-calls his girlfriend Emma, 24, from a park in Madrid while Emma is with her family in Normandy, France, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in this undated handout photo. ANDREA CHABANT SANCHEZ/Handout via REUTERS
Now those precious reunions are on hold, as ever-tightening travel restrictions prevent him, and many other separated couples around the world, from seeing each other.
“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to see the person I love again,” said Sanchez, who has not seen Emma Besancon, 24, since before Spain declared a state of emergency on March 14.
“I always had a date: one for this month, next month…” said Sanchez, who is 29. “Now there’s no window.”
Lola Gomez, a 22-year-old drama student from Malaga, is also feeling the pain of separation.
“It’s only been eleven days, but it feels like I haven’t seen her in a month,” she said of her girlfriend Sara Lozano, also 22.
Lozano left the flat the couple normally shares in Madrid to join her family in Pamplona the day before national confinement was ordered.
Neither knows when they will next meet.
“We’ve been separated before, but this isn’t like Christmas or summer time, when it’s long but you’re doing a million other things,” said Gomez.
“This quarantine means a lot of time alone, thinking, asking yourself questions – a lot of time shut in too. You miss your partner so much more. To be honest, we’re having a rough time of it.”
SHARING A DRINK…REMOTELY
Etienne Berges, a 26-year-old humanitarian policy adviser working in Myanmar, will not be seeing his girlfriend, Amber Medland, as expected next month.
On March 16, Myanmar made quarantine mandatory for anyone arriving from coronavirus-infected countries – meaning Medland, a 29-year-old writer based in London, would spend her entire holiday in medical isolation.
“We usually try to manage the distance by setting down dates,” Berges said. “But (the outbreak) upended even our ability to do that.”
Still, the couple is finding ways to be together across continents: surprise macaroon deliveries, video-calling while sharing a drink or watching the same TV show.
Gomez and Lozano have taken to dining together, and always video-call one another from bed at night.
“That way, you give and get tenderness before sleeping,” Gomez said.
It is not quite the same as the real thing, however.
“The person you love should be the one person you can break confinement with, completely – because you lay beside them at night. And I can’t,” said Sanchez, who stayed alone in Madrid while Besancon went to be with her family in Normandy.
As the outbreak spreads, separated couples are facing the fact that days apart turn into weeks, and now possibly months.
“Coronavirus questions the nature of long distance relationships, erases that peace of mind you used to get thinking, ‘Oh, I can be there this afternoon’,” Sanchez said. “The certainty is gone.”
Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Mike Collett-White