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Love lockdown: why are so many couples breaking up during and after quarantine?

Lockdown as we know it is over, and after each of us had all the time in the world to reevaluate our mere existence, it seems like we are now ready to turn over a new leaf. One reflection in particular that all of us took part in during quarantine, in some way or another, was one that focused on our relationships in general, but as we crawl back into the world, we’ve noticed an impressive rise in romantic breakups, the breakup phase of lockdown perhaps—which makes us question if lust is the new love. To find out why so many couples are breaking up during and after lockdown, I spoke to a few people and found common (and a little less common) reasons.

To visualise the three types of relationships I’ll mainly be talking about, I give you, exhibit a) The vase. The strong and sturdy relationship that once held pretty flowers—but knocked off their perches, were smashed into smithereens. Metaphorically. Think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold lacquer. Or in other words, the ones still fixing their otherwise broken relationships.

Then we have exhibit b) The lightbulb. The clear cut moments of truth. The ones that dumped, or did the dumping. The ones that suddenly realised by seeing clearly, they were better off without each other. I feel for them all, but let’s be honest here, if you can’t make it work during an end of the world type scenario, then they probably weren’t the one for you.

Finally, exhibit c) The bathmat. The one we don’t enjoy investing much in, but buy anyway. The soft, comforting luxury of a relationship that rose and fell in lockdown.

So, who dared to enter the no exit zone of their confined spaces for what felt like never-ending months? Who probably saw sides to their partners they wished they could unsee? There was no place to hide, with no pubs to go to, no brunches with friends, no hungover lunches at family gatherings—just two people stuck together, indefinitely.

Bowel movements became part of the entire household’s agenda. And for those of you out there that like a Hollywood wax to feel sexy, I have extra sentiments for you. Life got real traumatic, the at-home wax almost turned into a trip to A&E, and the over-priced epilator you ordered after scrolling through Amazon recommendations is now gathering cobwebs.

Let’s talk to exhibit a) The Vase, who had a slightly irrational, but somewhat humorous reason to break up—in hindsight. This no longer couple admitted that they simply wanted different things for comfort when things got tough, but it took time in the bedroom to realise that this was the case. Let’s just say, the positioning was just not quite right.

Love lockdown: why are so many couples breaking up during and after quarantine?

One half of my anonymous interviewees confessed their side of the problem. “I just didn’t want to do anal. Ok?” which is fair enough, but is it enough to break up over? They added that “Just because we were experimenting, spicing things up not to get bored, does not mean that I have to sit on the ultimatum of our relationship based on the fact that I won’t voluntarily leak shit onto the sheets… Glad he asked now and not 5 years down the line locked into a house because of a newborn child.”

What really stands out here is “locked into a house,” with a side of frustration over a bed of newly discovered differences. The vase is a stark example, however it is one that stems from bottled up energy, and that can be related to many of our situationships.

The tensions that rose within relationships of all kinds this year aren’t necessarily surprising, a global-pandemic is enough to send all of our stress levels through the roof.

Now, the all-familiar exhibit b) The light bulb. This no longer couple broke up because one of them suddenly had the urge to ‘live their life’ and ‘figure out what they wanted’ when lockdown was lifted. The grass is always greener on the other side, right? A heartbreaking illusion, or a matter of fact.

Last but by no means least, exhibit c) Our dear bathmat. A relationship that rose and fell during lockdown, the good old FaceTime dater. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, there is no space—no space at all, on a FaceTime call for an awkward silence with someone you barely know. Blame the bad signal all you want.

And the excitement of those ‘what’s your favourite’ something or other texts? It quickly wears off. Then, when you finally meet as lockdown lifts, you’ve exhausted all your chat, both forcing fireworks because you’ve spent so much time on the damn idea of this person that you can’t just back out for boredom now.

In truth though, you can just back out. Of anything. Lockdown has made a lot of people realise that you don’t need to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s made a lot of us more patient in day to day tasks but short-fused when it comes to our affection and time, because we value it more than we did before. I guess we have to ask ourselves, is this person better than all that came before? Now, If this was the end of the world, why stay with a pressure to love over a freedom to love? Beats me.

Give digiD8 your DNA data and the dating app will tell you who not to date

People go on dating apps for many different reasons, so it is natural that we all end up having different preferences in which one to use. Whether you are after a specific zodiac sign, your secret crush, or wish to explore ethical non-monogamy, chances are there will be something out there for you. If, however, you have for some reason a specific interest in genetics, and feel like you would never find the perfect app to fulfil your needs, then I have some good news—soon, you will have access to the perfect app for you.

digiD8 is a new dating app that will allow users to match with potential love interests according to their genetics. Yes, you read that right. The app was created by Harvard professor, scientist and geneticist George Church, and is currently still under development at Harvard University. Its aim is simple: to make sure that those who share a genetic mutation never procreate and produce offsprings with a potential inherited disease.

Needless to say, when the news of this app got out it created a big controversy, and understandably so. Church was accused of partaking in what is called eugenics, which is the science of improving a population by controlled breeding. With this new venture, which he calls “whole-genome dating”, Church would have the power to select who can and cannot use his app purely based on their genetics—something that users have no control over, and something that no society should be striving towards, if we’re being honest.

Church’s lab, which is in charge of developing this app, has also received research funding from the notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein—so of course, the questioning of the app, the motives, the lab and Church himself is unsurprising.

digiD8 also raises the question of where do we draw the line when it comes to incorporating science and technology into the most natural and humane aspects of our lives? Church defends his project and finds the comparison of his app to eugenics to be “ludicrous”, stating in a recent FAQ that “[we] are adamantly opposed to eugenics, of superseding personal choice with governmental or community judgment, bullying, and coercion,” and that, instead, the aim is to advocate for “personal choice.”

While the idea is indeed dystopian and precarious, some argue that it is not eugenics. Eugenics is most commonly forced through imposed breeding, sterilisation or extermination of individuals, whereas Church claims he only wants to help people. The main idea is to use DNA comparisons in order to assess whether those matching do not carry any genetic mutation that could cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis or Tay-Sachs disease—which are both extremely rare and often fatal.

Children risk developing the disease if they inherit two risky genes—one from each parent, the chance of which is normally 25 per cent. Because these diseases are so rare, according to the app’s FAQ, users on digiD8 would still be compatible with 95 per cent of other users. Medicine already tries to avoid such conditions, by letting couples who are trying to have a child use preconception genetic testing, in which IVF embryos are selected on the basis of their genes, with some parents choosing abortion after a negative test result.

But even if this can serve for the greater good in medicine, choosing to prevent the birth of humans because they may suffer from a disease is incredibly ableist. While it is every parent’s ultimate goal to see their kids healthy and happy, going as far as choosing their genes seems unnatural and discriminatory.

Ethics pushed aside, perhaps people should think twice before handing over their DNA data over to anyone, let alone a dating app. Social networks tend to have a history of exploiting our private data, and while Church promises that the app will “support a new model in which an individual’s genomic data are not shared with companies or any other individual,” this is a phrase we’ve heard many times before. Just like many other new technologies, approach this one with extra caution and skepticism.