'My boyfriend broke up with me on the night the president announced lockdown, here's how I’m coping'

Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images

When the pandemic hit, Lisa* (28) and her then-partner were already living apart: her in Johannesburg and him in Cape Town. They both knew they wouldn't be able to be under lockdown together, but what she didn't know was that he would break up with her even before the lockdown commenced. 

Here is Lisa's story:

It was the evening of the 23rd of March when President Cyril Ramaphosa had just announced that a 3-week national lockdown would begin from the 27th that I received this text: We need to talk. Can I call now?

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We were in a serious relationship for a year and two months and had met each other's families. We would see each other every month, and it didn't even feel like a long-distance relationship.

However, before the breakup, I noticed how distant he had become, but when I confronted him, he said he was just stressed from work.

I saw him a week before the lockdown, and everything was great. We had a date night at one of my favourite restaurants in Sea Point, Cape Town.

I even thought to myself, "I love spending time with this man."

Two days after my trip to Cape Town, his phone was off, and I couldn't get hold of him. I was panicking and even thought something terrible had happened to him. I called one of his friends to please go check up on him and to my relief, he was fine.

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I spoke to him on the following day and told him I was worried about him and asked why his phone was off. Instead of being honest with me, he said he needed space.

I mean, who needs space when you're already in a long-distance relationship? He even told me to stop overreacting when another similar incident occurred a few days later.

All this lead up to the day of the president's lockdown announcement and that dreaded phone call.

My heart started racing, as he had never pulled a "we need to talk" card before. I was worried but eventually responded. He called within a few minutes and explained to me that he is going through something and would rather be alone during this time.

He would always love me, but couldn't continue with the relationship, he said. I was devastated, and had unending questions in my mind.

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I've suffered from anxiety and depression since puberty, and in isolation — especially after a life-altering event like a breakup – I feared that I would revert to the hole of depression I'd just managed to claw my way out of in the past two years. 

To my surprise, I didn't sink back into that hole. Yes, there were evenings I would cry myself to sleep, and yes, I've texted him expressing how hurt and angry I am. There were even times when I blamed myself. I was sad and hurt but not overwhelmingly so. Some days are still better than others, but I'm not depressed or hopeless. 

So how am I dealing with it? 

I was tempted to minimise my emotions and sweep everything under the rug, but I quickly realised that for me to heal I need to grieve. I've also started journaling again, which has allowed me to release all my emotions on paper. There are moments I wish I could video call him to chat about my day, but talking to my friends and family on Zoom or FaceTime has been comforting. I've even decided to draft an overdue business plan.  

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Breaking up during a pandemic also reinforced something that I already knew: You don't have the power to control someone else's actions.

It reminded me that the only thing I'm in charge of are my actions.

Of course, there are days I miss him and feel lonely, but there are also days where I'm cooking up a storm, dancing to my favourite music, and just enjoying my own company.

Self-care regiments have also been therapeutic. Every Friday evening, I take a long bath, pamper my skin, and drink a glass of red wine with the sounds of Sade in the background. This has made me look forward to Friday evenings.

I have a job that I love and an apartment that's become my sanctuary. I want to use this opportunity to focus on me and emerge from this pandemic with more self-love, resilience, and independence than ever before.

What's your coronavirus relationship story? Tell us here.

* Name changed to protect the Lisa's true identity.

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