Three months before the world was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of nearly four years. It was really hard and emotionally exhausting, but it just wasn’t working and I needed my own space for a while. I was excited to spend more time with my friends, go partying and meet new (sexy) people. That of course, was before lockdown.

Right now, Victoria is in its sixth week of its sixth lockdown while Sydney is in the 10th week of its third. I think I can safely say many of us thought we were in the clear after enjoying a summer where most places were opened up. But that’s not the case, for some this is our second (or sixth) lockdown being single. For others it’s their first single-lockdown after suffering a hard breakup.

For me, the last eighteen months have been this weird single limbo, where I feel like I’m still waiting for my life to start. I got into a relationship straight out of high school, so being single is all very new to me. It’s even harder to navigate when you’ve been in a hard lockdown for more than six months altogether (I live in Melbourne for context).

It’s also difficult when people are allowed to visit their intimate partner during lockdown, yet most single people can’t visit anyone’s house unless they live alone (you can read more about that here).

The rules are in place for a reason, but it’s hard to enjoy being single when you’re not even allowed to do normal-single-person-things like dating or hooking up with a random at Revs (yes, I am speaking from experience here). With nothing to do, it’s easy to fall into the trap of dating apps or upgrading your FWB to an intimate parter. But all these things are quick-fixes… so how are people really coping with being single right now?

I decided to ask some of my friends and coworkers about their experiences being single in a lockdown and turns out I’m not the only one who is finding it ~weird~.

While nearly half of them said they were single and happy (love this for them), a decent chunk were feeling lonely – whether or not they were actively looking for a partner. A couple of people were seeing someone casually and others were looking for a partner.

Even though I’d mostly sit in the single and happy camp, that feeling of loneliness is something I can definitely relate to. Some times are harder than others, like previously living with one other housemate who had a partner. But other times, the thought of someone else being in my personal space all the time makes me want to dry heave.

Lauren, 22

“I’ve found the hardest part of it is seeing friends fall into relationships or continue their happy relationships. Maybe I’m bitter or maybe I’m just lonely and crave intimacy with another person?

“For the most part, I’m happy on my own and the thought of a partner feels like a bit of a chore. But other times, loneliness is all I feel. Wouldn’t it be nice to get into bed with someone, wake up in someone’s arms or have someone who you can see regularly during these trying times?

“Sure housemates and friends are great, but a lover would be nice sometimes too. It’s not always hard but it’s not always easy. Being single is great, but some days you can’t help but crave the touch of another.”

Jack, 24

“Emotionally I’m coping, but it would be nice to hook up.”

Laura, 25

“I’ve felt lonely more frequently and for longer periods than I usually do but I am not interested in dating during lockdown.”

Billie, 27

“I guess you could say lockdown kind of turned my very casual relationship into more of a serious one.

“I was very happily single and casually seeing a guy before lockdown hit. I’d just come out of a bad relationship and didn’t want to rush back in. Then Locky D happened and I kind of found dating intensified. We spend a few nights a week together, we’re “intimate partners by law”, our families and friends know we’re together and we’ve admitted we’re falling for each other.

“But we’re both very aware that lockdown can cause turbo relationships and I don’t think either of us are ready for that kind of intensity. Maybe we’ll just keep dating until we can try this shit out in the real world to make sure we’re ready for it to stick.”

Maria, 27

“I definitely feel lonelier being a single extravert in lockdown. Especially compared to pre-Covid when I never felt negative about being single – my busy social life, jobs and casual dating life fulfilled me. I’m also conscious of getting into my late 20s and having so many dating hiatuses thanks to Miss Rona.”

Ellie, 25

“It’s been kind of hard since I went through a bad breakup just three months before lockdown. I like to stay optimistic and desperately wanted some time to be single after years of relationship after relationship, but having two roommates with long-term partners that have been able to come and go during lockdown has been hard.

“Not only that but my two closest friends are in new relationships and stupidly happy. My siblings are locked down at my parents’ house so that adds to the loneliness, too. Again though, I don’t mind the solo time, and I understand the rules around lockdowns so I’m not complaining, but it can definitely be hard for a single gal out here.”

Sam, 23

“Hard sometimes, I have tried casual flings when I have been lonely however I have found casual flings don’t fix this feeling, so I would rather be completely alone right now (nothing casual), I see it as a really good learning experience.”

Realising that having casual flings doesn’t fix loneliness is one of the most liberating things you can figure out for yourself. It’s called a ‘fling’ for a reason – it’s not deep, it’s not meaningful, and a lot of the time it can be kind of shit

It’s a quick fix for something that really just requires a lot of self-work. I would argue, that the majority of people are still figuring this out and are jumping into things without fixing themselves first. I know I’ve made that mistake before.

That might actually be one of the only upsides to being in lockdown, because it gives you time to do some real self-reflection.

A New York Times article calls this era of self-work: a “healing girl summer.” Based on every basic bitch’s favourite Instagram caption, #HotGirlSummer, a healing girl summer is about learning to love yourself.

Ellie, 25

“I think I’ve learned a lot about the values of being single. Yes, 99% of my friends are in relationships, but the loneliness of that is often negated by the fact that the people my friends have met aren’t exactly the kind I would date, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything.

“Also, seeing the ups and downs from a third-party perspective helps as well. I think my ability to avoid reaching out to exes has been nothing short of impressive, and up until now, I’ve underestimated my self-control and ability to be alone.”

Anonymous, 23

“When times are hard it’s way more important to invest in current relationships like friends and family than pursue shallow chats with multiple randos in the hopes of finding romance. When I took my dating app effort and turned that effort into messaging friends/family, lockdown became less lonely and more manageable.”

Sam, 23

“I have (recently) learned that it is better for me not to sleep with someone just for the sake of it or to try fill the void, as it only does so temporarily and often makes me feel worse and used after. I have also learned how much I like spending time by myself, that being alone is different than being lonely (although sometimes you can be both simultaneously).”

Lucy, 19

“However difficult life can be, I don’t NEED a partner!”

Lauren, 22

“I’m happy on my own. I don”t need a partner to be happy and that’s okay. I think my long term goals in life changes too. I’ve realised I don’t have to marry anyone, I don’t have to settle and have kids and that whole storyline. I’m content with being single at any point in my life because frankly, people suck. Dating is fun and sex is great too, but I don’t need it to be fulfilled in life.

“Invest in yourself and your happiness. Learn about yourself, learn to grow, change and evolve into a better version of you. Go to therapy. Start meds. Take a look at yourself and realise the only person who will truly be with you forever is you. So make yourself a priority.”

When things do finally open up, I don’t know if I’ll even care about the single time I ‘missed’ anymore. Having all this time to think and be alone has really made me reassess what I want and more importantly what makes me happy. I think a lot of people, like my friends and coworkers, are in the same boat. I no longer feel a pressure to engage in hook up culture because that’s what you do in your 20s, or even to find a partner because that’s what my friends have done. I’m only interested in what feels good to me, and I honestly think that’s enough.