Alexandrea Fiorante glued a pair of feathery false eyelashes to her glittered eyelids as she chugged down a beer. She then slipped into a backless black dress before piling into an Uber with her friends.
Destination? Any club she could get a cute picture to post on Instagram, simultaneously making her ex jealous and proving that she’s “winning” the breakup.
At least that’s how she imagined dealing with the heartbreak of ending her long-term relationship with her partner last November. But the continuous lockdowns in Toronto have restricted Fiorante from taking the rom-com suggested formula for getting over a breakup.
Instead, she had to sit alone in her bedroom with her grief, anger and confusion.
Fiorante is not alone. The outbreak of COVID-19 led to a spike in breakups in Canada, with around 15 per cent of couples calling it quits over the course of the pandemic, according to a report published by Finder Canada. Couples between the ages of 18 to 24 reported the highest relationship fatalities at around 25 per cent.
Sarah Knudson, a sociology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, says that younger couples crumbled at a higher rate because the stress from the pandemic amplified the stresses and chaos young adults were already experiencing.
It’s a period full of upheaval and unpredictability, explains Knudson, because lives are constantly shifting throughout young adulthood as people figure out who they are. When the pandemic hit, it brought with it a whole new realm of stresses that collided with these existing ones.
“There have been massive changes in our routine,” says Knudson. “We’re being overexposed and underexposed to certain situations and people.”
Couples who were living together had to learn how to manage being home with one another 24-7, something that is not normal or healthy, says Knudson. Couples living apart had to face the opposite problem of not being able to see one another due to lockdown restrictions.
In the best case scenario, it left the couples living together feeling overstimulated by their partner’s presence and resulted in petty bickering matches. The couples living apart had to combat transitioning into a new version of long-distance dating and find other ways of spending time together.
But for couples who were already experiencing difficulties or uncertainties, the stress of the pandemic culminated in some people reaching their breaking points and calling it quits.
While Knudson believes some of the breakups that occurred during the pandemic could have been victims of bad timing, ultimately she says that most of them likely had communication issues and different values from the beginning.
Dorina Sluka had always felt like her and her partner were at different chapters in their lives. Their relationship was one of convenience, not partnership. They didn’t really communicate, they just lived in the same city and were around the same age.
When the pandemic hit and she made the decision to move back home with her parents, all her doubts about the relationship came to the surface and she decided to end it.
When she reflects on the breakup, Sluka says that it was inevitable and the pandemic just gave her a “valid reason.”
“I didn’t believe that my unhappiness was a good enough reason to end the relationship,” she says. “I needed to grow and develop the ability to voice my needs.”
This need to grow is also another contributing factor to the spike in breakups amongst young adults, Khudson says. Some relationships are meant to be learning blocks and are not destined to be long-term.
“Through those experiences you learn more about yourself,” she says. “You learn what you want in life.”
Fiorante found that the isolation helped her healing process, despite it being debilitating at first.
“It felt like the movie Groundhog Day—it still does sometimes,” she says. “It was scary, but also comforting. I didn’t have to rush to get over it.”
Sluka too benefited from the isolation. When dealing with previous breakups, she would always find herself immediately trying to find a new partner. Instead, she was able to strengthen her connection to her family, her friends and to herself. Now she understands and respects her needs.
Ultimately, Fiorante feels like she is lucky to have had a pandemic breakup. The isolation-induced introspection kick-started a creative project she had sat on for years, giving her a renewed sense of purpose through channeling her energy into something she could be proud of.
Fiorante says she now has the time to nurture the many facets of her personality and is looking forward to continuing to grow as an individual.
“It’s a never ending journey—you’re in constant evolution,” she says. “You’re dynamic, baby!”
About the author
Olivia Matheson-Mowers is a former reporter for Youth Mind. When she’s not writing, or playing with her cat, Daisy, you can find her curled up in her heated blanket watching seasons 1-6 of Dragon Ball Z and complaining about seasons 7-9.