If you’ve fallen in love with someone you only just met during the pandemic, you’re not alone. In fact, the term “turbo relationships” has been used to describe fast-paced relationships many have been having over the past six months.
Though the origin of the term isn’t evident, it was notably used in a study called Relationships in Lockdown, conducted by a eHarmony and relate (a U.K. website that offers therapeutic relationship support) on how people are responding to the pandemic.
What marks a turbo relationship? One where you reach various relationship milestones at an accelerated pace. Falling in love, saying I love you, meeting each other’s friends and family, moving in together, travelling together — if permitted by government health and safety rules — and even getting engaged, all within months.
With the pandemic, people have had more time to spend together, so it’s no surprise that these types of relationships are on the rise as new couples choose to bubble together. According to the study, “Over a third (36 per cent) of people newly living with a partner believe the past two months feel equivalent to two years of commitment, and common relationship milestones (like moving in together) were met quicker.”
But does moving at such a quick pace make for a lasting relationship? Can two people really fall in love so fast or is it just lust?
“Research shows there are different types of love and the strong infatuation and passion present at the beginning of a whirlwind relationship represents one of these types of love,” Serge Desmarais, a University of Guelph psychology professor, said. “The question then becomes whether this initial passion and commitment can be sustained and can become a genuine form of long-term compassionate love. For some it may be successful.”
Though the term “turbo relationships” is a new one, Desmarais says this style of relationship has always been present, though much less discussed in the past. “We live in a time when many people see it as a reasonable option because the social constraints associated with turbo relationships, or the social outcomes of them not working out, are fairly low for most people.” No longer are people concerned about till death do us part as in more traditional years past; instead, more people are going with the flow and living in the moment.
Victoria Radford, 40, founder of Radford Studio in Yorkville, was casually dating when she met her husband, Matt Couto, 33, who is also in the beauty industry. Since they began with a professional relationship, she was a bit skeptical when their connection crossed the friend zone. They would kiss on occasion and went on some dates, but she was uncertain whether she could commit. Her feelings for him were so strong so soon and she knew if she committed to him she’d be done dating anyone else.
And then, she let go of the what if’s and, instead, she allowed her gut feelings to guide her. As the expression goes, when you know, you know.
“I never like to bring age into it, but I do think there was something about the fact that I’ve dated enough in my life to know the feeling of something feeling right,” Radford said. “He didn’t really fit my typical ‘type’ I usually go for, and what I learned was that your type doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the feeling you get.”
The couple made their relationship exclusive on Thanksgiving two years ago when, at a dinner party together, a friend asked if they were dating. Put on the spot, Radford replied “of course” and the next morning, once she decided she was all in, she let her other relationships know that she was off the market.
She fell in love with Couto immediately and let down an emotional wall she always had in the past. “I wasn’t just playing around, I was now thinking of him as a potential husband and partner and I felt the difference in myself,” Radford said.
A month later they moved in together and, by Valentine’s Day weekend, they were engaged. The duo wed in Portugal 10 months later and she says they’re more in love now, during the pandemic, than ever before.
“The likelihood of long-term success is based on commitment, communication, openness, respect for our partner, having a similar set of life goals and objectives, and similar values,” Desmarais said. “The new love high is just the beginning of a process.”
He says that being attracted to someone and falling in love is wonderful, but it alone isn’t a sufficient predictor of relationship success. “As the relationship develops and people decide to make a fuller commitment, they will learn a lot about themselves and their new partner,” Desmarais said.
He says that research by John Gottman — a psychologist renowned for his research on marital stability and demise — has identified some strong predictors of relationship termination, and people who engage in a whirlwind romance should pay attention to them. The predictors are: harsh criticism of one’s character or personality, being overly defensive, that is, showing flagrant disregard for your partner, and what is called stonewalling: “becoming unengaged and unresponsive to your partner’s effort to engage,” Desmarais said.
Though some may judge Radford and Couto for moving too fast, the couple did what was right for them. “We’ve just been through tough times (including this pandemic) and we even more so understand each other, support each other and champion one another,” Radford said. “I wouldn’t want any other person by my side. I feel very, very lucky.”