Pat yourselves on the back if you haven’t broken up with someone during the past six months. I’m kidding… but I think I speak for most of us when I say that this has been an incredibly trying time. I’ve never felt more stress about the world at large and probably never been more stressed in my work life. Add to that the fact that for 3 months Adam and I were both spending almost all of our time living and working inside a one bedroom apartment and even with him back in the office now, our life remains much more insular than it ever was before – and you’re bound to hit a few rocky moments.
This is a truly unique time to have survived with someone and there are a few things that have become even more clear to me over the course of the past 6 months. I think any one of these could apply to any close relationship you have (parents, kids, roommates, friends) not just a romantic partner – so I hope you find something that may feel helpful. Because who knows what the next six months will look like – but I know I won’t be spending it fighting about who should do the dishes.
A little distance goes a long way.
From going to the grocery store to watching TV, Adam and I have always tended to spend a large majority of our time together. So to some degree, the early months of the pandemic were probably not as big of a jolt as they were for some families. But that being said – two humans are not meant to spend every waking second side by side. And during the past six months it’s become more important than ever to be sure that we’re also giving ourselves a little bit of distance. Maybe that means me going for a walk without him or me going upstairs to read while he stays downstairs to play video games. Too much time together can inevitably lead to some quarreling or – equally dangerous – a sense of complete co-dependence on the other person. It doesn’t have to be for long or every single day even, but a little distance goes a long way.
Let them have an annoying habit. Or five.
Adam is a uniquely quirky person. His taste in music for instance – which ranges from deeply experimental jazz to hard core death metal to every song that Hall & Oates has ever recorded. And when the spirit moves him he will play these at a volume that rattles my bones. He also frequently whistle tunes over the mouth of a beer bottle. Come to think about it a lot of his habits are ‘noise’ related. But I stopped labeling these as annoying during quarantine. They’re just him. My life would be painfully quiet without him and I bet I’d miss the sound of him the most. And those habits that can get labeled as ‘annoying’ are bringing the other person some sort of joy – and truthfully not hurting you at all. Plus – just remember that your partner probably has an equally long list of all your quirks and habits.
Carry the extra weight when you’re feeling strong.
Inevitably, one person is usually having a worse day than the other. Maybe something went wrong at work for me or Adam was feeling particularly anxious – if that was the case, the other of us (who was feeling mentally/emotionally/maybe even physically stronger) would just step up and carry the extra weight. Because we are spending so much time together I feel like we’ve become particularly in tune with spotting these signs and no longer need to wait for the other person to come out and say “I’m having a bad day, can you make dinner?” which feels like such a relief when you’re the one struggling. Don’t wait to be asked for help. Who cares if you’ve been the one to do the dishes every night that week. Don’t keep score and just carry the weight when and where you can. I’ve found it never goes unappreciated or unreciprocated.
The only constant is change.
When the world comes along and rocks the boat of your relationship – it can be easy to feel upended. You had your routines, you were comfortable. But the truth is that your circumstances – and with it your relationship – are always going to be in a state of change. Nothing can escape it. All of life is fleeting and no one has a crystal ball. So when the rug gets pulled out from under your feet – it’s important to be with someone that you can weather that change with and continue to recalibrate throughout life. Rather than someone who you are with only because your current circumstances are set up perfectly to support that happiness. This won’t be the most challenging thing that we survive together (and if it is, we’ll count our blessings) – but that’s fine. We’ll be by each other’s side. And he’ll likely be whistling a tune.