In this original series on STYLE Canada, we’ve asked Canadians to tell us about their relationships in quarantine – a.k.a: #LoveLockdown. Have a story you’d like to tell about dating during a pandemic, living with a lifelong partner under major restrictions or navigating a newly single life at home, alone? Contact us here.
“Consider this practice for marriage.”
Twelve weeks into quarantine with my fiancé, I have been offered that unsolicited remark on more occasions than I would like to recall. Twelve weeks into quarantine and I’m praying to every higher power that those words are not true.
We’re all going through our own struggles right now. We’re worrying about our health, our finances and the uncertainties that lay ahead. When that’s coupled with someone else’s worries, particularly someone who copes very differently in 1000 square feet of shared space that you cannot escape from, new challenges and stresses are bound to emerge. I love my partner, I love our relationship and there is no one that I would rather be in self isolation with, but to say these last three months have been easy would be one big fat lie.
Boundaries are blurring. Katheryn Maguire, a professor in the department of communication at Wayne State University recognizes the new dilemma of identifying ‘when work stops and relationships start‘. Romantic, domestic and work lives now reside under one roof. While this is the norm for some, it’s new for most. I was laid off from my full-time position in March and it was around then that my fiancé began working from home. He’s set up with multiple computers in our den but as you can imagine in a downtown condo, space is not a luxury and we’re always within earshot.
With an increase in daily interaction, couples are likely to experience more conflict. We’ve been fighting more and it’s hard not to feel defeated about it. I always thought we were great at communicating but apparently a global pandemic can change that.
My daily routine is what I’ve missed the most. I’m envious that my fiancé continues to work, is productive and has obligatory things to fill his day. I was overwhelmed with a loss of self-sufficiency when I was laid off and because that was the opposite of his reality, we struggled to understand one another. It took a few weeks of practice and there’s days that are harder than others, but once we both got into a new kind of routine, the arguments became less frequent and our home began to return to a peaceful one.
“I always thought we were great at communicating but apparently a global pandemic can change that.”
If I was having a ‘bad day’, I learned to make it known sooner rather than later. This prevented misinterpretations, miscommunications and hurt feelings. My fiancé got better at telling me when he needed privacy for Zoom calls or uninterrupted work time. We’ve established daily boundaries.
Work aside, it’s also unlikely that couples spent this much ‘time off’ with one another before quarantine. We had workout classes, dinner with friends, visits with our families and other recreational activities that were separate from our partners. With these activities and outings being limited if not completely impossible, how do we find our own space in a shared space?
Family and marital communication expert Erin Sahlstein Parcell emphasizes that it’s important to have some time apart or at least some time in parallel – spending time in each other’s presence but attending to individual needs or interests. This is where I say thank goodness for two televisions because he is not watching Housewives and I am not missing it. Having our own hobbies and figuring out how to enjoy them during isolation has proven to be more rewarding than challenging. I’ve gotten back into running outdoors, gutted and organized my closet, read several books and have had the opportunity to explore writing projects. He’s gone on bike rides, gone fishing and researched and planted our herb garden.
Along with cherishing our time apart, we’ve also come to appreciate our time together. Preparing and eating dinner as a couple every night is something that almost never happened before COVID-19. Now, we get to explore new recipes and experiment with new wine pairings. We cleaned and set up our balcony. We play Scrabble and go on walks along the lakeshore. We watch movies and despite what he might tell you, I beat him in Jeopardy.
Whatever it is that unites you and brings you joy, do it more frequently. When quarantine ends, the opportunity to have this quality time together may cease. It’s easy to take these small moments for granted, especially when they happen in between those of stress, loss and uncertainty. It’s also easy for small problems to feel magnified when you’re living in a glass bubble. Every situation is unique. I don’t pretend to know more or better but I do have experience in what’s worked for us as a couple. And if this has been a pre-marital boot camp, we plan on coming out of it with a passing grade.
“…if this has been a pre-marital boot camp, we plan on coming out of it with a passing grade.”