Five Ways to Manage Love in the Time of Coronavirus

How to adjust to both of you being at home

Photo: Counter/Getty Images

IIt’s only a few months into 2020, and already the year stands to go down in history as one of the most devastating years on record. COVID-19 or, more colloquially, the coronavirus, has rapidly spread around the world, with hundreds of thousands of people in several countries contracting the virus and thousands succumbing to it. This is one of the scariest times of many of our lives, and it is only made worse by feeling like we don’t have adequate information or access to the health care we might need in case of a virus-related emergency. As a precaution, many people are opting to engage in “social distancing” — keeping themselves indoors and avoiding unnecessary traveling or public gatherings. Without knowing exactly what to do in situations like these, this may be the safest option for everyone.

While staying home is no big deal for some, and some of us even prefer it, it can be a difficult adjustment for people who work outside the home, go to school outside, or are otherwise socially involved in things that have them running around the city. And when you’re in a live-in relationship and have become accustomed to only seeing your partner a few hours a day, this time can be a shock to your relationship, especially if you’ve developed a comfortable groove that relies on you having mutual space.

You two should be working together to get through this, not taking your fears out on each other.

Don’t panic!

You don’t have to fear the worst. It may seem like the world is crumbling around you, and you may feel a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. A lot of schools are closing, services are limited, and although some people are able to work remotely, others are losing jobs or taking significant financial hits. It’s not helpful if you begin projecting onto your partner; you two should be working together to get through this, not taking your fears out on each other. Your relationship can and will survive if you keep a few things in mind and follow these important tips.

Day one: Make a plan

How will you two survive the next few weeks, not only as individuals but as a household? What’s the division of labor going to look like? What do you need in your home? It’s a good time to take inventory of staple food items and household goods like cleaning agents and figure out who is going to do what. You don’t want to fall into a rut of neglecting things around the house, and you don’t want one person to grow resentful because they’re doing most of the work.

Make a list of what you’ll need for the next few weeks and head to the store. Split up the list with each of you going to a different store to cover more ground and save time. It’s chaotic in many places, so the less time you spend fighting someone for the last six-pack of paper towels, the better. Check in with each other, and send jokes and pictures of what you’re grabbing. Send funny memes and tweets to each other. Try to keep apocalyptic shopping as light as possible, and don’t forget to get your lover a treat — an “I was thinking about you” gift is always a good idea.

Day two: Enjoy the novelty

It’s still early enough to revel in the cuddly warmth of the quarantine novelty, so enjoy it while it lasts. How long has it been since you two spent some quality time together like this? Don’t set the alarm (unless one of you has an annoying supervisor insisting on a 9 a.m. Zoom conference). Sleep in and wake each other up with morning sex. When was the last time you did that? This is a good day for breakfast in bed, too, so whoever is on cooking duty for the day should make it happen. If you have small children, get them set up and occupied, then crawl back into bed. Study each other’s faces and stare deeply into each other’s eyes. Breathe each other in. Get reacquainted with the person to whom you’ve committed your heart. This is a day to move slowly, linger, and enjoy the time together.

Day three: Curb the eye rolls

The novelty has already worn off. You’re used to weekends, but now you’re on the third day. You’re doing most of the cooking and cleaning and feel like you’re in for a long ride. Relax. Breathe. Tell your partner you need to talk, and when you do, be honest about your feelings. Check the accusatory tone and let your partner know it’s important for you to have a chance to speak freely. Bring out the list and revisit your agreements for how you’re going to work this out. Ask them to cook dinner tonight, and even if they mess it up, thank them for the effort. If you drink, be sure to add some wine so you can loosen up a bit for the evening. Dust off that Scrabble board and challenge each other. You win, they have to remove some clothing. They win, you owe them a lap dance. Make it sexy and fun and shake off that annoyance. You’re in this together, remember?

Day four: Get some air

I recommend each of you taking a short walk each day solo to get some fresh air and take some space. If you haven’t done so, make this a priority this day, weather permitting. If it’s raining or snowing, hop in the car and go for a short drive. You need some time apart, so maybe one of you can run to the store for some items you missed or are running low on.

This is a good day to catch up on some work that you’ve been neglecting in recent days. Maybe you have a project due at work and need some time to get it done. What about all of those books you bought from your favs on Twitter? This is the perfect time to catch up on them. And if you feel helpless and want to do more, there are volunteer opportunities for those who feel comfortable going out and helping locally through mutual aid projects. You don’t have to succumb to isolation; you just need to be very careful and mindful of the people around you.

Days five and beyond: The new normal

We aren’t sure how long this pandemic will continue to affect people. As of right now, we don’t have a lot of reliable information about the number of people who have the virus, so everything is about being cautious. You’re making some vital adjustments that may require some creativity, so why not get creative?

If open, you can take a short trip to a craft store and pick up some materials for you both to work with. Your house could use some new artwork and decor, so making them yourselves could be really fun.

Another idea is to journal this process together. Get a journaling template and write down your thoughts and feelings about what this whole experience has been like. Think of questions like these:

  • What are my hopes and fears?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • How is my anxiety on a scale of 1–10?
  • Have I been as productive as I would like to be?
  • How do I plan to transition back into my “normal” life?
  • What things have changed permanently?
  • What have I learned from this experience?

Historians will appreciate that you documented your experiences, and it will help future generations better appreciate how we survived this pandemic and possibly learn how to prevent something like this from happening again.

Remember to tell your partner how much you love them. Use kind words and gestures. Hold each other more than you’re used to. If we’ve learned anything from the rapid spread of this virus is that none of us is guaranteed health tomorrow, so we might as well live our best lives today. If you’re in a loving partnership and want to help it thrive through this unusual situation, practicing mindfulness, compassion, and consideration is going to be the key to its survival. We’re all in this together, so let’s do what we can to stay happy and healthy through it all.

She/Her | Author, Activist. Philly-based, NYC-bred. #ReclaimingOurSpace #PushTheButton Google me. Twitter/IG: @FeministaJones Contact: bit.ly/ContactFJ

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