How to stay sane when you're suddenly spending *a lot* more time with your partner

By Lea Rose Emery

Choosing to move in together is a huge step — one that you normally think about a lot. How will you manage your alone time? Are you ready for this level of intimacy? Will they judge you when they see you eating peanut butter from the jar wearing nothing but a bra and a single sock? 

But no matter how much you thought, prepared, and planned to move in together, there’s a good chance that nothing prepared you for lockdown life. Whether you were already cohabiting or you decided to self-isolate as a couple, you’ve probably gone from spending a fair amount of time together to... well, what can feel like an unfair amount of time together. 

Remember that everyone is in this together and, no matter how frustrating it can feel, staying at home is the best thing you can do for yourself, people you care about, and the healthcare workers on the frontline. If you feel like that’s taking a toll on your relationship, you’re not alone — a lot of people are adjusting to living on top of their partner. Here’s how to make it go smoothly (or as smoothly as it can). 

Expect there to be bumps in the road

Firstly, admit that it’s not going to be easy. As soon as we found out about the lockdown, my girlfriend and I looked at each other and said, “We’re going to want to kill each other some days.” That doesn't mean you should give up or stop trying to make your relationship as happy and healthy as possible, but knowing there are going to be tough days makes it a lot easier when they come along. Remember that they’re to be expected, and try not to panic or overthink them. 

Communicate more than you think you need to 

You might think that you and your partner are always on the same page or that you know each other like that back of your hand, but more is always more when it comes to communication. If you feel a little grumpy, explain that. If you’re having a day where you feel low and you’re not sure why, tell them. When you spend a lot more time together than normal, it’s easy to get paranoid and assume your partner is angry at you, when really it's just an off day. Keeping communication strong is key. 

Find alone space — or at least some alone time

Ideally, you’ll have some separate space — different workstations, different rooms, or maybe even some outdoor space you can spend time in. But not all of us are that lucky. So if you can’t find separate physical locations to spend time in, make sure you’re carving out alone time in other ways. It may be watching a movie with your headphones in, having a long shower, or just going for a walk by yourself. If you're feeling particularly stir-crazy, phone calls or video chats with separate friends can be a lifesaver. It’s important to give yourself that headspace away from your partner.

Don’t overthink your sex life

Some people are embracing the lockdown with sex every second of the day — great, go for it! You’ve got a lot of time on your hands, after all. It can be a great way to relieve stress and feel like you’re taking a break from the pressure of lockdown. 

But you might find that your sex life is dwindling. Maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s just not being able to get out of your own head, or maybe you’re just in a weird effing mood because you’re in the middle of a pandemic — that’s OK, too. Don’t sweat it. As long as you and your partner are communicating and both feel secure, you don’t need to fret about how much (or how little) sex you’re having. 

Try to set a routine

For a lot of us, any taste of normality can be really grounding right now — so giving yourself a little routine can be a huge help. Brush your teeth and put on day clothes (or at least daytime pyjamas), take a lunch break, plan a special meal, have a weekly movie night. It doesn’t really matter what the routine looks like, it’s about having some kind of ritual that works for you with little moments for you and your partner to look forward to. 

Let yourself off the hook

A lot of our relationship struggles come from when we project our own frustrations or bad feelings onto our partner or just into our shared emotional space. When I’m having a low day — feeling restless or not being able to be productive — my partner often has to shoulder that. Try to breathe and let yourself off the hook. It’s a weird time, it’s a scary time, it’s a confusing time. You’re going to have days that are harder than others, even in your own head, so try to sit with that and accept it rather than passing it on. 

Be thankful for what you have 

Finally, try to keep some perspective. There is so much suffering happening right now — people are panicked and grieving, they are scared and vulnerable. That pain doesn’t erase your own struggles and frustrations — and you shouldn’t minimize how you’re feeling, you should process it. But it can help to be grateful for what you have, whatever that might be. Taking stock of what’s good and happy in your life, taking a moment to acknowledge that, can help you stop sweating the small stuff and maybe even keep you from having a breakdown about who finished the last of the mustard or talked through the last episode of Ozark. Just saying.

Even the strongest of relationships can be shaken by life under lockdown — that’s OK. Keep talking, keep supporting, and remember that there will be good days and bad days. You're on the same team, after all, so tackle it together.

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