Relationships in quarantine from the honeymoon phase of togetherness 24/7 to cabin fever, irritations and beyond
Relationships in quarantine are getting ugly. What can you do about it? In the 6 years my fiancé and I have been together, we’ve never had similar work schedules. Fighting to spend time together has been a constant challenge in our relationship. A true juggling act. COVID-19 quarantine presented us with quite the double-edged sword … loads of time together. Now we have new challenges to total happiness. Being around each other almost 24/7 promotes annoyances, arguments, and “cabin fever” as Michael calls it. We are very different personalities, and this stress presents quite a learning curve. And if this isn’t hard enough, we are planning a wedding, brought home a monkey, are running an animal sanctuary, have home renovations, and are both recovering addicts.
Relationships in quarantine 100 days in
Some people are still in quarantine and some are working their way back into the new normal. I am writing this article after 3 months in quarantine with shining new insight about how to get along even better than before. This experience of enforced togetherness has forced me to take a look inward, as previously I spent most of it looking at my fiancé, Michael.
It’s easy for us to take other’s inventories. Taking inventory in recovery means looking at what the other person is doing well, and not so well. But if you’re always judging the behavior of others, you might well avoid looking at your own behavior and its part in your conflicts. After all, who wants to admit they’re a little passive aggressive, or not as easy going, charming and delightful as they think. It takes two to fight and two to get along. One person can’t shoulder the burden of relationship harmony.
For Cupid’s sake, what went wrong
With the help of my therapist and support network, I have realized that I get wrapped up in ego and self-righteousness. In other words, I think I’m right all the time. That can get annoying, so I need to work on personal growth. That’s the magic of being able to listen and learn in recovery. We are powerless over COVID and quarantine, but we do have power over how we carry ourselves, especially in our own homes. We don’t have power over our partners, but we have power over our emotions and actions.
So how can we negotiate our relationships in quarantine
I feel like I can speak for a lot of people in saying that the first couple of weeks were a honeymoon phase. I adjusted to working from home, and Michael carried on with his normal routine. I say that, but I am sure he needed to adjust to me being home as well. Some of us feel really comfortable in our day-to-day routines so having another house member home can be quite the upset. Change is uncomfortable, especially under circumstances such as a pandemic.
Personal preferences mean changes
It’s easy to focus on the differences and annoyances. For example, Michael loves background sound on in the house, and I knew from working in an open office that I was sensitive to sounds. Between the doorbell’s sensor chimes, message alerts, and daytime TV playing in the background, I have grown to be a madwoman. I can argue up and down all day that he has no consideration for me, or I can make changes myself. Now, I know working from home will be long term, so I can set up an office space in a quiet space. We need to find solutions that work for both of us instead of making one person the villain.
Managing cabin fever, go out alone
With couples being trapped inside together for days on end, cabin fever is bound to set in. It is important to go for a walk, get out of the house, do your weekly shopping, but allow me to suggest doing it separate from your partner. I go hang out with the kinkajous or take the monkey for a walk. I also think it is vital to surround yourself with other people in your social circles. It’s important to find balance. Spending days on end with the same person is unhealthy, no matter how compatible you are. Stir crazy is not cute.
Managing emotions, chill out
Being in recovery, it is easy to focus on the other person’s emotions or be more vigilant of their program than yours. We can spend too much time focusing on their needs and risk falling into codependent patterns. It is important to understand that a functional relationship under these circumstances is full of support and compromise, not smothering and enmeshment.
Know your boundaries, or create some
A functional relationship has boundaries. Healthy boundaries are important in any thriving relationship. (I chuckle as I write this, because the monkey is wrapped around my face with his finger up my nose. He has no boundaries.) It also has patience and listening. This is huge. I am so guilty of running my mouth, because my thoughts go a mile a minute; and Michael can’t keep up. This is common for a lot of couples! We process things differently and therefore, need to give time to absorb the information given. Listening is tough! It is a skill that needs practice.
Pick your battles
Here is a big one … it’s so hard for me … letting go. Pick your battles, accept that you don’t always have to be right, and let go. My ego makes this the worst for me. I literally stand in my own way. Take a moment to pause before reacting to your partner to allow appropriate response. And don’t hold grudges!
As for those of us in recovery — but this can apply to anyone really — try not to focus too much on the other’s program and defects. Give one another space and privacy to attend online meetings and have conversations with sponsors and therapists. At the beginning of COVID, I had myself held up in my car talking to my therapist in the Florida heat. Now, I proactively schedule my virtual visits with her on afternoons when Michael works late. It takes planning, open-mindedness, and flexibility. On days that he has his meetings, he gets the master bedroom to himself and I stay out in the living room.
Relationships in quarantine especially require self care
Last but not least, the ever-popular self care. Taking care of one’s self can literally benefit any situation you are in. The kinder we are to ourselves, the more functional we can be. Take time for yourself to binge on your favorite show, take a bath, or spend time with your alligator. That’s what I do. Make sure to be vigilant of your mental health and surround yourself with positive influences. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can handle quarantine with your partner.