What I Learned About Sustaining a Relationship during COVID-19 from Tossing a Glass of Water All Over my Apartment in a Fit of Rage

What I Learned About Sustaining a Relationship during COVID-19 from Tossing a Glass of Water All Over my Apartment in a Fit of Rage

I know about 100 ways to de-escalate a crisis. I have expertly managed countless crises over the years, everything from minor arguments to potentially life-threatening situations. While I haven’t seen it all, I’ve seen a lot, and I’m confident in my abilities to ease just about any situation that the Universe throws at me.

I’m annoying to argue with because you’re not going to get much out of me. I can manage my reactions like the Queen’s Guard. I have excellent anger management and can appropriately address and deal with all of my big feelings. I approach conflicts rationally and thoughtfully. I figure that if we’re going to fight, we might as well learn something.

COVID-19 has turned my life up-side-down in the most unexpected ways. There are days where I still don’t recognize myself or the words coming out of my mouth. I’m adjusting to my “new normal,” and like everyone else, I’m mourning the loss of my old life and all of the exciting things that this summer was supposed to bring. I feel like all of the vibrant color has been removed from my life and replaced by muted tones that aren’t my vibe. I have feelings that even I can’t identify. Many of my colleagues will call it grief, but that’s not quite it for me. I believe that this feeling doesn’t have one word to describe it. It’s a mix of anxiety, grief, regret, anticipation, and sadness. I’m anxiously trying to plan a future in “unprecedented times” while I am approaching a new season of life and feeling like I have already let so much time slip between my fingers.

My fiance and I have been together for four years and lived together for two. Before moving in together, we were pseudo long distance with me in NJ and him in Manhattan. I traveled to see him every Friday after work, and I would typically stay for the whole weekend. Adjusting to living together was excellent, but we also recognized that we had significant differences to work through, including our communication styles. We put in a lot of work over the years, and it was well worth it. We are so grateful for our jobs and the luxury of working from home, but that comes with a new set of challenges that most couples are not set up for. We are buzzing around each other 24/7, infiltrating each other’s space, and ignoring boundaries. Fortunately for us both, we like each other and have a great time when it’s just the two of us. We spend a lot of our time trying to make each other laugh. But we’re not perfect, we have had some of our nastiest fights while trapped in this apartment. Due to our frustration and different big feelings, things escalate so quickly that we don’t understand what happened.

Most recently, a minor disagreement about nothing ended with me tossing the water out of my glass and into the air. I would love to tell you that I am embarrassed or ashamed of this behavior, but I’m not. While this was out of character for me, it helped me to put things into perspective and realize how tightly wound I am at this moment in my life. We have significant stressors that we are losing sleep over, which is leaving us on edge. Just a few things happening here:

  1. We were supposed to get married in Mexico on 7/24/20, which is now (obviously) not happening. We postponed until 10/23/20, so now we’re are just playing a “wait and see” game to see if this is going to happen or not. We are from different parts of the country (I’m a Jersey girl, and he grew in Phoenix), so no matter what we plan, travel would be involved for someone. Having family and friends travel from AZ doesn’t feel responsible.
  2. Talking about the wedding makes me want to cry—the big, ugly sob kind. And we have to talk about the wedding.
  3. “Why don’t you postpone until next year?” Because I can hear my biological clock ticking very loudly. AND I have PCOS, so we don’t want to put off trying to conceive for that long. I COULD bring a baby to our wedding and might have to at this point, but it’s not ideal and causes stress thinking about it.
  4. We are both working from home (he’s here 100% of the time for the foreseeable future, and I’m here 80% of the time). We are fortunate to have an office space, but we are always in each other’s area and face. We try to set boundaries, but we’re not great at enforcing them. We get bored and want to laugh and play, but that means interrupting the other person.
  5. We miss our old lives. We love adventure! We used to plan elaborate “days of fun,” which always started with a boozy brunch, enjoying a museum or show and then landing at a bar and maybe dinner. I spent so much time not enjoying my life that taking these days out to make sure we were living it up with these experiences became essential to my happiness. He loved to travel and planning his trips, removing that has taken some of his sparkle.

So, how do we sustain this relationship?

  1. Recognize that you’re not in this alone. Your partner is also continuing to adjust to this new life that they are living. Their work-life/career has also likely been impacted in ways that you may not understand. Keep the lines of communication open. When we have access to another person 24/7, they may be getting our stream of consciousness rather than a coherent story. Make time to sit and discuss any significant changes that are happening to ensure that you’re on the same page.
  2. Set your boundaries. Let your partner know what you need from them to maintain a healthy balance between work and life. Listen to them when they tell you what they need.
  3. Schedule date nights. Watch a movie, prepare dinner together, take an online class, learn to mix cocktails, do an art project/craft together, play a game, or go out for dinner. You knew how important it is in a relationship pre-COVID, and it’s just as important now. Don’t ever stop dating your partner.
  4. Set time aside for meaningful conversations. Because wedding planning makes me want to cry now, we schedule our wedding conversations with an agenda and each leave with a to-do list. This makes everything far less stressful, and there is no confusion about who is handling what and makes me less likely to burst into tears.
  5. Spend time alone. Read a book, go for a walk or drive somewhere, color, journal, meditate. Staying in touch with yourself will help you connect with your partner on a deeper level.
  6. Stay connected to your supports. While it has never been easier to connect with your people virtually, finding the energy and motivation can be tough. Just like you schedule date nights with your partner, set up a schedule to stay connected to the essential people in your life and answer the phone when they call. I FaceTime my mother every Thursday at 5:30 pm, and she only lives 20 mins away. You will never regret reaching out to your people.

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