couples

"You're thinking about exes." The 9 ways COVID-19 may have affected your relationship.

The state I live in is currently on phase two of reopening. People are holding small gatherings. Fewer people are wearing masks in public.

In some ways, things seem more normal than they were before, but there’s still an underlying sinisterness to the outside world that makes things seem very different. 

For me, at least. I’m overly cognizant of my hands: what they’re touching and where they are. I would love to go sit in a restaurant with my love (many are open in our area), but we’re both afraid of all of those shared things (table tops, napkin containers, etc.).

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In this new normal, a lot of us are facing weirdnesses in our relationships that run from the gamut of we’re doing too fine to why the f*ck am I with this person? All of those issues are legitimate and normal, and here are just some of what you may be dealing with.

1. You’re slacking on "quality" couple time.

You might be one of many couples that haven’t been "taking advantage" of this time (lockdown and the present) by boning 24/7 and hosting cute picnics in the backyard.

Further, stress can make things feel distinctly unsexy. You and/or your partner may have been essential employees and had to navigate the terror of that, and/or you might have faced financial challenges which can be extremely stressful.

If you and your partner were both staying home, it can be harder to be intentional when there’s so little separation between "work" and "home" time. You’d have to be creative for something to feel like a proper "date," and that likely has felt a little too much.

2. You’re thinking more in the short-term.

A friend of mine and her fiancé were supposed to get married in April, but our state went on lockdown in mid-March. 

Their wedding has now been delayed until the end of the year, but they’re not even sure if they’ll be able to have it then.

Many couples aren’t sure what to do, so they’re just focusing on the day-to-day. They might be holding back on trying to get pregnant, change jobs, or get engaged/married because they want a better sense of how things are going to look in the future.

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3. You’re annoyed by the differences in how you and your partner have responded to the pandemic.

You want to still be strict on social distancing, but your partner may want to host a small gathering. 

You may have been obsessively reading the news and staying awake late into the night sweating and anxious, while your partner is sleeping like an ignorant baby.

My husband and I were on the same page until gyms reopened.

"Masks aren’t required, and people are just going to be walking around huffing and puffing! IT PASSES THROUGH THE AIR," I remember exclaiming.

"I’ll be careful," my husband kept saying. "I NEED to go to the gym!"

Things were tense in my house for a few days. My husband felt like I was trying to take away his "happy place" while I thought he was being careless about our family’s health. 

We eventually compromised (he goes at only certain times, wears a mask, wipes down machines before and after use, etc.)

Your relationship might be dealing with even more tension if you don’t agree in bigger ways (say, if your partner thinks this is a hoax and you’ve stockpiled enough chilli to last a decade).

4. Your relationship problems may feel bigger.

If you and your partner already had issues, this pandemic isn’t going to make them disappear. 

It’s likely shot an LED beam at them, especially if you compound that with the stress and/or being stuck at home with each other for weeks.

Imagine you don’t agree on how you both spend money. Even though your partner isn’t hitting up the shopping mall during this time, they may be clicking "Buy Now" on Amazon a couple of times a day. You’re going to be just as irritated and even more so when you start seeing packages arrive every day.

If you were struggling to overcome a betrayal, differences in plans or goals, or any other major issue, those things may feel overwhelming right now, possibly even like they’ll never be resolved.

5. You may be fighting more than ever.

Stress and anxiety make even the best couples squabble. 

You and your partner may not have previously had the opportunity to learn how to fight constructively, or you may be dealing with new things together if you hadn’t previously lived together for an extended period of time.

My friend and her husband had to deal with the discrepancies in their domestic life for the very first time in their 11-year marriage. 

Even though they’ve both work full-time, the wife took care of most of the household duties and childcare. 

Now that they were both working from home, she needed him to step up more, and there was a lot of fighting until they came up with an arrangement that worked for both of them.

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5. You may feel closer than ever to your partner.

If you were already in a long-term relationship, you may be surprised to learn that you… like your partner. 

Maybe a whole hell of a lot. Maybe you never realised how much they did for you and/or your family. Maybe their positivity really helps you out of a tailspin. 

You’ve never faced this kind of crisis before together, and you realise they’re the very best person to face it with.

You could also be in a new relationship and this crisis and/or choosing to quarantine together has accelerated how you feel about them. 

While you may have tiptoed into a new relationship before, now you’ve felt there’s absolutely no reason to hold back with this one because the future is so uncertain, and you’re grateful.

Either way, you feel incredibly appreciative of this special person you’ve chosen to spend your time with. If you haven’t taken time to express that appreciation, you should start now.

6. You had to quarantine apart, and you have mixed feelings about it.

If you didn’t cohabitate during lockdown, you might be frustrated with now being "long-distance," even if you live in the same city. 

You might miss each other painfully and aren’t sure when you’ll be able to see each other in person again. You may be fumbling through FaceTime dates and upping communication. 

Your heart may not be growing fonder; you may be just getting increasingly annoyed and aren’t sure what that means.

You also might have the opposite feeling. Maybe you prefer being "long-distance." You’re enjoying having your own space and a break from being around your partner. 

You may be concerned this means this relationship isn’t the best fit for you, and that could be true. It could also be that being alone helps you cope better during this time.

7. You are craving some alone time.

My husband, our three children, and I were trapped under the same roof for nearly 12 weeks. 

Everyone needs and deserves alone time, and despite the fact that we each got a space within our house that was "ours," I couldn’t escape the noise. All I wanted was some silence. I sometimes escaped into the backyard just to hear the birds chirp, but I was always discovered. Can’t get that far in a pandemic.

Wanting to be alone comes with its share of guilt too. Why am I wanting to be away from my loved ones in this time of uncertainty and fear? Shouldn’t I want to clutch closer to them instead??

Having space from our loved ones is healthy, and it’s normal to feel restless or irritable without it. No one wants to be stuck 24/7 with another person. We all need breaks.

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8. You’re pretty sure you’re going to break up/get a divorce.

If your relationship was already on the precipice of ending before the pandemic, I doubt you’ve had a change of heart. But some people have discovered since the pandemic that their relationship needs to end.

A major life crisis puts things in perspective and a breakup might seem like the best option, but now really isn’t the time for it. 

You’ll likely need to keep living together until things settle down a bit more, and especially so if you and/or your partner are currently on unemployment. A breakup also will add a lot of extra stress in an already stressful time, so it might just be best to wait things out.

9. You’re thinking about your exes.

Zombieing or Submarining (someone from your dating past comes back into your life) has been on the rise, and it makes sense. 

We’re trapped in our homes. We’re lonely and scared. We might be reassessing our previous choices and want to do things differently, or we may just be looking for a way to pass the time.

If you’ve been finding yourself thinking about your exes, it could be a response to your frustration with your relationship that will pass when you stop being annoyed with your partner, or it could be because of another reason.

My friend who wants to leave her husband kept romanticizing her relationship with her ex and tried to look up whether he was dating someone or not. 

Another friend, who is in a happily committed relationship, kept looking up her ex who was a nurse. She said, “I just find I’m…worried about him. I wonder if he’s doing okay.”

Another one of my friends was quarantining separate from her boyfriend, and she added a few of her exes on Instagram. “I don’t know why I did it. I’m just bored, I guess.”

Now isn’t the time to make drastic life-changing decisions, but pay attention. 

Observe what’s going on between you and your partner. There may be something you need to address, but you might need to begin with working on yourself first. 

Your partner isn’t going to magically fix all of your issues. You are responsible for your own well-being, but now might be a time to consider whatever issues have come up during this time to assess what you need to do next.

Feature Image: Getty.

This post originally appeared on Medium, and has been republished here with full permission.

Tara Blair Ball is a freelance writer and author of the memoir, The Beginning of the End. Check out her website here or find her on Twitter: @taraincognito. 

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