Difficult times have a way of shining a light on a lot of things in your life. When all is well in the world, and nothing is too challenging, you can usually ignore some issues going on in your life. Perhaps you are in the wrong industry and you know it but, the fun workplace, the coworker you have a crush on, and good office snacks distract you from that. Something like a, oh, I don’t know pandemic like the one we’re in now would land you working at home, away from the superficial perks of your job, and facing the reality that you don’t get much joy from the actual work. That’s just one example of a way that tough times like these can finally make you see some tough truths. It can do that for your relationship, too. I know so many couples who have only lasted as long as they have because life hasn’t thrown them struggles. They do well financially. They can always smooth over an argument with a weekend vacation, on which they just drink by a pool and barely talk. Again, avoidance. But when things get really tough and you don’t get to ignore the issue – like when a pandemic takes you away from your friends, causes financial stress, and even potentially causes health issues – you can’t brush it under the rug. You have to deal with it, and it may make some relationship issues that already existed, even worse.
If there was already codependency going on there, and you were interfering with one another’s growth because you always chose the relationship over everything else – travel with friends, networking conventions – that will only be worsened now. Now your codependent habits will become intensified as you’re quarantined together.
Over the way your partner talks to himself. Over the way you leave hair ties everywhere. Over the weird way he folds the towels. Over the fake laugh you do when talking to your one family member. If you were already nitpicking each other before, that will go into hyper drive now. You’re together all of the time, with nothing but time to focus on the little things that bother you about one another.
If one partner (or both of you) can be very possessive – always wanting to know to whom the other is speaking on the phone or where the other is going – that’s going to get very bad now. Regular life, like going to an office or the gym, allowed for some freedom. But now, you’re under each other’s watch all of the time.
Even those who are well off are facing financial adjustments right now. Their investments may have plummeted. Their borrowers, if they make money as lenders, may be defaulting on payments. Then those with more traditional income via work may have lost their jobs. If money talk has always lead to blow-out arguments, things are about to get even rockier.
Compromising about pastimes
Before the pandemic, you may have struggled to agree on how to spend your free time together. When Saturday rolled around, you’d argue because one person wanted to hike but the other wanted to go to a museum and it’d all end in a fight and you both bitterly doing something one person didn’t want to. Now you have even more free time so…that should be interesting.
Cleanliness arguments are so normal when you live together. It’s common to bicker a bit about who does more of what around the house. But if that was already getting pretty bad before the pandemic, it’ll become very volatile once you’re stuck at home all day, with plenty of time to ruminate over the state of the place.
Compromising about the movie
This isn’t a huge deal, but many couples do struggle to pick something to watch together on date night. You want to watch something you’ll both enjoy, so you can both be content, but if you have vastly different tastes in movies, it can be hard. Now you’re having movie night almost every night because there’s nowhere to go.
Poor listening skills
If there were disputes about bad listening skills happening before, those will be amplified now. Your busy lives and all of your time apart allowed you to be in denial about your communication issues. But now you aren’t busy, and you’re home, a lot, so you’re talking a lot. If anybody is a bad listener, this fight is going to come up a lot.
You can almost be in denial about having a selfish partner, when your life is full of other people (like friends and coworkers) who aren’t selfish. They have a way of masking your partner’s selfishness. But now, he may be the only person you’re spending time with, and if he’s selfish, you won’t be able to ignore it anymore.
Stress about a sex drought
Relationships will go through sex droughts. It’s bound to happen if you’re together for a long time. However, they can cause a lot of stress on the relationship. You’re both hyper aware of how much you are (or aren’t) having sex and wondering how you’ll fix it. At least when you’re busy, you have the excuse that you aren’t together all of the time. Now…you don’t have that excuse.
Lack of appreciation
This is a major issue that comes up, especially between couples that have been together for a long time and that live together. One or both people can become fixated on the idea that the other takes them for granted. Again, a busy life has a way of distracting you from these fears, but now, you’re at home, with nothing to do but over analyze every moment.
Outgrowing each other
If you were outgrowing one another before the pandemic, this situation will accelerate that. You can’t go out with friends, stay busy at the office after hours, and run around town aka running away from your reality. You only have each other, and now you may find that…that’s not nearly enough.
Do you or your partner (or both of you) handle stress in unhealthy ways? Maybe you become passive-aggressive, taking your anger out on the other. Maybe you turn to unhealthy vices. If stress only came in brief and infrequent bouts before, you could ignore your unhealthy coping mechanisms. But stress is pretty constant during a pandemic.
Being supportive to one another is one of the building blocks of a long-lasting relationship. That means coming from a place of “How do I help my partner?” instead of a “How do I help myself?” every day. So, are you retreating to your corners, and just looking out for number one right now? Or are you finding ways to support each other through this?
If one person in the relationship struggles with depression, that can be very tough on the other. A pattern of depression may have been hiding before, because you had things like your work and social life to keep it at bay. But those who struggle with depression can really suffer right now, and they’ll really see how their partner handles it.