If you’re in a relationship and have been following shelter-in-place guidelines, you’re likely spending more time with your partner or spouse right now than even just a few months ago.
On the surface, it may sound great. But spending this much time together can cause friction in any relationship, whether it’s relatively new and exciting or time-tested. According to a survey conducted by publication The Knot and app Lasting, only 29 percent of married couples reported satisfaction with the amount of quality time they are spending with their partner (it was just 23 percent pre-coronavirus) despite a quarter of those surveyed spending 35 or more hours with their spouse right now.
That being said, the survey also noted that most couples (68 percent) are making it a priority to deepen their emotional connection and are finding new ways to spend time together. So we spoke to some couples whose relationships span from a few months to a few decades to get their insight on love in the time of COVID-19, and find out how they’re keeping their relationships healthy.
From the New Kids on the Block
When Dallas couple Conor and Monica went on their first date about two weeks before the county’s shelter-in-place order took effect, they joked about how it may be their first and last before everyone went into lockdown.
They both decided to keep talking to each other, and after two weeks of isolation, they felt it was safe to start seeing each other again. But they quickly found out that when everything is closed, you might have to get a little creative in order to make a budding relationship still feel special.
“Every Friday he’d dress nicely, like he would if we were going out for a regular date, whereas, in the beginning, I was fully in quarantine mode,” Monica says with a laugh. “That first weekend we saw each other again, he showed up to my apartment dressed nicely and holding flowers; I was standing on the other side of the doorway wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt. It was a gentle reminder that even though we were in quarantine it didn’t mean I couldn’t do my part to make something feel special.”
The couple made every Friday a “date night” so that they could order a nice meal and just spend time with each other.
Most new couples long to spend as much time together as possible, but that’s not to say the couple hasn’t valued their time apart, as well.
“We both have demanding jobs that somehow became even more demanding when we transitioned to working at home,” Conor says. “Each of us was burning the candle at both ends during the week and there was a weekend where we both just needed time to ourselves. And that’s fine, but let it be known, don’t just assume your partner will know you want to be alone, then blow up when they don’t read your mind.”
So what advice does a brand new couple have for other couples out there? It’s simple: “Just be nice,” the couple says. “Even though you should always be nice to your partner, I think as time goes on, we tend to get comfortable and forget that. So it’s much easier to blurt out something hurtful in a moment of frustration.”
From the Newly-Weds and Recently Moved-Ins
Celebrating their fifth year as a couple while in quarantine wasn’t exactly what Austin couple Alec and Danielle were expecting. But like Conor and Monica, they also got a little creative and still made it special.
“We built a fort out of sheets and laid a bunch of blankets down so it was comfy, then made a nice steak dinner with shrimp, asparagus and a baked potato,” Danielle says. “We mixed up some cocktails and watched Star Wars in the fort.”
The couple had been living apart from each other pre-quarantine but the shelter-in-place order stepped up their decision to move in together sooner than they had planned.
Suddenly finding themselves navigating quarantine at the same time they were adjusting to their new living arrangement, Alec and Danielle quickly realized the importance of establishing a routine and respecting each other’s alone time.
“We got into a natural rhythm of having alone time on almost a daily basis. After work, I’ll go for a walk or a run, or do a home workout, and he’ll go fishing. So we’re not with each other 100 percent of the time,” Danielle says. “We’ve gotten a lot closer, literally and figuratively, since we’re in a one-bedroom apartment and share a table that functions as both of our office desks. But it doesn’t feel very different than how it might be if we had moved in together under normal circumstances.”
And their tip to couples trying to stay sane?
“Make each other laugh,” they say.
As for San Antonio couple Jaimee and Jeremy, COVID-19 threw a hitch in their nuptials planned for April 4.
“We had been dating for four years when he popped the question and were just SO excited to finally get married,” Jaimee says. “Unfortunately the coronavirus had some plans of its own. We decided for everyone’s safety, we would have to make the tough decision to postpone our wedding celebration. It was absolutely devastating.
“Jeremy and I still got married in a small, intimate ceremony — maintaining a safe distance — with our immediate families, a coordinator, photographer and our pastor. It turned out to be such a beautiful day and we are so happy to have gotten married.”
Despite everything, the couple says they believe the pandemic has brought them closer together and made them realize they were meant-to-be.
“My mom jokes that Jeremy and I have really been set up for success in our marriage because we’ve faced 10 years of hardship in the last two months,” Jaimee says with a laugh. “I’m not sure I’ve learned anything new about Jeremy that I didn’t know before this pandemic, but it solidified what kind of a loving and caring man he is. He wants what’s best for us and he takes care of me.”
And their advice for couples navigating quarantine together? “Pray and have faith. Trust one another and use this hard time to grow together and learn how to work things out,” they add. “Our faith has grown tremendously and we know that this will continue to make us stronger.”
From the Couple Whose Relationship Spans Decades…
This June, Dallas couple Nancy and Ray will be celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary, capping off more than 50 years of being together. So it’s safe to say they’ve been through thick and thin over the years.
“We haven’t killed each other in all this time and this pandemic isn’t gonna change that,” Nancy says with a laugh.
“We’re not totally on top of each other all day. We get up in the morning and each go our separate ways; I like to read the paper and he likes to watch the news. We both exercise separately or occupy our time differently. But at lunchtime, we reconvene, and for the most part, we spend the rest of the day together,” Nancy says. “We play gin rummy and backgammon, and have for years, and we usually play gin rummy four or five nights a week anyway. So now we’re just having longer cocktail hours and games.”
Although respecting each other’s space and alone time has been a common thread woven throughout this piece, Nancy and Ray say there’s one rule they learned quickly in their marriage and have maintained all along:
“A lot of younger people ask us how we’ve stayed together for so long and how we’ve kept our marriage going, and one of the things that we always tell them is that we have a rule that only one person can be crazy at a time,” Ray says with a chuckle.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Nancy adds. “Those times when you’ve just had a day and you want to jump all over your spouse about something, but they walk through the door and you can just see in their eyes they’ve had an even worse day than you, so you back down and let them be the crazy one for the day.”
The couple adds that realizing they share the house no matter what moods they’re in has helped them maintain a more forgiving mindset.
“Since we’re not really going anywhere, we’ve just tried to be nicer to each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt for things. We’re trying to be more kind and accommodating to one another,” Ray says.
Although that may be their own unique rule, the couple says there’s one major guiding principle that anyone can follow to help ease tension.
“This is a lesson that took us a long time to learn. I’m embarrassed to say, but we were in our 50s when we finally realized that we’re not in charge,” Nancy says. “There’s someone at a much higher pay rate who is in charge of our lives, so if you want to worry and fret and make yourself miserable, you can, but it’s in God’s hands. It’ll turn out as it’s supposed to.”
“Once you accept the fact that you’re not really the boss of things, it makes life a heck of a lot easier,” Ray says.
“Although, I am the boss of Ray,” Nancy adds as the couple laughs. “He realized that years ago.”