Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: How is Quarantine Affecting Your Relationships?

Most of us are in week six of hunkering down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. How is it going for you? My days have become a blur of cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking, homeschooling, refereeing sibling squabbles, and periodically drinking shots of tequila to help take the edge off. There are so many things I miss about regular life, especially getting a babysitter and going out with Drew, away from our kids and our house and the monotony of the daily grind. I feel lucky though – first and foremost that my family is safe and that we can stay home, the financial hit we’ve taken has, thus far, been manageable, and also because all this togetherness and the stress of the situation hasn’t seemed to have negatively affected my marriage (… yet??). I mean, don’t get me wrong – it’s not like we’re walking around in a fog of marital bliss. I would not say this is not a situation in which we’re thriving. But we’re doing fine, all things considering. Here are a few things that have helped us stay ok, beyond sheer luck and privilege:

1. Having a clear division of labor
I do most of the cooking and cleaning and am a pinch hitter at homeschool while Drew is more of the head teacher and pinch hits on housework when I need it. We kind of fell into these roles because they’re what we are naturally best at in our home, but then we followed-up with a few conversations to make sure we were both ok with this division of labor and we are for now.

2. Have a routine
Homeschool hours in our house are 9:30-12, Monday – Friday (we’ve found anything more than that and the wheels fall off). Of course, we also have solo work hours (early morning and/or early afternoon), lunchtime, afternoon play time, dinnertime, family movie/TV time, and get-kids-ready-for-bed time. It’s all very exciting.

3. Creating “me-time”
Honestly, I think of this more like “hiding from everyone” but calling it “me-time” works too. Basically, at least once or twice a day, both Drew and I will find a spot in the home to just be alone and try to decompress a bit. We have a tiny balcony, for example, that overlooks a bunch of Brooklyn backyards and there’s a spot just big enough for the folding chair that I got Drew for Father’s Day last year. The spot is totally hidden from inside making it a perfect spot to “get away from it all” for like 15 minutes. I like to pop in my ear buds and dance on the deck. Also: many baths.

4. Having pseudo “dates”
Sometimes I ask Jackson to “babysit” his sister – for a small payment, which he finds thrilling – while Drew and I either hang out alone on the deck or watch a movie in our bedroom with the door closed. Jackson and Joanie might play games together or watch TV. It’s all super simple but helps break up the day a little bit and gives Drew and me some time together beyond the exhausted hour or two we have after the kids go to bed and before we pass out.

5. Keeping in touch with friends and family
It’s definitely not the same thing as meeting up in person, but a zoom call with friends can go a long way in boosting spirits and, like a double date or going to a party with your partner, when you have a group call that includes your significant other, it helps to appreciate him or her in a different light.

6. The aforementioned tequila shots
Enough said.

What about you? How is the current situation affecting your relationships? Are you quarantined with your significant other and, if so, what have you found to help keep things going smoothly? What are some of the challenges you’re dealing with? If you don’t live with your partner or, for whatever reason, are not quarantined together, how do you navigate that? If you were in a new-ish relationship when quarantine began, how did you decide whether or not to stay together?

21 comments… add one
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    veritek33 April 21, 2020, 8:49 am

    MofV and I rarely argue or fight. We’ve been married for one month now and the stress of losing the wedding we’d planned along with any honeymoon was sort of a blow. The most stressful part has been the inconsistent working from home and working from office. We are both “essential” but our workplace has us alternating working from home within our own departments and so some days we overlap at home and some days we overlap at work.

    My husbands birthday was last week and he seemed off for like three days until Saturday when he totally snapped and lost it on me over something so little. I called him on it, because I’d been asking him if he was okay for several days, and he admitted that this was taking a bigger toll on him than he thought it would. He didn’t get to go see his friends on his birthday or go to the brewery we had planned to go to, or really anything we’d planned for the last month including the wedding and everything after. It finally hit him last week and once he was able to talk about it – he’s seemed much better. We all can’t wait for this damn thing to be over.

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  • Kate April 21, 2020, 9:32 am

    We’re fine. We both WFH and split the cooking and cleaning. He does more of the dog walking because his job is more flexible (sales, and incredibly people are still buying the equipment he sells). I do more of like, wiping surfaces with Lysol and he does grocery shopping and taking trash out.

    I do find that the more we isolate, the more I kind of want to withdraw and be left alone and not be touched and hide in the bathroom, but not in a way I think is extreme or unhealthy or harming my marriage, just interesting.

    Emotions are a bit of a roller coaster but you kind of just observe and think, ok, this is how each of us is feeling right now, it’s fine. We just need to explain, I feel like this right now.

    I have one drink, usually a white claw, when I’m done with work for the day. On Saturday and Sunday I have a couple.

    Based on my jeans fit, I’m losing weight, which is weird, but we’re eating almost no restaurant food, and I’m not having sugary cocktails, so that must be it.

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    • Kate April 21, 2020, 9:39 am

      But yeah, I’d be a lot more whacked out without a routine. Having a 9-5 workday helps enormously. I shower, get dressed and put on some makeup because of video zoom calls, and that helps as well.

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      • Kate April 21, 2020, 10:18 am

        Also to Copa’s point below, I do not bake! I cook meals, but I’m not making cakes and shit.

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      Kate B. April 21, 2020, 10:06 am

      I’m experiencing the same thing, not gaining any weight, despite the only exercise I get is a walk once a day. I couldn’t figure it out, but you’ve hit on it. Very little restaurant food. I try to do take out twice a week to help our local businesses, but otherwise it’s all me.

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      • ktfran April 21, 2020, 11:07 am

        Same. I’m maintaining and I walk a little less than I normally would due to weather and even though I’m working from home, I’m busy most days. I eat a little more bread than I normally would because I’m tired of trying to plan about 18 meals / week. Open faced sandwiches are easy and take some of the planning out.

        Not eating out 5 – 6 times a week is definitely helping with the waistline and the wallet.

      • Kate April 21, 2020, 11:29 am

        Yeah, the money too, @KTFran. I’m spending less than half of my usual monthly spending outside of fixed bills. No restaurants, no bars, no breakfasts and lunches at work, no T pass.

        I do still pay our cleaning woman and I spend what I would have spent at the hair salon by buying gift cards to use later, and I spend a bit more maybe on DIY personal care stuff, but overall spending is way way down. Terrible for the economy though, of course.

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    Copa April 21, 2020, 10:04 am

    We don’t live together, but we’ve been hunkering down together at my boyfriend’s place. And for the most part, we’re fine.

    The first couple weeks I was consuming too much of the news (just say NO to Trump’s infuriating press conferences, guys!) and struggling to adjust to WFH and a new routine. My boyfriend works remote about half the time at his job, so he already had his routine down. It took a few weeks before I stopped staying up too late and sleeping too long. I started setting my alarm, getting ready, going on a decent morning walk, and that really helped.

    Particularly those initial weeks, my emotions were all over the place. Like the night I got irrationally upset that he doesn’t own a hand mixer. Bodes well for me that he is a very calm and patient man, so he hasn’t held my not-my-best-self moments against me and there haven’t been any arguments. (I think he found my hand mixer meltdown funny… because yes, it’s ridiculous, I know.) We’ve been able to have some productive conversations around what living together would look like, too.

    And I already knew this, but he’s SO SWEET to my dog. He’s been teaching the dog a couple new tricks and I can tell he finds it rewarding. The dog helps keep things light and keeps us both motivated to go for walks.

    I go home for a night every so often so that we can both have some space. Most recently was a night over this past weekend, and he commented that a few times he forgot the dog and I weren’t there and it bummed him out to realize. So that was nice to hear!

    Both of us are drinking more. We’ve been making different cocktails from a book I own, How to Cocktail, and it’s been fun. His friends were impressed by his mixology skill on a recent Zoom happy hour.

    I enjoy cooking, so I do more of it and have had some fun trying new recipes. I’m also dabbling in baking, which I was never super into.

    I put jeans on for the first time in a month this week and I think I may have also lost some weight (I don’t weigh myself, so unsure). Took a couple weeks for me to get the snacking under control and like I said, I’m boozier than before and baking, but I’ve started running again for the first time in a couple years and make sure I walk every day.

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  • mellanthe April 21, 2020, 12:17 pm

    My boyfriend and I were together when the UK lockdown was announced and we decided to remain living separate. We scoffed at the official ‘advice’ to ‘test your relationship’ and move in. We’re both cautious, and it would have been too much too soon. Typical for the UK we both live in small spaces – he has more space than me, but then I have to stay near my hospital. I would never consign him to spending 24/7 in my room (I have a kitchen, but no living room)- it’s too dreary even for me. I move yearly for work, and have been living in cheaper shared accom close to work for years, in order to save up to buy a place of my own. This was fine when I spent my weekends with family, seeing friends or the boyfriend, but when you’re cooped up, small spaces quickly feel stifling. Having the space for a partner is a luxury not everyone can afford.

    We try to make up for it – video calls, playing games together, online activities with him and his friends, talking every day. We have weekend ‘dates’ – playing or watching stuff together. And it helps, but it’s not the same as being able to spend the weekend together. I worry about him financially – he’s been furloughed and doesn’t know if he’ll have a job for long (much like many, many people), and it sucks that I can’t be there right now to make him feel better. He was there for me virtually when I had to take time off for coronavirus-type symptoms, but when you’re sick you want your loved ones to comfort you – it’s tough staying deliberately alone. And it’s tough working in healthcare whilst being denied your loved ones. But I’m lucky – I have a job. I didn’t die when I got sick, and I am in close contact with the people who care for me. I’m safe – I know many people are much worse off. I worry for the financial security of my BF, my family, my friends, and of course people in general. I worry about how many people are vulnerable and have poor access to the basics.

    As talk of when lockdown will be lifted continues, I’m torn. As a healthcare worker, I need it to continue as long as necessary. As a human, I don’t want to be apart from all the people I love forever. If lockdown continues or is intermittent, we’ll have to decide what to do when the time comes for me to change jobs in the summer. The plans we had for our future (stop being long distance and enjoy more of each other) are now all changed – because we don’t know what kind of situation we’ll be in by then.

    Amongst my friends (docs and nurses, mainly), the couples who live apart have remained long distance – key workers can’t up at the last minute to move in with a partner. Amongst his friends (non-medics), there have been more last minute move-ins – and from what I can see it’s going well for them. I do envy people who get to live with their partner, just a little bit – it must be nice to be able to hold the person you love, through all this madness. And yet, I imagine it can be a challenge for relationships – we aren’t meant to spend 24/7 together, and it’s not healthy for us to have nowhere to escape or nothing else to do. I hope those living in close quarters are holidng up and that their relationships aren’t suffering.

    It doesn’t help that I’ve stayed away from my family for months (before lockdown, even) to avoid spreading germs. I cancelled meetings with friends as a precaution before the lockdown, too.

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    • Hazel April 22, 2020, 6:04 pm

      Mellanthe I don’t know what else to say except a heartfelt thank you for all that you are doing.

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  • K April 21, 2020, 1:50 pm

    My husband and I are getting along well, but we always do. We’re both working from home and he typically works from home all the time, so it’s more of a change for me. We have a 2 bedroom apartment and it would be nice to have more space, but we’re fine. We both miss hanging out with friends and traveling, and some days we’ve felt more down than others, but we haven’t gotten snippy with each other or anything like that, miraculously.

    I’m glad all of you are losing weight, because I’ve gained, haha. I was snacking more the first couple of weeks in quarantine and have been better about that lately, so hopefully that will help me not gain or lose going forward. We’ve been using HelloFresh as a meal ingredient service and their meals aren’t the healthiest (they often have butter and sour cream) and are usually between 700-900 calories, but they’re really delicious and something to look forward to, and probably healthier than most takeout. I’ve been enjoying cooking now that I have the time and don’t have any activities to do after work. I appreciate the HelloFresh deliveries because when I went to the grocery store last week, there was no chicken at the store, at all. Completely wiped out. The beef was 90% wiped out. It’s hard to meal plan when you don’t know what you’ll be able to find.

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    • Kate April 21, 2020, 2:53 pm

      I use Hello Fresh too. Used Blue Apron in the past but I find Hello Fresh a lot tastier. That’s what I’ve been eating 3 or 4 dinners a week and have been losing weight apparently so it’s def better than restaurant food. Here’s the thing though, I usually only eat half of the portion. So I eat 1/4 of each recipe and my husband eats 3/4. He weighs more and works out way more so he needs more calories, and the half portion fills me up.

      I honestly do think it’s pretty healthy food, but don’t listen to me, I was raised on absolute junk.

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      • Kate April 21, 2020, 2:54 pm

        And yeah, it’s such a godsend in a pandemic situation!

      • K April 21, 2020, 3:34 pm

        Same here, I was doing Blue Apron in the past but think HelloFresh is more delicious. Their meals aren’t unhealthy but I guess I’m more aware of the sour cream and butter as compared to Blue Apron, where I was ordering more of the WW approved meals. I definitely eat the same HelloFresh portion as my husband, lol. My husband eats more than me in general as he tends to have a bunch of snacks throughout the day, but for the HelloFresh meals I just divide it in two. Maybe I’ll start dividing it so that he gets a bit more at least.

  • Ange April 21, 2020, 6:01 pm

    We’re fine. My husband still has to work so he’s been doing his normal thing while I work from home. I’ve been sick for so much of the quarantine up until this point it’s kind of been a blur anyway. Thankfully we have a good sized house and yard and the weather is still pretty good so we’ve been spending a lot of time in the backyard playing games and hanging out in the sunshine. I start part time work this week so we’ll see how I go with the extra free time stuck at home lol.

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  • bondgirl April 22, 2020, 11:21 am

    My husband’s job had been taking him away from home 2 weeks out of every month for over a year and I’d been seriously over it. I’ve also felt completely overloaded/exhausted for months on end, I think a lot of it related to work and physically being there. ALL of his travel is canceled until further notice and we’re both lucky to be able to work full-time from home. Additionally, we adopted a dog while we were still doing the regular commuting so now we have extra time to bond with him and the cat we already have. Being home with all 3 (husband, dog, cat) is a dream come true and my stress level ironically enough is WAY down. I honestly would be thrilled never having to go back to my office lol.

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    Bittergaymark April 22, 2020, 11:36 am

    This whole end if their world as we know it mess has completely shattered and disrupted my torrid ongoing affair with Bradly Cooper. And just when things were finally taking a serious turn towards a truly viable long term…

    Oh. Wait.

    Whoops. That NEVER happened. So sorry. But as I am now at the point where the only conversations I have with somebody NOT on a screen consists of me chatting with lizards over coffee… (they sure don’t say very much, talk about one sided conversations!) … well, my hold on reality is slipping.

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    • mellanthe April 22, 2020, 1:40 pm

      An imaginary affair has to suffice these days, sadly – and nobody can stop one of those, not even lockdown!

      Although, given that celebs are all AWOL, if you said you’d locked down with Bradley Cooper, nobody would be able to deny it…

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        Bittergaymark April 22, 2020, 4:20 pm

        Maybe I can lure Bradley out here with all my beautiful desert cacti pics…

  • anonymousse April 22, 2020, 3:09 pm

    I’m fine, we’re fine. My husband wants more affection when he’s stressed, and it’s hard for me. Not that he wants more is hard, I am glad we’ve still got “it” but I also have two small children to comfort all day. There’s been a lot of big emotions with a 4 and 5 year old. They are taking this all like champs, though.

    I haven’t left our house and neighborhood in a month, probably. We found a trail nearby that takes us to a creek and that’s basically my only destination everyday.

    We were hoping to buy a house this spring/summer, but now I’m not sure when we will be able to do that. No one is having showings, etc. I wish so much that we could get a puppy right now. I think having a ball of pure energy galloping around would really brighten our days right now. And it’s such a perfect time for us to all bond. But we’re not allowed pets in our rental.

    I’ve also been struggling with mood and stamina. I still feel so drained and I don’t know if it’s recovery from the virus, or depression, maybe both.

    Physically we’re all doing fine. We have plenty of food and supplies and my husband is still employed. But of course every day has it’s challenges. My son is so smart, but he is in kindergarten and the amount of work being sent to us daily for him to do is bonkers to me. We argued about it yesterday and I decided that today is a day off from school. It was all labeled optional but that was before school was declared home based for the rest of the school year.

    Anyway, solidarity. He’s hoping this gets better soon.

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  • Hazel April 22, 2020, 6:10 pm

    I’m fine as have always been a hermit and can, by great fortunate circumstance actually manage a big project from home right now, TF as all other work has vanished. My poor Mum just lost her partner though and was keeping herself going with constant visitors and distractions, she is suffering for sure.She’s right next to me so I am doing my best. I am somewhat lacking in vivacity and sparkle but hey I try. But we are all counting our blessings we live in the wilderness and that is the best thing of all and we realise we are so so lucky to have trees and space etc..

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