Raise your hand if you’ve considered divorce since the quarantine started. I KID I KID. But listen, it’s hard out here on these quarantine streets. And relationships with those closest to us (spouses, family, children) end up bearing the brunt of the extra stress and worry we are all carrying.
But no worries, I’m here to save you, sister. I recently interviewed a cognitive psychotherapist, Niro Feliciano, about keeping your love alive in lockdown. These are the most-asked questions I got from all of you amazing people when I put the call out for questions on Instagram. Let’s go!
Issue #1: Every. Annoying. Thing. About Your Partner is Amplified
I got so many questions that were variations on this theme:
“Just being around my partner these days annoys me.”
“My boyfriend is needy, but I need some time alone to decompress.”
“I can’t stand the sound of my partner chewing. Help!!!”
First of all, can we have a moment of appreciation for that last question? Hahaha. Apparently there are a lot of misophones out there.
Let’s get into Niro’s advice for those who are annoyed, more than usual, by their partners while in quarantine.
For those who are feeling generally annoyed, Niro suggests starting by asking yourself what it is you need.
“[D]o you need space? You may not be getting [it]. … We have to look at, what about your partner annoys you, and were these things in existence before the pandemic?”
The bottom line? We’ve had the space to ignore these annoyances before, and now they’re coming to the surface. Here are some steps you can take, courtesy of Niro:
1 – Decide if the root of your annoyance is something that was in existence before.
2 – Decide whether or not you want to address it now.
3 – Ask some simple things you can do to maybe help relieve your annoyance (alone time, self-care), and try those simple tactics first.
4 – Honestly address the issue with your partner.
5 — When quarantine is over and if the problem persists, consider addressing it with a therapist.
Oh, and for the misophones? This advice from Niro is hysterical… and practical.
First, the not-so-offensive-but-please-dear-GOD-stop-making-that-sound approach. She says you can try this line: “I know this is crazy, but I have to tell you, is there anything you can do about this?” “This,” of course, being your partner’s obnoxiously obnoxious chewing.
And if that doesn’t work? She offers this tactic: Focus on something else. I love the example she gave: You’re at a restaurant and pretending to listen to the person you’re with, but you’re really snooping on the conversation from the table next to you. Next time your partner does something to annoy you at home, just pretend you’re trying to tune into the other table—another source of noise or distraction—for a while. That tactic can get you by for a little while… hopefully at least through the quarantine, whereupon you’ll be able to go back out into the greater world and get annoyed by someone else’s chewing.
Issue #2: Everything is Political
“My partner and I don’t agree on politics, and now more than ever it’s causing a problem.”
Here’s another issue many couples are dealing with: They have differing politics, which normally don’t interfere with their relationship, but now that we are dealing with press conference after press conference after press conference, every day, it’s kinda hard to not talk politics.
First of all, I love this question. This is something that comes up with couples, pandemic or no, so let’s get right to Niro’s advice on how to deal.
She says you might want to bring up the emotions you’re feeling about your partner’s politics when you’re not in the middle of a fight or discussion.
Niro suggests asking something like, “Do you notice every time we talk about this, I end up walking away feeling terrible? I want to know, do you feel bad too?” That will help to flag those circumstances as potential fight-starters. And at least your partner will know what triggers these feelings in you.
She also says some couples have code words for topics that are touchy: Say it, and it ends the conversation on the spot so that you don’t have to get into the topic before it upsets you.
Or maybe, when you know something triggering is coming up—like a press conference—consider not watching it with your partner.
Some couples, she says, can get by with expressing their opinions in a calm way then agreeing to let it go. You know–an “I know this is how you feel and I’m never going to agree so let’s just let it go” move.
And for the record, Niro told me that couples that don’t agree politically can have just as successful of relationships as those who are in perfect alignment; the deciding factor, she believes, is how important politics are to each individual, and the degree to which it defines each person. In other words, if you’re defined by your politics over everything else, maybe it’s a priority to find a partner who matches up with you; but if you’re open to hearing other opinions, use the tactics above to maintain the calm and, well, not kill each other while you’re in lockdown.
Issue #3: More Chores than Ever
“How can I get my partner to do more around the house now that we are all home! I’m going crazy with all this work!!”
You can write down, on paper, the daily tasks needed to keep the house running. Then, in the least DO THIS NOW way possible, show it to your partner and ask him or her to be honest about some of the things that they might be able to help with.
But if that’s too direct, Niro says to introduce the topic by being honest—saying that the multiple household chores (and home-schooling, cooking, etc.) are a lot to manage right now. A simple line like, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on things you can do to help lighten the load” might work well, Niro says. She adds it’s always more effective if the idea comes from the other person—to make it seem like they’re the genius. Kind of annoying that we have to tiptoe around our partner’s egos (COUGH COUGH MEN’S EGOS) sometimes, but… ya know. Anything to get some help with folding laundry.
And when all else fails, sometimes you just have to be the bigger person. I KNOW, I KNOW. Niro says a simple question like, “What can I do to make you feel loved and appreciated?” might kickstart a conversation that in the ends has your partner asking the same question back, and then voila, you get your needs met, too.