As we continue in our COVID-19 world, the months are speeding along for many, but seem to creep by for others. That may vary day to day, making it difficult to maintain a balance of all the parts that make up a life. Think of it as “calendar disruption,” and we love our calendars, don’t we?
We are still quarantined and lots of people are more anxious & depressed than ever. Question for the day, “Are people who are partnered and live together experiencing this pandemic differently than people who are not partnered?” The answer is “Yes.”
We have some important things to learn about the multiple reasons as to why this is true. For a third of this year, we’ve been closed in and haven’t been able to socialize. Some businesses that opened a month ago must close again.
Every day we hear that new COVID-19 numbers seem to be increasing, telling us this is not over. Pandemic-panic has affected people. Being patient, logical, and informed about this disease has been mind-stretching for all of us, and some are getting stretched to the brink. Let’s stretch a little more.
Cohabitating can be a challenge under any circumstances. Just because you have chosen a life partner or spouse, and are in love with that person, the struggles of adjusting to another person around you day and night remain. Some adjust more quickly, some may never fully adjust, but, under normal circumstances, a rhythm will likely emerge to allow you to get along well, be satisfied, and be excited to be with your partner.
Now, let’s look at the current situation. Living with another person during this pandemic can seem like a welcome lifeline, allowing feelings of security that someone is there for you. I mean there for you, during a time no one else might be right there, literally, because of COVID-19.
Aside from the conversations partners can have in their home at any time, no texting just talking face-to-face, there’s a person to share the responsibility of grocery shopping and errand-running. If one of the partners feels ill, there’s a built-in caretaker. Sure, the nature of a live-in relationship with someone you love assumes that caretaking role is always present, i.e. “in sickness and in health”. These last 4 months, and the next however many months/years, has made that partnership super important.
Another side of that security is that people may stay together in a relationship that wasn’t working so well before COVID-19. It’s doubtful many are going anywhere right now, however, because the need for togetherness and security is much more important. And in the end, that may work to bring people closer to one another throughout this ordeal.
Now let’s consider the unpartnered person living alone. Often, that can be a choice they have made. That level of independence, personal self-assuredness, financial and physical security, may be adequate to sustain that person.
Sometimes it isn’t a choice, however, and those personal/emotional resources mentioned above aren’t readily available. So, what can those who live with a partner learn about their friends who don’t, and vice versa? Here are some things to consider as a general rule, and especially during this difficult and scary time:
- First, ask about what you don’t know. Do your close friends seem happy, sound happy, and would you know the difference if they suddenly didn’t? How comfortable would you be to approach that with them?
- Be in contact. Texting is ok, it’s fast and easy. If someone is a bit down, however, it can seem pretty distant, even cold. Try the phone. For some reason, a lot of people seem averse to using the phone. Try it, you might feel more connected yourself.
- Don’t assume a single person has the courage to do all the social things that you can as a couple (and, hopefully, we will be back doing those things!).
- Consider gender. The generous invitation to join in a gathering, especially at night for a single person, can sometimes seem a bit daunting. I’m fortunate to have close friends who will have me go to their home so we can leave together from there for events. Makes all the difference.
- You can’t really visit a friend who is ill right now. You can see if they need anything, however. Now here’s how that usually goes, “Sorry you’re sick. Let me know if you need anything.” Response, “No thanks, I’m good.” Right now, though, be a bit more insistent; say you’re going to the store anyway, and ask “What can I pick up and leave at your door?” Just do it, you might be helping someone more than you know. And, for sure, warming their heart.
- Be aware that couples tend to entertain more in their homes than singles do. Often it may seem easier and more fun for some, and can create a sense of family. If the single friends you usually invite don’t reciprocate in the same way, allow that individual to take you both out or celebrate your friendship in some different way. So often the fun is being together, whatever form that may take.
- Don’t assume, because you haven’t heard from a close single friend for a while, that they are too busy or ignoring you. The majority of the time that person doesn’t want to interrupt what they assume is time for the couple to be privately together; that assumption is not necessarily accurate. Just touch base with them; this suggestion goes both ways. Note: don’t assume that your coupled close friends are getting along, that everything is loving in their home, that they are happy. It’s up to you to be a good friend in such a challenging situation; just reach out, show you care.
- Lastly, broaden your view regardless of your relationship status. Your friend relationships, as a single or partnered individual, are as important to your friends as to you. All close and solid friendships include embedded respect and trust, and the awareness that there are things you teach them, and that they teach you. We should revel in our close friends, and that’s for all of us.
I feel we will be in this for a good while longer, which means the efforts we sustain must be broader and possibly more difficult. Our close friendships are vital for the self-care we all must practice. Reach out to your friends, especially close ones. Do it now, soon and often. You’re really important to them, whether they’re coupled or single. Love is manifested in so many ways. Be well.