If your romantic relationship hasn’t been even slightly disrupted by the whirlwind of shit that’s endlessly swirled around our heads like a goddamn tornado over the past several months, then you’re either in a state of acute denial or you’re a sociopath.
I’m not kidding. I mean, come on.
When life as you know it has suddenly been set ablaze, you’re going to feel the burn of those vicious flames if you’re a human-being who emotes. When your entire social life has been ripped from beneath your Dr. Marten-clad feet and you’re suddenly confined to living in a jam jar with just *one* person, you’re going to feel a bit stir crazy — socially and physically. When you’re used to showering, slicking your hair back, and waltzing into the sunlight in fabulous fashions every day and suddenly there is no incentive to do so because there is no sunlight to waltz into, you just might not feel quite like your sexy, badass self. (Getting dressed for the world invokes a whole different set of emotions than rotting in the dark in dismal sweats.) When you’re used to whining to your friends at happy hour three nights a week and then out of nowhere happy hours have become sad sauvignon sippin’ hours in which there is only one person to bitch your brains out to, you’re going to feel generally annoyed — namely because you’ll be annoyed at yourself. Because when you only moan to *one* person, you become overly aware of how much you actually moan. And then before you know it, your bitching will have become contagious and your whine-infected partner will start bitching about life, too, and you’ll just get so annoyed and OVER the whole situation that you’ll feel like you’re falling OUT of love.
And maybe you are falling out of love. If there is one thing that coronavirus has done, it’s stripped us of that beautiful layer of bullshit we’re so used to draping over our lives like that gorgeous winter coat we thrown over our ratty PJs on a Sunday morning.
Pre Coronavirus Universe: Feeling empty as you lay next to your lover at night? We have the perfect solution! Get lit with your best friends after work every evening and come home too smashed to notice the big black holes in your heart!
Starting to wake up with that sinking sensation that maybe you’ve moved in with the wrong person? Don’t think about that, girl. You don’t have TIME to think about that. You’ve got to go to work, and you’re already running late and your whole team will feel let down if you’re late again! Tap into your social anxiety, not your love anxiety. So long as you hyper-focus on your social anxiety, you can trick your love anxiety into playing for the social anxiety team. Just keep yourself real busy and anxious and overworked and overstimulated at all times.
Starting to fear you have nothing in common with bae? We have the best cure. It’s called making sure you only plan big group activities every weekend so you’re never alone with your partner. Sit next to them at brunch to keep up appearances but gab to your girlfriends the entire time. This will fill the intellectual voids. You’ll only have to fill the sexual ones.
Oh, wait? You’re not into love-making with your lovely girlfriend anymore? BLUR THOSE FEELINGS OUT RIGHT NOW BY TAKING ON EVEN MORE AT WORK, GETTING EVEN DRUNKER WHEN YOU’RE OUT, AND COMING HOME LATER AND LATER AND LATER UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE TO F*CK.
Post Coronavirus Universe: All the shit you used to use to anesthetize yourself from experiencing the painful truth? We’ve pulled the plug. We’ve tossed out the (emotional) pain pill bottle. We’ve thrown the pretty plush blanket off of your body, and you have to actually look at those open sores, babe. And you might not like what you see.
Us: WHAT ELSE?
Post Coronavirus Universe: That’s all.
The glaring honesty of the post-coronavirus universe is intense! All the shit you haven’t wanted to confront is suddenly hanging out before your naked eyes in high definition.
But you know what’s tough about anything shot in high definition? The truth can appear more harrowing than it really is. Those open pores can look more open than they actually are in high def. The scars seem to gleam when scrutinized by that all-too unforgiving razor-sharp lens. I mean, how can you get a realistic view of your life when you’re staring at it all zoomed-in, unnaturally close?
Coronavirus might be the great truth-revealer, but it’s also the great relationship tester. Even if you’re swimming in the deepest ocean of true love and partnership, you’re going to have to swim against some rough rip tides.
What I really mean is: It’s not natural to spend all of your time with *one* person. It’s not natural to spend all of your time *confined* to home. It’s not sexy to wear the *same* pair of sweatpants every day. In fact, it’s depressing. And it’s very likely that you’re feeling depressed. There are a lot of things to be grateful for and a lot of things to be depressed about right now. And as a person with chronic depression, let me tell you, depression can truly mess with your head. She can do a number on your self-esteem with her extra-loud, extra-negative rhetoric. And when your self-esteem has been crushed into the ground, you’re not going to be the partner you usually are. You can’t show up like you usually do when you can’t even look in the mirror without spiraling.
And because of this, your partner might feel like you’ve rejected them. And maybe they’ve curled into themselves as a means of self-protection. And maybe the whole situation is rendering you both utterly disconnected. And it scares you because you’ve never felt disconnected from your partner like this.
So what does this empty space mean? Does it mean you’ve fallen through the cracks? Does it mean you’ve fallen out of love?
Like I said, maybe — or maybe not.
Because here is the one thing I know about longterm love: Everything you ever saw in the movies as a kid is a lie. You and your partner will not be seamlessly attached at the hip all of the time. You and your partner will not be in perfect sync all of the time. You and your partner will not ride the elegant tandem bike through life all of the time.
You will go through shit that makes it hard for you to be the perfect girlfriend/wife/partner sometimes. Your partner will too.
When I was younger, I used to think love was all sex and leather and rose petals and champagne all the time. I thought when all the glitter faded it was time to cut the cord and move on. I wanted endless magic, but then I learned that there’s something far more magical than the cheap thrill of glitter: evolving with another person. That’s going through tough times, like a global pandemic, and not giving up on each other. That’s crawling through the mud and coming out the other side together, as a stronger and more gorgeously scarred versions of yourselves. The journey was rough but you didn’t stop swimming and look how truly bonded you are now.
In fact, real love isn’t defined by the honeymoon period. The honeymoon period is a mild form of mania, as fun as it is (and manic highs don’t last forever, sadly). Real love is defined by how much you’re willing to let your partner be flawed and human and real. Real love is defined by how much you’re willing to expose your true, flawed self to your partner. Your true flawed self is gritty, for sure, but it’s the real you. There is no real love without the real you. And you’re your realest self when shit goes down. The realness is the diamond.
Diamonds are complicated and rare and hard to find, but they’ll outlive drug store glitter every time.
And once you’ve been your true self with your partner, you’ll know if the love you share is real once you let yourself get real quiet. And right now we’re quiet. We might be annoyed, we might feel like trash, but the noise of the outer-world is more hushed than usual. As long as you honor this moment of quiet and turn the TV down for a few hours, you’ll find that you know the answer of whether your love has grown bolder or is fading.
And if you’re afraid to get quiet? Look at that, too. It could be that you’re afraid for what the wise silence might reveal, but you should never fear the silence. The silence delivers the answers.