A few weeks ago, I watched my friend’s heart get broken as her (now ex) girlfriend aired all of their dirty laundry out via Instagram stories. Slide after slide in her story disparaged their connection, troubled finances, and lackluster sex life. A day later, she went on IG live to apologize, blaming the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic on her outburst, but the damage was done; their relationship was over. While their breakup was one of the more public ones I’ve witnessed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t the only one.
The coronavirus pandemic we are living through has had a profound impact on every part of our lives — our relationships are no exception. According to a recent survey, the number of people who desire to end their relationship has tripled from 2% in December 2019 to 7% in May 2020. Between health concerns, life completely changing/absolutely nothing being “normal,” and constant space sharing, it’s no wonder why relationships are under some pressure.
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 and all of its hubris is adding strain to relationships, but living through a pandemic doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence for your relationship. After months of more physical togetherness than even the clingiest, neediest lesbians could ever dream of, how do you maintain harmony and not drive each other bonkers?
Here are some tips for making sure your relationship not only survives but thrives during this crisis.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
We all know lesbians are known for “over-processing” (if there is such thing!) and talking about our feelings ad nauseam. But guess what? It’s fundamental to a healthy relationship. Even if you and your partner are attached at the hip and pride yourselves on always being on the same wavelength, you can’t assume she knows what’s on your mind. None of us have lived through a pandemic before, which means none of us has any past experience to guide us through these trying times. Don’t assume your partner knows what’s bothering you; you’ve got to verbalize your thoughts. My partner and I have a “check-in” at the end of every day, no matter how tired we are. We ask each other to debrief our day (even though we’re in the same house/under the same roof, we don’t always know how the other has felt all day) and what we can do to support each other the following day. This not only brings us closer together but gives us a chance to process our emotions during a very challenging time.
Make self-care a priority
“You can’t pour from an empty cup” is more than just some self-help-ish quote trope making the rounds on the internet. It’s true; we can’t take care of other people until we take care of ourselves. Though you and your partner are likely always together now (if you live together), it’s important to carve out time for yourself. Find activities and hobbies that are meaningful for you, whether it’s journaling, doing yoga, having Zoom get-togethers with your pals, or writing that book that’s been living in your head for years. Whatever your version of self-care is, it’s important to make it a priority daily. Make time to masturbate, too! Whether your sex life with your partner is lit or leaves something to be desired, it’s important to carve out some sexy time for yourself for self-discovery and stress relief.
Respect each other’s space and time
Just because you’re home together all the time doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. Make sure you both have enough space and privacy to concentrate on work and conduct any business you need to do throughout the day. My partner and I are both working full-time from home (with kids!) and have split our home into work zones (and play zones for the kids). Giving each other space is really important for maintaining your sanity and — believe it or not — a sense of closeness. When you’re constantly on top of each other, tensions are sure to rise after time.
After you’ve given each other space during the day, you can connect in the evenings. My wife and I spend most of our evenings together playing games, watching Netflix, or building IKEA furniture (don’t recommend it during PMS!). Other evenings, we might be in the same room and barely speak to each other, just doing our own thing and respecting that sometimes we just need quiet and space that not many of us have had in recent months.
Plan date nights
Sure, you might not get to attend that Brandi Carlile concert you had tickets for or hop out to the bar for a drink and dancing, but it’s important to stay connected romantically. Planned date nights can help you both feel romantic and keep your relationship from falling into a rut. Take turns planning a date night and surprising one another. Get dressed up (even if you’re staying home!), cook dinner together, or visit a museum online. The date night ideas are limited, but it’s a good chance to get creative and romantic, woo your lover, and let her know your relationship is still important.
Keep your sense of humor and practice gratitude
Since life has been feeling stressful as f*ck lately, try and keep a positive attitude whenever possible. Showing appreciation and gratitude for your partner can help you feel closer together and bond you much more than criticisms and nagging will. Saying “thank you” for simple things like putting away the laundry or doing the dishes can go a long way in helping your partner feel appreciated and cared for.
Share what you’re grateful for and watch the smile spread across your partner’s face. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to laugh. Injecting humor and keeping things light can be a saving grace for staying connected. Not only are there immediate feel-good rewards for laughing together, but it can strengthen your relationship in the long-run, too. In fact, research says that couples who laugh together have a better chance of staying together and feeling positive about their relationship.
Adversity builds strength (and bonds!)
While it’s true that couples who were in a good place before COVID-19 have had an easier time navigating these stressful times, even partners who were struggling before the stay-at-home orders can work together through their problems. Find opportunities to communicate and connect and work through your feelings.
Remember: Though our lovers can offer solace, companionship, and comfort, it’s important for each person to take responsibility for their own mental health and well-being. If you and/or your partner are still struggling, seek out virtual therapy. A good LGBTQ+ friendly counselor can help you communicate more effectively and in healthy ways.
Life isn’t going to be perfect all the time. Sure, we won’t always be living through the hell that is a pandemic. But if you and your love are in it for the long haul, it’s important to stick by each other’s side through better or worse. Know that this pandemic — and any future bumps in the road — aren’t a permanent situation. Stay focused on the good that is in your life and relationship, stick together, and know this too shall pass.