At first, self-isolation might have sounded like a dreamy scenario to lounge with your partner 24/7, have dinner together every night and spice things up with lunchtime sex.
But… that couldn’t last forever.
Now his every breath bothers you (did he always breathe this loudly?) and you can’t stand how she constantly says ‘let’s circle back’ during work Zoom chats.
Whether you were already living with your partner when this started or decided to move in together as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s natural to feel as if your other half has morphed from a lovely distraction to an annoyance.
You’re constantly on top of each other (no longer literally), so things will undoubtedly get tense as we move further into self-isolation.
But don’t let this time ruin your relationship, because coronavirus won’t last forever – here’s how to make sure your love does.
How to avoid having a fight with your partner
‘Being cooped up inside for long periods of time would put a strain on the strongest of relationships,’ says Pam Custers, a couples counsellor who runs a relationship practice in Wimbledon and is a member of the Counselling Directory.
‘The trick to harmony is all the things we need to attend to before we notice the inevitable strains. The first is to set the relationship up for success. Then when the inevitable irritations occur, the relationship will have some emotional capital to draw on.’
To keep your relationship healthy, implement a structure to your day – and don’t be afraid to ask for some space as and when you need it.
Pam explains: ‘Write a timetable of your life before lockdown and now try and replicate this with online events. Work, sport and friends can all be replicated.
‘Keep up all the contact you usually have outside of the relationship. This includes showering and dressing. Keep the rhythm of your week individually and as a couple.
‘Claim your space. Needing space is not a rejection.’
Have you realised that your partner likes to cut his or her toenails in the living room?
Are they suddenly obsessed with baking banana bread and taking over the kitchen?
If you can, try not to sweat the small stuff.
Pam says: ‘Acknowledge that this will be tough but you are both going to make this time a good one for each other.
‘Decide that you are going to cut each other some slack. Focusing on the small irritations will wear the relationship thin. This is not the time to get irritated about how the dishwasher gets packed.’
What to do if you have a fight with your partner
A global pandemic is scary and you or your other half might understandably be stressed about it, which could cause more tension.
So if it feels like the fights are becoming more frequent, organise some fun activities to bond with your partner during this time.
‘It’s important to keep the romance alive,’ says Natasha Briefel from the dating app, Badoo.
‘Try switching off the TV and enjoying some romantic activities – take turns to cook dinner for one another, play card games, take an online class together – the list is endless,’ she adds.
‘Just remember that it is completely normal to have disagreements. What’s abnormal, is to be permanently locked in one space together, so it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing well if you’re having a tiff every now and then. What’s important above all is just to be honest with one another.’
OK, you’ve tried being understanding, you’ve tried enjoying each other’s company but it’s all ended with a big shouting match.
What should you do to resolve the situation?
Obviously it’s hard to get away from each other during self-isolation, but there are ways around it, explains Pam.
‘See if your partner is receptive to talk,’ she says.
‘If not, give each other some space. Go and have a bubble bath. Do some yoga or go for a run.
‘Choose a good time to talk. Ideally this should be when neither of you are tired, hungry or having had alcohol. Have a discussion that is amicable. This is not a win or lose situation. You are team players on the same team. Focus on a win-win.’
Some of Pam’s top tips include really listening to your partner (sometimes the fight isn’t actually about what you thought) but also making sure your own concerns are being heard.
Be respectful and whatever you do, don’t argue standing up.
‘Arguing standing up can easily escalate,’ she says.
‘Decide to listen to your partner and not interrupt. If your partner leaves the room in the middle of an argument, don’t follow. It is their way of trying to cool off. Give them space and suggest you talk about it later when you have both calmed down.’
When you’re both ready to talk, aim to be compassionate and don’t throw personal insults.
‘When raising an issue with a partner try the XYZ approach,’ Pam adds.
‘”When you do X it makes me feel Y please do Z.” Then drop it.
‘We often tend to go on and on. Ruminating about that which bugs you is not helpful. Try and take some deep breaths, meditate and distract yourself in the moment. This will pass.’
However, if against all odds, it doesn’t pass, here’s what to do.
What to do if you regret moving in with your partner
If you weren’t living together pre-coronavirus crisis, but chose to move into one space to ride out the pandemic, it can be difficult to adjust to the situation.
Give it some time; after all, you’ve got a brand new roommate and he, she or they are bound to have some annoying habits. As do you.
But if you really can’t stand their company anymore or the relationship has run its course, it might be time to call it quits.
Note: it’s very important that you follow government guidelines to keep yourself and other people safe, meaning that you should take the decision to move back to your own space seriously.
If you do move out – which is not recommended at present – you may also need to quarantine yourself to avoid cross-contamination.
Your choices are as follows: commit to living together for the duration of the lockdown or commit to staying apart, and perhaps pick things up once we are all able to roam the streets again.
‘Some relationships are sadly not meant to be,’ says Pam.
‘If you are in a relationship that you have both decided is not working this is the moment to be in your very adult space.
‘Have a quiet and respectful conversation. Do not blame. Acknowledge it has been difficult for both of you.
‘That you are sad that it has not worked but as physically nothing can be done at this moment, you may need to move to friendship and housemates. Remember that this is not the moment for recriminations.’