Should You Break Up With Your Partner When You're Self-Isolated Together?
Maybe you moved in with your partner so you wouldn't have to social distance alone. Perhaps you've been living together, but discover your SO is only tolerable when you take eight-hour breaks five days a week. Coronavirus fear has brought out the worst in each other: You're arguing, your habits are getting on each other's nerves, and they just ate the very last of your dark chocolate stash. You're at the end of your rope and questioning your long-term potential. But should you break up your partner when you're self-isolated together and are stuck with each other for the foreseeable future? Or should you stay together for the remainder of social distancing, despite your gut telling you something's not right?
According to Danni Zhang, psychologist and managing director of New Vision Psychology, if you're considering breaking up with your boo amid a global pandemic, that's nothing to feel guilty about. "As people embrace #flattenthecurve, we're forced to spend considerably more time with each other, and it's not uncommon for one person in a relationship to start thinking of getting out of said relationship," she tells Bustle.
However, it's not uncommon for people to get on each other's last nerve when they're stuck in one place together for an elongated period. Social distancing together isn't a reliable model for what living together would be like (you would presumably be allowed to leave the house), and therefore, doesn't necessarily mean that you should rush into a breakup. Unless you're in a situation that's putting you in harm (and if your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, seek professional help so you can leave safely), Lesli Doares, couples consultant, says that it's best to hold off for now. Take your time to really consider why your partner's behavior is bothering you, and to communicate directly before doing anything rash.
Thoughts of breaking up during this time are not weird or abnormal. It's how you approach those thoughts that count.
"Stress has some unexpected consequences, and one of them is transferring generalized anxiety into a negative lens of your relationship," Doares tells Bustle. While being with someone 24/7 can undoubtedly bring out the worst in even the best of relationships, ending a relationship during a crisis or under duress can add to both of your overall stress and may be unfair to you and your partner.
Separate what's really a problem from what's just a consequence of you two spending too much time together, Doares says. Take a walk outside (in an unpopulated area) or drive by yourself, if possible. You don't need to put yourself in a position where you're in close contact with others, but it's crucial that you give yourself some space to breathe and think.
You can also write out your feelings in a journal, and then assess whether your issues with your partner are new or something you've been holding on to for a while. "If new, then it might just be a function of 'familiarity breeds contempt,'" Doares says. If so, this is something that should pass when daily life assumed a new normal.
Zhang suggests listing out all the little things you love about your partner, shifting your focus from focusing on all the ways they annoy you. From there, try having an open conversation with your partner about how you've been feeling and what you need from them to feel more confident in the relationship. Use "I" statements, so they don't feel attacked. Practice empathy with intention.
"Everyone has their own baggage they're dealing with, and having someone else to share your emotions, both positive and negative, is great for your mental health," Zhang says. "Thoughts of breaking up during this time are not weird or abnormal. It's how you approach those thoughts that count."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, call NHS 111 in the U.K. or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and U.K.-specific updates on coronavirus here.
Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach
Danni Zhang, psychologist and managing director of New Vision Psychology