Things may look very different when we aren’t all under lockdown.
“I hate him,” my friend texted.
“Who?” I responded, knowing she could either be talking about her husband or her teenage son, both of whom had been irritating her lately.
“What’d he do?” I asked.
“Nothing. That’s the problem,” she said. “As soon as quarantine is done, I’m out.”
Divorce filings rose following lockdown in China, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw a similar rise here in the U.S.
A time like this can put things in perspective. We may want a different job, house, relationship, life, and we may feel motivated to start making changes as soon as this is all over.
But often our dislike of our environment can manifest as a dislike of our partners. Think: if every day you’re miserable at home, wouldn’t you be more likely to focus on what you dislike in general? Not only is your apartment so close to the freeway that you hear cars throughout the day, but your partner keeps whining about how he can’t go to the gym?
Many of us are experiencing profound grief and trauma, and it is affecting us. In a recent study, 45% of adults admitted that the pandemic is harming their mental health, and more people are using antidepressants and antianxiety medications. If you’re feeling scared, anxious, on edge, and/or struggling to sleep, then you have been affected too.
Peter D. Kramer, bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist, in his book Should You Leave? says (emphasis added by author),
Many studies indicate that divorce results in depression. My belief is that, at least as often, undiagnosed depression antedates and causes divorce. When a patient discovers all sorts of faults in a spouse or lover…, I find it useful to consider mood disorder as a possible explanation. Even minor mood disorders can result in a deep sense of dissatisfaction with relationships.
We would be amiss to ignore the fact that maybe how we feel about our partners may be based more on disliking our situation or experiencing downright depression. When we become increasingly annoyed with our partner, we might need to ask ourselves: Am I okay? Have I been practicing self-care? What do I need to be doing to try to feel better?
If you’re considering leaving your partner, it might be time to talk with someone first. There are many video/telephone mental health professionals now available, and many are now covered by most healthcare plans for the cost of your normal co-pay.
To better handle your present, here are some things you can try:
1. Make up someone to blame things on.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s advice that has saved my husband and me from arguing more times than I could even count. My husband and I are human, and we do annoying human things like leave cabinet doors open, litter the kitchen counters with food wrappers, and refuse to take out the garbage or replace the toilet paper roll. These have become the foibles of Rick, our imaginary crappy live-in coworker.
“Rick left the toilet seat up again!” I called upstairs the other day.
“Bastard,” my husband called back.
I pointed out the issue, but I didn’t point fingers at my husband causing undue tension. Our imaginary coworker brings levity and humor into an otherwise annoying situation.
2. Thank him/her.
Stuff sucks right now, but gratitude can go a long way for you. Find one little thing, and thank your partner for it. S/he puts away the dishes? Lets the dogs out? Cooks dinner? Picks up groceries? Makes masks out of an old bra? Whatever it is, immediately tell them, “Thank you.”
Look for the positive things that your partner is doing, and thank them for them. This is a two-fold process. Not only are you thanking your partner, which will make them feel good, but you’ll find that because you’re focusing on the positives, you’ll start seeing them more.
3. Imagine this is someone you have to be with forever.
My husband and I recently binge-watched Vampire Diaries. Two of the main characters are brothers who have lived together for 150 years. They haven’t always gotten along, but here they are, 150 years later, staying strong.
“How are they still living together?” I asked my husband.
“I imagine they have to work things out because they know there aren’t a lot of them around.”
It’s an interesting concept. If you were stuck for eternity with one person, wouldn’t you try with all your might to let go of petty grievances and find joy? If there really wasn’t a choice, wouldn’t you try to make the best of it?
I’m not saying stick around with abusive people, but if your distaste for your partner is stemming from irritation, resentment, etc., maybe it’s time to imagine that you are both young and impossibly handsome/beautiful vampires that are going to be stuck with each other for a century (because doesn’t quarantine feel like that anyway?).
If you’re struggling in your relationship, I strongly recommend (as long as your safety isn’t at risk) that you try to stick it out until some time has passed after the restrictions have been lifted. That time will give you more perspective and allow you to focus on what is or isn’t going on. In the meantime, you can focus on ways to practice your own self-care, seek the help of telehealth professionals, and work on making the best of what you have.