Living with your partner in isolation? Here's how to not hate each other by the end of it.

Right now, approximately 76 per cent of couples have experienced an increase in arguments and general annoyance with one another due to the coronavirus.

We made that stat up… but are we wrong?

There’s no arguing we’re living in trying times. With COVID-19 seeing people forced to work from home, self-isolate, distance themselves from friends and family and stay indoors, there’s a very good chance this will result in bickering and fighting and feeling frustrated by your partner.

It could be about going to the supermarket. Paying bills. Postponing weddings. Losing your job. Cancelling travel plans. Who gets to use the desk in the spare room for work and who has to sit hunched over on the couch. Not having any toilet paper… the list goes on. Sure, you love your partner, but you might not like them that much right now.

If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. That’s why we asked Dr Nikki Goldstein, sexologist and relationship expert, for help.

Keep scrolling for some insights, advice and tools you can use to get through the coming weeks and months in isolation with your partner, without your relationship disintegrating.

WATCH: A glimpse of what life looks like when you’re single versus in a relationship. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

Let’s talk about reasons you’re arguing with your partner.

Dr Nikki is seeing four main reasons couples are struggling right now. They are:

1. You’re spending too much time together.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but essentially, it’s OK to find your partner annoying sometimes.

Dr Nikki said, “Just because you love someone, doesn’t mean you have to love being around them 24/7. If you’re stuck at home with your partner and they’re starting to bug you, you may not have the escapism of going to work or catching up with friends like you normally would.”

2. Increased stress.

Then, there’s the stress and anxiety many of us are feeling around what life will look like in the coming weeks/months. Stress can manifest differently for different people – i.e. just because your partner hasn’t been talking about their feelings, doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling them.


“People are dealing with stress associated with fear and uncertainty in different ways and this can be problematic if someone in a relationship is taking things like self-isolation and social distancing really seriously, and the other person appears to be more relaxed,” she said.

“This causes friction, which causes arguments. And if someone in the relationship is burying their feelings, little arguments become an outlet to let go. Instead of arguing over someone going outside or about the way they’re behaving, we’re arguing over who’s cooking dinner.”

3. Our emotional needs are changing.

Another thing to consider is how our emotional needs are changing. As Dr Nikki pointed out, when we talk about a healthy relationship, we’re told not to rely on our partners for everything. Only now, we have little choice but to do so.

“It’s always good to have networks of people like friends and family who make you happy so you’re not looking to your partner to be the sole provider of the emotional stability you need. But in a situation like this, while we can reach out to people on FaceTime and stay connected, we are needing to rely on our partners a lot more. It can put a lot of pressure on us to be everything our partner needs right now.”

4. Re-evaluating your relationship.

Then, the big one: how the thought of imminent lockdown can be a catalyst for thoughts like, am I with the right person?

Dr Nikki added, “The situation right now is making a lot of people think about what they want from their relationships. We’re asking ourselves, what if I do get sick or if I’m stuck with this person? We’ll see more of that as time goes on.”


Relationship advice for couples in self-isolation together.

OK cool, so now we know why we're bickering or arguing and/or are completely sick of each other, but what can we do about it to protect our relationship from those triggers? Here are six ideas to get your head around that can help.


1. Remember, this is an unprecedented time and we're all feeling new feelings.

Most of us have never experienced something like a global pandemic before (depending on your age, of course). With that comes a lot of feelings, and feelings have a tendency to spill out until everyone is slipping and sliding all over the kitchen while trying to cook dinner with what's left in the pantry.

Dr Nikki said, "Having an awareness that fear and stress are factors in everything now is important because it can help you catch yourself out. If you're a person who's started an argument, you can stop, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the pressure we're all under."

"Take a moment, instead of unleashing, to remind yourself it's a tough time for everybody, not just you. Maybe this argument you're getting into isn't such a big deal in the perspective of what's going on at the moment."

Make no mistake. Being extra mindful of feelings takes effort because we're all essentially selfish creatures designed to meet our own needs first. But doing so helps make sense of our behaviour, and understanding it leads to changing it.

"Sometimes, outbursts can be a by-product of emotions we're burying. That's not an excuse for aggressive behaviour or violence. But if someone is picking arguments or their moods are a bit off, it could be due to us burying or internally dealing with a lot of pressure right now."

2. Make time and space to de-stress, by yourself.

This could be tricky if you and your partner have kids, or live together in a small apartment or share house. But for those of us self-isolating or in lockdown, all our usual places and activities we enjoy as aspects of our independent lives away from our partner aren't accessible right now. Things like going to the gym, getting coffee with a friend, having your nails done or a night out.

"You've got to find other outlets outside of the relationship to de-stress, but you might need to be creative in finding something to do that's just for you," Dr Nikki said.

"This could be jumping onto FaceTime and having a virtual coffee date. Doing some home pampering. Reading. Watching your own TV show. That might be saying to your partner, 'hey, I'm going to watch TV on my laptop with headphones in or sit on the balcony for a bit'.

"If you don't have much space, it might be having a bath and watching TV on your phone or sitting next to each other on the couch watching separate shows with headphones in."

3. Have more sex.

In short, sex = connection and happy, loved-up hormones. Experiencing pleasure is also a great way to relieve stress.

"If you're getting into arguments, perhaps think about reconnecting physically and enjoying each other's company. It's very rare we get to spend this time together, so you could use it to work on the physical intimacy side of your relationship. More sex is always a good thing."


To hear more about how people are coping with self-isolation, listen to the latest episode of the Mamamia Out Loud podcast. We're alone, together. Post continues after audio.

4. Communicate about how you're feeling. But don't push it.

If you and your partner are arguing about practical things around COVID-19, like cancelling a family holiday or staying in on the weekend, one person in the relationship is going to feel disrespected for not having their concerns taken seriously.

Sometimes, it could be a case-closed difference of opinion. But Dr Nikki doesn't necessarily see this as a difference in belief systems, but a difference in how we each perceive and deal with things.

"If someone isn't sharing their feelings - if they've got a very typically Aussie 'we'll be right' mentality to our current situation, be mindful that, some people, particularly men, bury emotions into the pit of their stomachs, and they might pop out in other ways."

Dr Nikki's advice around having difficult conversations with your partner in these strange times? Timing is everything.

"You've got to know when to push and when to lay back. If you're having a conversation about COVID-19 and your partner gets snappy, that's not a good time to push. Leave it and try it again later. Sometimes, what's best is to wait for them to say something and then encouraging a discussion from there."

"For example, when you're both watching the news or your partner comes home and makes a comment about something they'd seen or heard and how it's sad or confusing - when they start to open up, that's when you can try to talk about it further. If you push someone when they're digging their heels in, all they're going to do is dig in further."

5. Think about what's driving any negativity you're feeling towards your partner.

Right now, some people are thinking about breaking up. That their partner isn't right for them and if this is the end of the world, they're not sure they want to spend it together.

These are very valid emotions. They can also be dangerous depending on what is driving them.

"On one hand, we've got this pressure and stress which is running through your head, and huge uncertainty sitting on your shoulders. Not the best head space to be in when trying to work out if a relationship is the right thing for you," Dr Nikki said.

"However, this situation we're currently in can highlight issues in our relationships that make you wonder, if you were in real trouble, is your partner someone you could, and would want to, rely on? Some will find this time fortifies and brings them together. But for some, this is an opportunity to have a look at their relationship because it's not the good times we need someone to stick around for. It's the bad."


The question to ask yourself to differentiate your thoughts and feelings is: is what I'm thinking fuelled by stress and anxiety, or a result of COVID-19 highlighting something in this relationship that might not be right long term?

6. Plan to have fun.

To end on a lighter note, it's important to try and plan to have fun with your partner to get through the coming weeks and months.

This could be making TikTok videos. It could be playing cards. It could be playing the silly Instagram story filter games. It could be a virtual double date with friends. It could be talking about stupid sh*t or watching YouTube videos. It's OK to laugh right now. A lot of the time, it's all we have.

All of the above is very helpful if you're finding yourself resenting your partner during isolation. But if only one piece of Dr Nikki's advice sinks in, let it be this:

"No one has any idea what's going to happen. Break it down and take each day with your partner at a time. Focus on surviving today. And being nice to each other. You will get there."

If you would like to talk to someone about your relationship during this time, you can access advice via Relationships Australia by calling 1300 364 277.

Feature image: Getty.

How are you and your partner getting through self-isolation and working from home? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

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