My boyfriend and I planned on eventually moving in together, but not this soon. We went from seeing each other slowly twice a week, to very suddenly seeing each other every single day, because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
But we’re not the only ones; a lot of couples are in the same boat. And while it’s wonderful having your significant other around during a pandemic, there’s also a looming feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on until recently.
That emotion is grief.
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Relationship expert Esther Perel explained on the podcast Pivot that couples may be experiencing grief in their relationships because of a multitude of changes brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
The crisis has taken the normal relationship trajectory and thrown it into disarray. Couples around the world are now holed up together, something not even people who already lived together imagined experiencing.
This means that instead of experiencing different phases in their relationship, and diverse locations to play those out, it’s all confined into one location and one period: quarantine.
We think of a relationship as generally beginning with a series of dates. Each person dresses up and goes out for dinner or a fun activity, creating a level of excitement in the new relationship. Down the road, there’s the period of deciding if things are serious or when those big three words will be said. One day, they’ll consider the prospect of moving in together or getting married — given everything went well.
But if you’re quarantining together, those formative experiences go out the window or at the very least, are drastically altered.
As couples that weren’t living together, we’ve been robbed of those moments. And we’ll never be able to get back. That kind of loss creates grief.
You can’t rewind to the “honeymoon phase,” nor can you un-see your partner in sweat pants and hair that hasn’t been washed in several days. There’s no time apart to miss one another. In fact, you might be getting so used to seeing your partner every day that when the quarantine is over, it’s going to feel like its own loss.
Many people aren’t able to identify this experience as grief. As Perel explains, “People don’t mention it as grief, so what they have is different coping styles about how they deal with the unknown.” It can look like your partner obsessively cleaning the apartment, or you feeling out of control when you can’t check up on a loved one.