Illustration by Elliot Burr
My boyfriend, Martin, and I have lived together for about a year and a half now. That sounds crazy when I actually type it, because it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. But here we are.
I feel like that comes off sounding pessimistic. I don’t mean it that way, though. Honestly, living together is great. It’s true that it really is the ultimate test of a relationship, to see how it really works when you see each other every day. We’ve had a great time together, but I can’t deny that quarantining together for (jeez, what was it? Nine months?) was definitely taxing.
I’ve read a lot of stories about married couples navigating being stuck at home together for such a long time, and while I think there are some similarities to my situation, I think there’s a lot of differences to factor in considering we’re both college students.
We’re both on track to graduate in the spring, which means the classes we took last semester and the classes we’re in now are more demanding. When we moved to remote instruction abruptly in the spring, we were in the middle of finishing our home office. And by middle, I mean we hadn’t started. We often joined our remote classes from bed, our coffee table in the living room, the outside patio, really anywhere we could get a solid internet connection and some privacy to focus. It was hard and weird, but we managed. Really what kept us going was the idea of being able to enjoy our second summer together, maybe go on a couple trips, travel somewhere new, all that good stuff.
But that was certainly not the case.
We spent the majority of the summer at home, too afraid to go to the grocery store let alone a whole vacation. We also both worked primarily from home, so that chained us to the house even more (on the plus side, we got the office finished by this point).
We saw our immediate family who we are normally pretty close to, and a couple friends from a masked distance, but really our main point of contact was with each other.
Honestly, no matter how much you love someone and enjoy spending time with them, when you are forced to see them everyday and literally cannot leave the house, you start to notice every microscopic thing they do that drives you absolutely crazy. Like, how can someone chew SO loud? How is it so hard to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher that is literally right next to the sink? Why does he breathe so loud?!
It really has the potential to be catastrophic to a relationship and cause so much added tension that no one needs right now. It took a lot of irritation and eye rolling for me to realize that Martin isn’t a bad guy, honestly, he’s fantastic, but when you don’t get a break from a person it can be really difficult to see past the little things that annoy you.
So how’d we deal with it? I mean, we both have our own hobbies, our own individual work to do and shows we watch on our own, so there was always something we could do solo when we needed a break from each other. I think that’s one of the most important things. You need to have your own sense of identity in order to not feel like you’re getting lost in your partner’s. I’m a journalist to my core, and I’m always writing and looking for my next story. He’s a business major, and he’s always working on projects and sales pitches for class.
We also just voiced that we were getting irritated with each other over little things, and I think honesty (all the time, but especially here) is the best policy. It’s all about the way you approach the conversation. It’s important to consider the other person’s feelings when you tell them, “Hey, I need a little space, because hearing you breathe is really irritating me right now.” Maybe there’s a nicer way to say that.
If we didn’t vocalize what was bothering us and how we felt about being locked up in the house together, the tension would’ve continued to build and eventually boil over into a much bigger mess.
Honestly, I think we came out of quarantine so much stronger — as individuals and as a pair. I feel fortunate to be able to say that and to have had our situation resolve itself in a positive way. We were always open and honest with each other about everything before having to quarantine together, but being forced to be with each other 24/7 really showed me just how important it is to be open and honest — with your partner and yourself. I think it may sound a little cliche, but that really is an important part of the base of any solid relationship.
So, my advice is to express when something is bothering you, but do it in a constructive way. If you approach every problem with a mindset like, “I’m looking for a solution to this,” then odds are, the conversations and arguments you have will be more beneficial and actually reach a resolution.
Maria McGinnis is a senior journalism major with minors in advertising and psychology. She is currently editor-in-chief of A Magazine (@amagksu), features editor for The Kent Stater/KentWired and a blogger for The Burr. When she isn’t writing or working on school work, Maria loves to spend time with her family and friends, do yoga, bake and watch Netflix. She is currently rewatching “The Vampire Diaries” after finishing “Gossip Girl” during quarantine and would love some new streaming suggestions. Follow Maria on Instagram @maria.mae98 and on Twitter @MariaMcGinnis13.