COVID has completely reconfigured our lives, causing many of us to find ourselves in totally different social or economic circumstances than we might have expected at the dawn of 2020. As couples were forced to choose between moving in together or remaining indefinitely apart, experts observed the rise of “turbo-relationships,” composed of couples whose relationship timeline was sped up in unexpected ways.
For relationships like mine, the pandemic meant that my partner and I—six months into our relationship and living in different cities—had a difficult choice to make. Would we isolate together or stay apart? We chose the former, and the following months have been full of unexpected lessons.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused you to rethink your living situation, speeding up your relationship and sparking an unplanned move-in, these are the things that you need to know:
Discuss logistics–before you move
For many of us, moving in together during a global pandemic is far from ideal. In a perfect world, when my partner and I eventually made the move, we would have picked out a place with a spare room, plenty of space, and within reach of our respective workplaces. In reality, we had to choose between hunkering down in my partner’s tiny inner-city studio or relocating to the apartment that I shared with a roommate. Fortunately, we were both told to work from home, and when my roommate decided to quarantine at a different location, we decided to move in to mine.
Most couples moving in during a pandemic will be finding that there are added logistical complexities to deal with. It’s possible that your financial situation may be more precarious than before the pandemic, that you are having to share with roommates, or that you suddenly need space for two people to work from home in a less-than-generous apartment.
It’s important that you discuss these challenges before you move to make sure that they are manageable, and check in with anyone else who will be sharing space with you. Have a plan for if things change—if you’re working from home, what will happen if you are called back to the office? If you’re sharing with roommates, how long are they happy for you to stay? Having these discussions before you make the move will make any issues that you run up against more manageable when the time comes.
Make space for one another
Having to choose a place to live in a hurry, sharing an apartment previously intended for single occupancy, or living with roommates means that your space might be limited. With the added pressure of spending much more time at home than usual, being around your partner all day might feel like a lot.
It’s important to allow each other both physical and mental space. If your partner is moving into your place, clear out as much cupboard space as you can bear to give up, and make sure that there is room for them to feel settled in with their belongings. If you’re both working from home, try to agree on comfortable and separate workspaces, taking into account whether either of you will need quiet spots for video calls or if you thrive better with a bit of social interaction throughout the working day. Discuss how much time alone you both need, and try and figure out a way that you can achieve this. Maybe you’ll need to take a walk without them every day, or perhaps you could agree that you’ll go and make the coffees if they prefer alone time first thing in the morning. Figuring out what you each need and doing the best that you can to cater for it can be tricky in relative confinement, but it’s an important way of making sure that you both feel comfortable and fulfilled in your new living situation.
Check in with each other often
Communication has never been as important as when you’re quarantining together. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I would have preferred any potential move in to be predicated by a long period of discussion about any worries and how we might counteract them. Instead, we were thrown together without even having agreed who would do the dishes.
When you’re living in close proximity, particularly when the situation is unplanned, it’s crucial to make checking in part of your routine. Moving in with someone can be a crash course in the ways that you clash, the bad habits that you hate, and different standards of cleanliness. Opening up regular conversations gives you an opportunity to raise any issues and renegotiate your routine—and most importantly prevents a build up in resentment.
Remember that no topic is too big or small to check in about. Do you have different ideas of how often the trash needs taking out? Different emotional needs that aren’t being met? Finding that you’re having less sex than you hoped now that you’re living together? Discussing these things as soon as they become a concern will prevent these problems from escalating.
Have open conversations about finances
In a conventional move, when rent is being shared and bills are set up together, discussing finances feels like a natural thing to do. But if your move is more informal, particularly if you’re planning to move into a partner’s existing home perhaps only temporarily, the conversation can be easy to avoid.
The unpredictable nature of the COVID crisis can lead to complicated financial situations. Perhaps you’re moving in with a partner during quarantine, but aren’t able to break your existing lease. Perhaps you’re moving in with your partner and their roommates or parents, so rent and bills are already set up and covered. Perhaps your finances have been impacted by furlough or redundancy, and you need to rely on your partner a little more than you would like.
Whatever the scenario, it’s important that you have a frank and honest conversation with your partner about what is fair to pay, and what your expectations are of who should contribute what. If you’re living with roommates should you be contributing towards their rent and bills? How much should you be paying if you’re also having to cover rent elsewhere? If your partner is covering for you financially, can you contribute in other ways?
Research shows that disagreements about finances are one of the most common reasons for couples to separate, so make sure that you’re having open conversations both with your partner and anyone else directly impacted by your living situation to make sure that everyone is comfortable and on the same page.
Plan for the future
If your living situation is less than ideal then you should stay focused on the future and make sure that you have a plan in place to get out of it. For my partner and I, locked into leases and living in heavily locked-down areas, we spent a lot of time discussing what would be an ideal situation for us once we were able to relocate. Now, with house moves permitted again and my partner back in the office, we have found a more spacious rental mid-way between our workplaces, and are excited to be making a more official move soon.
If you find that living together during quarantine hasn’t been working out, then having a plan is still important. Remember that this has been a highly pressured and unprecedented situation, and any clashes aren’t necessarily a reflection on your relationship. Planning to live apart again, and to move in together properly once you’re ready to do so, is a perfectly acceptable way to manage what has been a stressful and difficult situation.
If you’ve moved in with a partner during quarantine, or are planning to do so soon, then congratulations! Moving in with someone can be stressful at the best of times, and managing to do so in a highly pressured time period is particularly impressive.