As the coronavirus crisis deepens, our ability to see our loved ones is diminishing. Relationships all over the UK have been re-evaluated and tested as the country enters lockdown, but what if the pandemic has made you decide to move in together? Stylist speaks to three women who are self-isolating with their partners.
For any couple, the “moving in” stage of the relationship is the ultimate stress test. What will it be like once those suitcases are unpacked, and your empty flat escape route is no longer an option? Will their eating habits drive you insane, or will your sleeping patterns push them away?
Well, how about throwing a global pandemic into the mix? After weeks of social distancing, and a government-mandated lockdown announced by Boris Johnson last night, couples have been facing the pressure to move in together if they want to see each other for the foreseeable future.
We don’t know how long this pandemic (and the life-changing measures that come with it) will go on for, after all.
But the decision to move in – under normal circumstances, at least – isn’t taken lightly. The last thing you want to do is put undue stress on your relationship.
Research by counselling service Relate found that relationship distress levels are considerably higher for cohabitees. The relationship distress levels for cohabitees came in at 28%, while levels for couples that didn’t live together came in at 19%.
Couples all over the country (and world) have faced this conundrum in the wake of Covid-19.
“This is going to be an unusual time for everyone, and moving in with a partner adds a new level of complexity to this,” says Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist at Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA). “In a normal relationship, even when moving in with your partner, you would still have time apart by going to work, to the gym or to see friends, however in this situation that is not the case.”
It’s also important to make your boundaries clear at this time, and to be aware that you may not see the best in your partner (and they may not see the best in you), according to Armitage.
“Moving in together is a make or break situation. You are essentially fast tracking the relationship – and you will either become much closer with each other, or you will realise that the relationship isn’t right,” she says. “Hopefully, you will be able to learn to work through challenging situations together because this will help to strengthen the relationship.”
Below, Stylist speaks to three women who have been faced with the decision to move in with their partner – earlier than they perhaps expected – due to the coronavirus crisis. Here’s how they’re getting on.
“I wanted to be able to take my time with my decision, but I didn’t get that luxury”: Sofie-Eliza, 28, marketing officer
“My boyfriend and I met through Bumble and went on our first date in mid-May last year, so we’ve been together just over 10 months. It’s the longest relationship either of us have been in – we’ve never had a proper ‘grown up’ relationship before. So we’re just kind of learning as we go.
“Before the coronavirus crisis, we saw each other twice a week and tried to keep it equal – a night at his, a night at mine. The longest we’ve spent together so far is when we went on a mini break to Budapest last November, which was four nights. But obviously we were going sight-seeing and for dinners – not dealing with ‘real life’ stuff.
“We’re just trying to take things day by day, but I’m worried about outstaying my welcome. I’ve agreed with his housemates to contribute to utilities, but as I’m still paying rent in my flatshare, I’m a bit screwed if I have to contribute to rent here too.
“In the long run, I don’t want to move in with someone only for things to go wrong, leaving me forced to flatshare again. I wanted to be able to take my time and be confident in the person and the decision – but I didn’t get that luxury because of the coronavirus.
“But this living situation may not be forever – and knowing that is part of the reason our current plan is good. It’s a decision made out of what I needed and what works for us now.”
“I definitely feel calmer living together, but I do still have my reservations”: Alyss, 29, journalist
“I’ve been seeing my partner officially since November, and last week my flatmate decided to move home to help take care of her family during the crisis.
“I did consider going home, but I’m conscious about potentially infecting my parents – neither of mine have underlying health issues, but I wouldn’t want to risk it. Also, I’m from a really small town so when I go home I feel incredibly isolated – home doesn’t feel like home to me anymore.
“My partner and I had a very open discussion about what to do, as obviously this is still a relatively new relationship. He was originally going to go back after a few days to check on one of his flatmates, who is alone in the flat, to try and provide her with some support.
“But then over the weekend we both felt that going back wasn’t the best thing, as it would include travelling from one end of London to the other. I definitely feel more calm now this decision has been made, but do have my reservations, of course.
“He has expressed that in the morning he needs an hour to wake up and get ready, whereas I like to get up and start my day earlier, so he’s asked for that time. It’s nice to notice how that other person likes to spend their time. Both of us are stressed so we are doing what we can to help each other.
“The main thing is communication and support, but also understanding that if that person needs time to themselves, you need to give them that distance like you would in a normal situation – even if it’s not physically.”
“I told myself I’d wait longer this time before I even considered moving in with another partner”: Rosie, 25, graphic designer
“I met Sam on Tinder in October 2018 following a messy breakup. I’ve felt extremely sheepish about moving in together, due to my past experience – I stayed with my ex-boyfriend far longer than I should have, simply because we had a lovely flat together.
“So I dreaded being trapped in a similar situation again. I told myself I’d wait longer this time before I even considered moving in with another partner.
“Sam is asthmatic and his housemate works across two local hospitals (not on the frontline, but still exposed) so he’s been staying here. Sam also found out recently that he wouldn’t be working for the foreseeable future and we’re unsure about his financial situation.
“Even though we’d talked about it previously, in an ideal world we’d definitely still have separate places. It scares me to know there is nowhere to escape to if you’re both fed up with each other. Also, I like to watch crappy TV without a hint of judgement, so really relish my odd night alone.
“But it is nice to know that we’re there to look after each other mentally and physically at the moment. In these anxious times I think I’d be much less sane without him here to distract me.”