By Julie-Ann Sherlock

Quarantined. Lockdown. Social distancing. All these terms have become our new norm in recent months thanks to our new arch-nemesis, COVID-19. While some, (me!), are embracing the escape from a chaotic world for a while, others are struggling. Big time. 

Having no real escape from your own four walls can feel claustrophobic. Even if you are allowed some outside exercising or shopping in your area, unless you are working in essential services, the majority of your day and night is spent at home. 

As someone who is in the high-risk category, I haven’t left my condo building since mid-March and have banned visitors. My boyfriend has been delivering supplies to me, and other than collecting a few takeout meals and time spent on my balcony, I haven’t been outside. Yet I still consider myself lucky. At least I am not stuck in my tiny space with another human! 

No matter how much you love your partner or family, living on top of each other 24/7 will test your patience. Add in the stress of worrying about you or loved ones getting sick, potential financial worries or job losses and it’s an emotional ticking time bomb. 

So how do relationships survive cabin fever? How do you not lose your mind when there is no escape from each other? Here are a few tips to help you stay loved-up or at least not turn into a murderer! 

Give Me Space!

Try to spend some time apart. Without dividing the space up by drawing lines on floors or setting up timeshare-esque schedules, try to figure out some ways to distance yourselves for some of the day. 

Like being outdoors? Then why not relax while reading in your garden or even better, pull on some gloves and get weeding? Outdoor spaces, weather permitting, also make great exercise areas, so roll out that yoga mat and work on your inner zen — it might just save someone’s life. Worst case, it gets some fresh air in your lungs for better screaming. 

If you are working from home, organise separate rooms to work in, away from the other members of your household. Treat every day much the same as you would when you were working outside of your home. Get up, shower, dress, have breakfast with your family, then go to work. By all means, take breaks, eat lunch and dinner together, but by separating your workday from loved ones you can maintain some semblance of normality.

Have Some Fun

It may be rather serious out there right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Relieve some boredom by playing cards, board or computer games together, unless monopoly is likely to turn into a war with the board being flipped. 

Set each other challenges: who can plank longest, write the best Limerick or Haiku or complete a jigsaw puzzle the fastest. Maybe do a treasure hunt with clues to find some treats or hide an object and play “hot or cold” until it is found. 

Maybe you can join in some online fun such as the International Self-isolation Hide and Seek Championship or recreate famous artworks together

Hobbies With Hubby

Time to start ticking things off that long list of “things I will do when I am not too busy”. Don’t get lost in Paris, learn how to ask “Ou est la centre de George Pompidou?“. Make sure you don’t die of thirst in Spanish-speaking countries by practicing requesting “Dos cervezas por favor”. Speak to each other in the new tongue of your choice as you plan your travels to far-flung places. 

Maybe you always wanted to tango? Grab those dancing shoes, crank up the music and cut footloose. Tap into your inner artist by brushing up on your painting skills and have a wine and cheese reception for you both while displaying your masterpieces. But be kind to yourself — we can’t all be Jackson Pollocks. 

Finding some common ground or learning new skills together can really help to strengthen your relationship. 

What Doesn’t Kill Us…

You are bound to have some bad days. We all do. Some days I really miss having someone to play Rummikub with or put the world to rights with while sipping coffee or wine. Other days I rejoice that no one gets to judge me on my Gilmore Girls marathons. 

If you are cohabitating, it is even more important to be gentle with each other. Being aware of mood changes or being sensitive to any difficulties your other half or family members are going through will make for a smoother time in quarantine. 

When the pandemic ends, and we re-emerge from our caves, hopefully, our relationships will be healthier, and we won’t have any manslaughter charges pending!