Compromise is Key to Our Relationships Surviving Corona

Distracted by social distancing? Here’s help.

Photo by the author.

As a freelance writer, I’m used to working from home alone. My days are usually quiet, except for the occasional demands from my cat, and I can set my own pace for getting the work done.

But the coronavirus has changed all that. Now, my partner is working from home as well, but his job requires set hours with Skype meetings and active participation. I can hear his side of the conversation despite his wearing a headset. And I find it impossible to tune out his voice to concentrate on my own work.

I already have a problem with distraction because of my ADD. Ambient noise or movement outside of my bubble keep me from concentrating on what I’m supposed to be doing, and then I get frustrated which irritates me which then makes me restless. It’s a vicious cycle.

As physical isolation continues, the two of us are beginning to adopt new ways of occupying the same space without driving each other nuts. Here are some of the things we’re trying. (Note: we have no kids)

Changing domestic expectations

Time at home used to be spent together because it was precious and rare. Now, it’s still precious but it’s happening every single day. This can put a strain on any previously solid relationship. So, we’ve had to make some changes.

I’m a natural night owl and my partner’s a lark. We’ve exploited this tendency for work: I stay up until 3am getting my articles written, then go to bed.

He gets up about 6am and is logged onto his work computer by 7. He gets the bulk of his work done by noon, which is when I get up. We have lunch together, then he returns to work until 3pm.

I spend those three hours doing email, making posts to my social media sites, and making phone calls.

When he’s done with work, we’ll fill the remainder of the afternoon working in the yard outside or doing household chores.

After supper, we read or sometimes watch a movie. We avoid the news on TV or other media as much as possible, mostly because it ramps up my anxiety to extreme levels.

He goes to bed about 10pm, and I do most of my writing afterwards.

Compromise is key

Our relationship has always been built on compromise. My compulsive shopping really bugs him, but his obsessive way of doing things is equally annoying to me.

I’m effusive, he’s restrained. I’m a slob, he’s a neatnik. Our differences complement each other more often than not, and allowing each other the space to do things our own way creates greater harmony.

I’ve been with my same partner for 36 years, and people have asked me what’s the secret to a successful long-term relationship. I think that the most important thing I can say to them is this…

Choose your battles wisely

Don’t expect that you will win every argument — don’t even think that you SHOULD. In other words, check your ego at the door.

If something is truly important to you (like important to your emotional well-being or your sense of self) then those are the things you should be fighting for. If the matter isn’t that critically important, let it go.

Many of you will bristle at the idea that you should compromise over anything. I say to you, are your relationships as satisfying as you’d like? If not, then take a look at what you’re fighting about.

If you have concerns over how the money is spent, for example, or whether or not you want kids, those are some huge issues that need to be worked out.

If, on the other hand, you’re fighting because you don’t like the way your partner dresses or the way they do the laundry, then GET OVER IT!

Seriously, if your partner is willing to do the laundry then be grateful for that. It’s one less thing YOU have to do. And learn to love those loud Hawaiian shirts or 40 pairs of ballet flats.

Compromise is king

Being willing to compromise with others is one of the markers of adulthood. This is a crucial skill that too many of us fail to learn as children.

The bullheaded my-way-or-the-highway CEO is held up as a model of success and ideal leadership in this country, to the detriment of other skills such as negotiation and teamwork.

This is destructive because people who choose this leadership style frequently carry it over into their personal relationships.

But nobody wants to be bossed around at home like they are at work. And while they may be stuck in a job, they are pretty much free to walk away in a relationship.

Summary

While we are more or less stuck with each other for now, that won’t last forever. Once restrictions are lifted, we may discover our relationships have suffered permanent damage.

That’s why it’s so important now to take a good look at the way we’re treating our SO’s.

  • We need to be kinder to each other than we’ve ever been.
  • We need to be willing to check our egos, and put the needs of others before our own — or at least give them equal weight.
  • Above all, we must appreciate our family members, friends, and neighbors, and show that appreciation in whatever way we can.

Because one day our current situation will change — maybe for the better, but maybe for the worse. Then, we’ll have to look back on how we acted in these strange times, and live with the consequences.

Writer, copy/line editor. Writing in science, society, environment, injustice, and mental health. Also personal essays. And some random weirdness.

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