Sure, I knew that the mask-wearing made him feel disconnected, he missed seeing his family in person, and he longed for his jam nights with the guys—but people were dying from this horrible virus, and so we were following all the rules. He wasn’t traveling internationally and domestically every three months like usual, he wasn’t going into the office, we were sharing a small office at home, and for a while we’d had to juggle all of our work and video calls while caring for our three-year-old daughter at home. But our daughter was back in preschool five days a week now, and though we’d had to quarantine at a moment’s notice for 10 days several times, we could still do our jobs and get some childcare—so we were grateful.
Couples, especially those that have been together a long time, can sometimes begin to assume that their needs are exactly the same. What I need must be the same as what my partner needs, and vice versa. But the truth is, despite being best friends, highly compatible, in love, and happy, my husband and I are still two separate people. Thus, our needs will never be perfectly aligned.
For me as an introvert, I’d actually felt relieved that I could turn down social outings “due to COVID,” but my extrovert husband was devastated that he couldn’t smile at strangers while shopping at Target due to masking or chat up a random guy at the sports bar during the big game on a weekend. So, in hindsight it makes sense that after a year of masking, social distancing, no work or personal travel, and very little in-person family and friend engagement, my husband was struggling.
We also found ourselves in some pretty heated discussions (a.k.a. arguments and fights) about our marriage and relationship dynamics that had been unhealthy for years, yet not painful enough to be addressed up until now—now that we were trapped in our small home for months with very little space or distraction. It was as if all of our relationship challenges were glaring at us all at once. Things we’d loved about one another now were reasons we couldn’t stand one another—and after eight years together, six years married, we couldn’t ignore them anymore.
The stakes are also higher during a pandemic. We are each other’s emotional support system and one of the rare people that we can be around without a mask, so being there for one another is even more important right now. And when we are arguing, there is very little opportunity to have space from one another to cool off or get a new perspective.
But in the end, all the fighting and crying helped bring us together. I’ve always admired one aspect of our bond: that we allow our relationship to bend so intensely sometimes that it may break, and that is exactly what keeps us together. That we allow it to almost break instead of grasping for it to stay together. There isn’t desperation—only desire for understanding and to learn and grow a bit more.