Updated: Nov 10, 2020
So there you are, driving each other freakin’ nuts. What do you do about it?
Well, where are you, exactly? The key is that you’re home together now, day after endless day, in a space that now seems all too small and limited. And so you see how the other works and doesn’t work. How the other protects his space and invades your space. How you can seem miles apart and all-too-underfoot at the same time. How things you never saw before turn out to be real and annoying, and just how horribly annoying they can be.
And so it seems as though whatever pre-pandemic happiness you had before was just an illusion.
Let me tell you—things aren’t as bad as they seem, and there’s a lot you can do to make them better.
Step 1. Don’t panic. Whatever things were like pre-pandemic, they can be like that again. No one knows when we’ll be out of this mess. Six months. A year. Who knows. But time flies...okay, that’s stupid. Time creeps along, but it does pass and if you can manage not to kill each other or do or say unforgivable things to each other, the way back will be free and clear once the pandemic lifts.
Step 2. One issue at a time. Yeah, I know, you both suddenly feel you’re overwhelmed with horrible annoyances, but each of you, for goodness sake, pick one issue for each of you. Whatever seems most annoying or mission critical to your survival right now.
Let’s say it’s your partner’s inability to realize that just because she’s not working at the moment that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped working. You’re not done at 5 just because she’s done at 5. The process of coming to a solution is, in principle, pretty simple.
Say what you need specifically. Do not say, “Respect the fact that I’m still working.” What the hell does that mean? Do say something like, “As long as I’m still working, I need you not to talk to me or make noise around me.” Or whatever it is you need.
Then say, “What do you need to give me what I need?” In other words, what would make it easier for your partner to do what you’re asking for? For example, maybe you work in the living room but your partner works in the bedroom. Well, if your partner usually finishes work first, maybe it’d be better for both of you if you switched where you work. That way, when your partner finishes work, you’re safely tucked away in the bedroom.
Then work out a solution to your partner’s issue. That’s the point: you’re trading solution for solution, one at a time.
And then stop. Whatever issues for each of you seemed most urgent, you’ve addressed them. Done! Give yourself a day to let things settle before you move on to the next issue for each of you.
Step 3. More of the good stuff. You can get rid of all the friction there is between you and things still won’t be better unless you address your need for more fun you can share. Because let’s face it, you and I know you’re both hungry for ways to share fun. Now look, I can’t tell you how to have fun together. But if you explore, discuss, brainstorm, experiment, try stuff...you’ll come up with ideas, and some of those ideas will turn out to be duds, but some will surprise you at how good they are.
Let me just tell you: couples never drift apart who actively work at finding ways not to drift apart.
Now all this is a rough sketch of what you can do, but it’s all good stuff that works. For more ideas, check out our new book!