Hi Yana!

It’s been a month of quarantine, and my boyfriend’s and my different feelings about it are really starting to show. He’s taking more of a wait-this-out approach by sleeping a lot, playing video games, not keeping much of a schedule, etc.

I’m working really hard to keep my mental health in check, so I’m cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. I know it’s not fair to make him clean a kitchen just to suit my stress levels, but how can I keep us on the same page?

I don’t like the routines we’re falling into, with him sitting on the couch and me cooking dinner and dessert, but how do I ask him to change when this is clearly his coping mechanism for what we’re all going through right now?

Seeking a QuaranTEAM


Dear QuaranTEAM,

First, I must confess that I am definitely team laundry-as-coping (just ask my video-games-as-coping significant other) so, take this with a grain of salt(y).

Yes, allowing ourselves and our quarantine podmates (we’ve started calling those we are “germ-bonded” to our “pod”) some slack in the “WTactualF is going on??” department is important. Now a month into true blue social distancing here in the States, we’ve all bumbled through a few phases of this COVID19 cycle: 1) Reeling from the adrenaline of the crisis hitting the U.S., 2) Scrambling to reorganize our jobs, cancelled events, establish safety precautions for ourselves and loved ones, get our food stashes, etc., and, now 3) Crashing into the struggle to create a new normal which, anxiously, has no clear ending in sight.

If we didn’t utilize daily coping mechanisms, we would all be crushed by the horrors and unknowns of the world, pandemic or not. Coping mechanisms like these – scrolling through our phones, yoga, hobbies, therapy, medications, etc. – tend to be considered healthy, easily integrated into your executive functioning life, and go relatively unnoticed.

Then, we have “unhealthy” coping mechanisms which, either cause damage in our everyday lives, prevent us from having things like jobs and relationships, or otherwise numb us out so hard that we avoid everyone and everything including ourselves. An example of the difference between these two coping mechanism types is the difference between going for a daily run because it makes you feel good versus running for miles-and-miles all day every day because not relentlessly pushing your body in this way would mean thinking or feeling something.

Then, we’ve got these currently developing COVID19 coping mechanisms which, are like, I’m sorry what’s going on right now? Like, actually WTF? And might look like “Everytime I pick up my phone I’m either laughing at a dark humor pandemic meme or crying about the news, coooooool”. These fresh, sloppy COVID19 coping mechanisms are still in development for most of us, look different person-to-person and are, ultimately, (hopefully) temporary for all of us.

Now, as the world turns (yes, still, I promise) so do our relationships. Relationships that are, perhaps, more important than ever as they may be the only human connection many of us have right now. Ultimately, at some point this crisis will end and your relationship can either grow or suffer from it.

If your live-in-partner benefits from the resources in your home that you yourself either provide or contribute to, they should also be cooking, cleaning, paying for, or otherwise supporting your household efforts. If your partner is unable for mental health, financial, job loss, illness, etc. reasons to not do this in a way that feels mutually supportive to you both, that needs to be an intentional conversation about what everyone’s needs, boundaries, and current capabilities are, complete with regular check-ins to assess the status of how that balance is being struck.

Crisis or not, you are not a needs fulfillment center. Similarly, just because your crisis mode is packaged as “everyday functional,” doesn’t mean that you yourself are not struggling with all that’s happening. Coping with this pandemic does not equal not advocating for yourself, your needs, or your wants. If anything, it means do more of those things.

For more extensive information, check out my latest recorded talks on Creating Soothing Routine During Social Distancing and Connected Conflict For Your Quarantine.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com