Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By An Phương
COVID-19 has brought chaos to our daily lives, and one of the many things I have realised during this unfortunate period is how it can affect our personal relationships.
According to an article in the New York Times, in a matter of weeks, the global pandemic has transformed relationships, with weddings being postponed and divorce rates reportedly soaring in China.
When I first heard of the news, I didn’t take it seriously, joking with my friends about how silly the situation was in China.
However, with the raft of social distancing measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus, we may be spending more time with our partner than ever before, and that’s when I understood how wrong I was when evaluating the situation.
A friend of mine, Minh Anh, 27, told me that working from home with her boyfriend for two weeks made her realise how clumsy and “problematic” her boyfriend is.
“Compared to days ago when I only met my boyfriend after work and went for romantic dinners, I spend about 10 hours every day now with him at his home office,” she said, adding that her sister has a crying baby at their house.
“I initially felt very comfortable at my boyfriend’s place as it was bright and lovely. However, we started to get on each other’s nerves and we complained about almost everything after 10 days,” she added.
“They were tiny quarrels about why he didn’t place his tea cups in designated areas to more serious fights about his gaming habit,” Minh Anh told me.
A meme has been circulating on social media in recent days citing essential dating questions for 2020. “Can I see myself being quarantined with him?” is one.
Scrolling through my feed, I was very surprised to see so many people answering this question in the negative and even more so when most of my friends encountered similar problems.
COVID-19 has tested us in every aspect, Ngọc Ánh, 28, said, adding that even strong relationships cannot get out of the pandemic intact or fully alive.
“We’ve been dating for about four years now and spent the past two years living together. Though I sort of understand him as we’ve been through thick and thin, I must admit something is different and 'off' this time,” she said.
“Having a straightforward discussion with my boyfriend did help! We have concluded that lack of personal space and constant assumptions about how the other person feels was the driving force behind our tension!” she added.
I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, I’ve experienced everything that Minh Anh and Ngọc Ánh have, and have come to realise that because there aren’t many things to do around the house, we tend to “dissect” even the tiniest facial expression that one another makes as a way to entertain ourselves.
What Ngoc Ánh said is legit! Constructive communication is key.
While it is very easy to slip into the blame game when we are stressed and it doesn’t help anyone, it’s so much harder to realise each other’s feelings and accept that our other half is having a bad day just as everyone else does.
When we understand the source of tension, a day in the life of couples can go on so much easier.
Thảo Nhi, another friend of mine, said she and her husband have come up with a rule in which nothing should be taken personally during work hours.
As they work from home and need to be productive, they have established a clear work routine, starting from 10am to 6pm.
“We each have a personal space to work at, thus social distancing hasn’t felt so 'trapped' for us. After we’re done with our work, we proceed to the living room for dining and entertaining activities,” she said, adding that it is important to give the brain some patterns to ease the discomfort we may have for staying at home so much.
Despite some inconveniences at first, I’m glad that most of my friends with whom I talked have found ways to make their days better.
We all agreed that honest talk and a clear routine are must-haves for a healthy, stay-in relationship. Also, making a list of interesting things they can do together on a daily basis does help for some.
Tuấn Anh, 30, told me that he has managed to film two Tik Tok videos with his wife daily.
“I can’t believe I’ve jumped on the Tik Tok bandwagon, considering that I’m a bit old for the trend. That being said, it’s the best seeing my wife laugh. We’ve had such a great time these days!” he said, adding that he has started cooking with his wife who acts as a mentor.
“Though it can be overwhelming staying inside for too long, I’d rather think of social distancing as a way to detox my soul. Busy days have made me forget the real value of life, which is to be able to spend time and take care of the ones I love,” he added.
After all, this tension between couples is normal, particularly given the increased stress we’re all feeling right now, I believe.
But since we could be in this predicament for a while yet, it’s worth taking steps to ensure we get through this period with our relationships intact.
We might even be able to come out stronger after everything is over. VNS