Five months ago, quarantining with your partner sounded downright romantic. Who doesn’t want a 24-7 snuggle partner, especially amid the stress of a global pandemic? At some point, however, the honeymoon phase ended and things took a turn — only seeing each other in PJs killed the romance, the frustration of trying to WFH together every day became overwhelming, and those previously adorable quirks became downright annoying. Now, you’re rethinking this whole decision. If you regret moving in with your partner during the pandemic, you’re definitely not alone. More importantly, this feeling alone doesn’t spell doom for your relationship. According to relationship experts, there’s a chance that your regret simply points to underlying issues — which you and your boo may very well be able to work through.
First of all, if your SO has been getting on your nerves a lot lately or you're fighting more than usual — experts say that's actually super understandable. After all, the coronavirus outbreak has introduced a lot of stress into your and your partner's lives. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, your task now is to figure out whether your current regret stems from that pandemic-triggered stress, changes in your relationship itself since moving in together, or specific behavior from your partner.
For example, if you determine that financial pressures, a temporary loss of work, or other pandemic-related issues have been causing tension to rise in your relationship, then you may want to cut yourself and your partner a break. As much as you may regret moving in together, the reality is that you're dealing with unprecedented circumstances that any couple — even the happiest and healthiest — might struggle with.
"If your assessment leads you to realizing that much of your distress is related to general feelings of stress and anxiety that truly have nothing to do with your partner — and, in fact, you might find that your partner is a great source of support — your plan of action may be to stay in the relationship and work on reducing daily stressors," says Dr. Manly.
Dr. Dominique Samuels, the resident psychologist for relationship-health app Emi Couple, suggests taking note if your arguments with your partner tend to happen when you're feeling overwhelmed by what's happening in the news, or when work is particularly hectic.
"That would mean the problems are probably being amplified by external factors," she explains.
If, on the other hand, you determine that you're feeling regretful because your SO has exhibited certain behaviors that are bothering you, that's a different story.
"If there is a specific issue of concern, it’s important to determine if the issue is 'fixable' or if it’s likely to be a long-term problem," adds Dr. Manly. "For example, if a partner is emotionally detached and uncommunicative, this is likely a long-term problem that won’t shift without psychotherapy or other self-work. And, if after talking to your partner honestly about your concerns, the partner is dismissive and avoidant, it’s likely that you need to assess the long-term viability of the relationship."
You may also realize that your specific concern is something that you both can overcome, however. For instance, if you feel like you're not getting enough alone time and that's breeding some resentment toward your partner, that's definitely a problem that you might be able to resolve — provided you can honestly share how you're feeling and your boo is able to make some adjustments to meet your needs.
"Prior to having the conversation, make sure you have really sat with the issue and understand why it bothers you," advises Dr. Samuels. "Does it make you feel unseen? Un-prioritized? Undervalued? Be ready to take ownership in your part of the problem. Maybe you tend to overreact? Get vindictive? Run away emotionally? Think of the whole cycle, and try to figure out where each of you can shift."
Addressing these types of issues head-on may very well be able to squash your regret about moving in together. What it all comes down to is whether you feel emotionally safe in confronting your partner — and whether they're able to hear you out. In order to keep the convo as productive as possible, Dr. Samuels recommends starting with an "I" statement rather than making accusations to your partner. For example, saying, "I feel frustrated when you don't clean up after cooking," is far less likely to cause them to become defensive than, "You always leave a mess after you cook, and I'm tired of it."
While many of the issues behind your regret may be repairable, Dr. Manly says there are also instances in which you may need to move out — specifically, if your SO's problematic or downright toxic behaviors are the rule, rather than the exception.
"It’s certainly possible that a later reconnection — when stress and anxiety are reduced — may have positive results," she adds. "Those partners who decide to take a conscious time-out to reassess and recalibrate are far more likely to have a successful reconnection than those who don’t engage in self-reflection and mutual discussion about what did and did not work for them."
Remember, self-compassion is key — especially these days — and just because you're feeling those pangs of regret doesn't necessarily mean you made a mistake. Rather than panicking about what this regret means for the future of your relationship, try to take things one step at a time.
"You may need some space to figure out your immediate and long term plans," explains Tammy Nelson, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and host of the podcast The Trouble with Sex. "Now is not the best time to determine if you are meant to live together forever — so, put off any long-term decisions for now. Get some space by taking walks. Find separate hobbies. Have a date night every weekend. Before you decide to move out or break up, take some time for yourself."
The bottom line is, this is an excellent opportunity to figure out how you and your partner could each improve as roomies.
"You are seeing each other at your worst, and maybe weren't really ready to do that — but that doesn't mean it won't be good in the long run," says Dr. Samuels. "Slow down, and proceed with care. Everyone is suffering, and you and your partner each deserve a little bit of extra empathy for poor behavior. And even if you regret the move, try not to regret the experience. You've learned, you've grown. Keep it up."
Hear that? A little regret never hurt anyone — and in fact, it's totally normal. As long as you use this feeling as motivation to bravely address whatever factors are compromising your bond, your relationship is sure to survive any and all of your quarantine woes.
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist
Dr. Dominique Samuels, clinical psychologist
Tammy Nelson, licensed psychotherapist