My boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together at the end of the year. So, when COVID19 hit and we were both sent to work from home, my first thought was okay, a test run. I worked from his house for 3 days in a row and then sporadically after that. The first day was great, I hadn’t seen him for awhile and we weren’t spending as much time together as we normally would. We sat next to each other on the couch with our knees touching and I adored the extra kisses.
The second and third day was a whole different story.
I noticed things he did that made me squint my eyes and ask myself, what the hell is this now? Sitting next to him with a laptop on me, now just made me hot. I still enjoyed the kisses though! We didn’t want to kill each other, but it did open my eyes to what couples who spend every single day together must feel like.
As we move into May, most couples have been home together for at least a month and tensions are high. Setting boundaries is more important than ever.
Boundaries and healthy communication help you and your partner create a healthy workspace, separate work and home, and effectively contributes to both of your needs.
While working from home together, there are various hurdles that cause tension. The most common are:
- Being in the same space for too long.
- Not having alone time.
- One person taking advantage by wanting extra attention and thus, distracting the other.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into these struggles and options to overcome them.
Being in the same space for too long
Sharing a space initially seems easier. There’s a kitchen table, with just enough room for two people to set up their laptops and go about their work. There’s no fuss about setting up a desk, buying a new chair, or making space in the living room.
But then a week or so later,
“Why is he typing so loud, he’s going to break the computer. That’s it, i’m going to have to take it away from it.”
“Jesus, does she always talk this much?I thought she was a writer. Where’s the duct tape?”
Tension happens fast. We are not used to sharing a desk space with someone else, in addition to the stress and uncertainty that we are already facing.
The most obvious solution here is to bite the bullet and set up different work spaces, at least for a portion of the day. Sometimes, I can do my work from an iPad; so, I take it and work on the couch and my boyfriend gets to use the table for a bit. If he has a call/meeting, he goes in the other room and leaves me space to get my work done. We didn’t set up an extra desk or made space, we just utilized the space we shared the most effectively.
Not having alone time
This is something that is near and dear to my heart. Having my own space and time was always important to me, even as a child. As I got older, I realized just how much I needed to spend time with myself to recharge, reconnect with myself, and simply relax.
This is a really difficult thing to do when each day there is someone by me, breathing the same air as me, or asking me a question. Going to the bathroom was simply not enough alone time for me, or for anyone really.
Easiest fix? Take one separate break a day. It’s easy to take breaks with your partner, but taking time for you is just as important.
It is a really nice time to spend time with your partner, in moderation. It is easy to take advantage of the fact that your partner is in the next room, and you want some attention. I am guilty of doing this, as is my partner.
I am all for connecting with your partner, but there is a time for work and a time for ahem *connecting*. I believe that COVID19 is changing the way we work, play, and engage with one another, and that’s why there should be a compromise between working at home and loving at home.
The solution: Understand work time is for work, but take lunch together to connect.
Even though these solutions can ease tension, tempers can still flair and words can get tossed around. Words that might not be helpful and can actually make things worse.
What Not to Say and What to Say Instead
- “Please go away/ can’t you work in a different room”
Why this is not okay- It makes your partner feel like an annoyance, a burden, or that you don’t want them around. This can cause defensiveness and hurt.
Say this instead- I need my own space right now. I know working in the living room is uncomfortable, but what can we do to make it easier for you to work out there for the afternoon?
Why this works- You are specific about your needs and recognizing your partner’s hesitations. You are offering a solution and a time frame.
2. “If I have to hear you say [insert annoying phrase here] one more time I’m going to lose it”
Why this is not okay- This makes your partner feel self conscious about how they are talking to you or others. No one wants to feel like they are walking on eggshells.
Try- I understand you are trying to be clear, and I understand what you mean. In the future, I would appreciate it if you tried to use a different word to get your point across.
Why this works- You recognize why your partner does what they do (validates). You are being clear with your needs.
3. “That’s what you do for work all day?”
Why this isn’t okay- You are judging your partner’s work. This may make them embarrassed, angry, and invalidated
Try- Your work is very different from mine, I didn’t know what you did was so…detailed, numerical, etc.
Why it works- This is neither negative nor positive. You are simply recognizing what they do for work. I could lead to an open conversation about the differences in jobs.
4. “Do you *have* to do that right now?”
Why this isn’t okay- The sarcasm screams annoyance. There is no telling why you are annoyed or what the problem is.
Try- If that is something you can do later, can you put it on hold until I finish what I am doing? I need it to be quiet, and your music is distracting me.
Why it works- You are communicating your needs and what exactly is preventing you from obtaining those needs. You recognize that your partner’s tasks are just as important as yours.
5. Simply not saying anything at all
When I don’t say something my boyfriend immediately knows something is wrong. We both understand the importance of communication, so he does not let that fly. Ever.
Why this isn’t okay- Things turn into a guessing game and things stall. It can be frustrating for both people.
Try- I am feeling really frustrated right now, but I am not ready to talk about it. Let’s talk after I calm down.
Why this works- You are giving yourself space to work out your own feelings and being open to conversation. You are communicating that it is important to talk about it, but not quite yet.
Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean your relationships should be tougher. Understand your most common struggles and aim to overcome them with proper communication. Be aware of how your words can cause more issues, and adjust to be part of the solution.
If you are struggling with communication in any relationship, be sure to follow me to learn how to live your life one word at a time.