No matter how blissfully content you were in your relationship before March 2020, there’s no denying the global pandemic shook things up a bit. We were all thrust out of our comfort zones and faced with a scary, new reality with no return to normalcy in sight. While everyone experienced their own set of challenges, one of the biggest for most couples was how to coexist together in this very strange and ever-present new normal.
Whether you were in the midst of planning your wedding or decades into a happy marriage, the experience of surviving a pandemic side-by-side was likely not one you ever prepared for—or thought you’d find yourself in, at the very least. Alas, so many couples have come out stronger, despite going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. The experience brought so many couples closer and taught valuable life lessons that so many of us will carry with us throughout our lives.
Here are some of the remarkable stories of lessons learned from real couples as they thrived through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“How to savor quality time, even when it’s in abundance.”
“After a little over a year of dating, my now-fiancé Ras and I decided to move in together. Two weeks later, we went into lockdown and had a crash course on cohabitation. Much to our surprise (and delight!), being stuck inside together 24/7 actually brought us closer. We enjoyed unpacking and putting together our apartment, trying new recipes, playing ping-pong (thanks to an impromptu purchase), and coming up with our own activities. He started puzzling; I started doing Paint by Numbers, and together, we created our little home. We actually got engaged in August and adopted a puppy in October, so I'd have to say that quarantine time has been a good one for us. We’ve learned how to savor the quality time when we have it.” —Lindsay T., Boston
“The saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is true."
“My husband likes to wake up early and have the house to himself for two hours in the morning. I tend to stay up later than him so I have some time to myself after the family goes to bed. I also walk the dog alone in the day to have some physical space. The good news is that, in general, we are both introverts and have no trouble self-occupying. With different reading interests and hobbies, we are both easily able to find both physical and emotional time apart. This way, when we are together for meals or going for a long hike, we are actually happy to see each other and spend time together. While I would hesitate to say the pandemic is a ‘good’ thing, we are laughing together much more than usual and our inside jokes have multiplied exponentially. It has reaffirmed our belief that to stay together as a couple, both people need to focus on shared long-term goals. With the pandemic, all goals are long term. After the pandemic, we will go on vacation there, spend time with them, etc." —Jodi S., Boston
“How to effectively communicate with each other.”
“While I’ve learned a lot about my relationship throughout the course of the pandemic, my biggest takeaway has been how to communicate better. My husband and I have vastly different personalities—opposites attract, as they say!—and this was put to the test when we were spending 24/7 together. While we initially bickered and made up about who got access to what room during a conference call and how our postponed wedding invites would get redistributed, we eventually started to look at the root of the issue: how we communicated when things got hard, big or small. We had some long, hard conversations where we really talked through how we both approached problems, how we could communicate our feelings respectfully, how we could listen better, and how we could communicate as a team versus two individual players. Honestly, the pandemic has had a wonderful effect! I think the endless time together had really pushed some lingering issues up to the surface and afforded us the time we needed to address them. After resorting to plan Z, we got married during the pandemic, and I can’t wait to continue this new chapter. We’ve both been there to comfort the other when times got really anxious and stressful, and it’s nice to have a nearly endless sleepover with your best friend.” —Emily Roethle, Encinitas, California
“How to be okay with the concept of the unknown.”
“My husband and I got so used to making a plan with our long-distance relationship. We were in a groove with a schedule where we would see each other regularly. As hard as it was being apart from each other, we always knew that we’d be together again soon. Once the pandemic hit, however, we didn’t see each other for six whole months, which was the longest time we’ve spent apart in our entire relationship. It was really challenging, especially as newlyweds, but through it, we’ve seen how each of us handles a crisis and the raw emotions behind that. I’m thankful to have someone to go through this emotional time with, even if it’s over Skype. We talk daily and try to have movie nights together or recommend shows to one another, but nothing really compares to being physically together. There’s nothing like being able to get a real hug and not just send an emoji through text. I encourage anyone out there in marriages where one spouse travels for a job or there is some separation at times to continue to push through and know that if you can get through these big moments like a pandemic, your relationship really can sustain through anything." —Lauren P., Los Angeles
“We didn’t not know each other as well as we thought.”
“The pandemic has reintroduced my husband to me. I've known him for well over a decade and we've been married for more than two years, but I’ve only now learned who my husband truly is, which is completely different from who I thought he was. Prior to the pandemic, my explanation of what my husband did for a living was completely different from what I would say today. Watching him deliver keynotes, presentations, and consult with clients has absolutely given me a new view of his profession and a better understanding of what takes up his day to day in the office. I have a deeper understanding of my husband's interest and hobbies. I never really knew how much he enjoyed e-sports and video gaming. I also didn't know what a great chef he is. The pandemic has served as a great opportunity for me to meet my husband again, and he's definitely not the same person I met 13 years ago.” —Gabrielle G., White Plains, New York
“We’re able to withstand so much when we face things together.”
“Up until the pandemic, things came easy in our relationship. We’re both kind and soft-spoken people so we never had crazy fights or jealousy issues. We’ve been pretty blessed overall so we haven’t had to go through major difficult times together…until now. March and April brought a year’s worth of tough times. We had to cancel our wedding, we both caught COVID-19, and my then-fiancé got laid off. On top of that, it was just us two living in a tiny NYC studio. I feel like you don’t really know how tough you are until you go through something difficult, something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone, and I felt this was true for our relationship. We had been comfortable. We always knew we could depend on each other, but going through this pandemic together really tested that. Health and money issues can strain a relationship, but we were determined to make this work—and we did. While this pandemic is far from over, I feel like we’re already coming out the other side. I typically like to put difficult situations and experiences behind me and continue looking forward, but I can’t with this. What we went through was essential to our relationship and brought us to where we are now. We built a foundation for our marriage, and one that was much stronger than it was before. We’re both non-confrontational and like to avoid issues if we can, but this situation we found ourselves in forced us to confront what was going on, as well as some past issues. This experience really taught me how to coexist with someone, which I needed to learn before getting married. Cherish what and who you have, be grateful for little wins, and care for others. This pandemic is hard for everyone, but the most selfless thing you can do is to try to make it a little easier for someone else.” —Alyssa A., Miami
“How to appreciate each other for the little things.”
“My husband [and I] had a micro-wedding! When our wedding plans got canceled, we decided to get married in Central Park anyway. We could have waited for the big party, white dress, and 150 guests but instead we quickly realized that all that mattered was our being together. And being home together, every day, with the pressures of work and isolation, it was a very quick marriage test. We spent nine months working from home, sitting across from each other at the dining room table of our one-bedroom apartment. We hear every meeting, every phone call, sense the highs and lows of a workday. We’ve become each other’s support system and have a new appreciation and respect for what each other does. It’s kind of sexy to see your partner thrive at work, but also feels good to be able to be there for them when they have had a bad day. You feel all the wins. In addition to being better partners, we have become much better friends. We have become each other’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders. Since we are home together and both have demanding jobs, we have a more natural division of the home chores. We take turns making dinner, walking our dog, doing the dishes, and taking the first shower. We respect and appreciate each other more and each of our personal spaces. We know that if we can get through this, we can get through anything. And have come out a stronger couple.” —Brooke T., New York City
“Our relationship is as strong as it is flexible.”
“We’ve had to swerve in so many ways over the last eight or nine months. My wife has had to be on conference calls sometimes up to nine hours a day because she couldn’t travel to client sites, and I’ve had to do TV appearances from my study instead of in various studios because my book tour was canceled. I got a ring light, she got a headset, and we made it work. We had one dog already, Walter, and we adopted a puppy, Aurora. So, instead of just letting the old guy out back, we suddenly had to take the little one on walks every two hours. We got into a new groove: Whoever isn’t on a call, takes Aurora for a walk and whoever is otherwise engaged, slides open the door and lets Walter go out to do his business on his own. I cook. A lot. We don’t just make lemonade out of lemons. We make limoncello. The pandemic threw us so many curve balls. I think our initial tendency was to simply duck. But you can’t keep that up for long. You have to learn how to swerve." —Jenny B., Houston
“It is healthy to take a break from each other.”
“At the beginning of the pandemic, my fiancé and I agreed that we should each have some ‘me time’ throughout the day, which, in the beginning of COVID-19, was as simple as a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood for fresh air. As restrictions loosened up, we both set aside some time to (safely) reconnect with our friends separately who we hadn't seen in a while. It’s not natural or healthy in any type of relationship to spend every waking moment with one another so by setting boundaries of allowing time apart, even if it's only 20 minutes a day, I think it can really keep some normalcy within your relationship. I know this pandemic has strengthened our relationship. We have gone through a lot together, good and bad, in this time from layoffs from jobs, to launching a business to getting engaged and starting to plan for a wedding. I started my own business during the pandemic largely due to the push and encouragement from my fiancé. Without his support, I know I wouldn’t have had the courage to do. Obviously, we had to navigate the new normal of our relationship, just like all couples did, but even though some days the world seemed like it was crumbling, we knew we had each other to get through the unknown together.” —Ann K., New York City
“We’re truly each other’s best friend.”
“At the start of the shutdown, we had no idea how it was going to be literally spending 24 hours a day seven days a week together, but during that time, we grew so much as a couple. We took up gardening, had dinner and a glass of wine by our bonfire every night, took on some home projects, and planned a wedding. During this time, we spent the least amount of time on social media and watching Netflix than ever before. Before the pandemic, both of us were extremely busy and would go most of the day without seeing each other; however, both of us thrived as a couple when we were given the opportunity to spend so much time together and grow together. The experience has been nothing short of continuous growth, both independently and collectively, as we’ve learned to not only live during the pandemic but flourish as a couple. We’ve been each other's encouragement and voice of reason when times got hard, which has made all the difference. Our goal has never been to just make it through this pandemic; our goal has been to lift each other to even higher levels with all of this newly found free time.” —Kate H., Casco, Maine
“My relationship is all I need.”
“With ‘outside being closed,’ it has just been us. We both learned a lot about ourselves during the pandemic, but the sharing and supporting we gave to each other is out of this world. From the emotional uplift during a career change and wedding planning to the continuous check-ins to see if we each ate during the day, it was obvious: We both put each other in front of ourselves. It was almost like ‘I love you more’ was a subconscious competition. An extrovert [involuntarily] working from home was at times stressful, but his encouragement, motivation, and support were apparent every step of the way. When either of us was stressed, sad, or politically angry, the other poured a glass and sat for discussion. No matter what was going on, we had each other’s back, front, and side. We are all we need.” —Danielle L., Baltimore, Maryland