By Anna Baker
It’s safe to say that lockdown changed my relationship with my partner significantly. As our worlds became smaller, things that used to sustain me – coffees with friends, or visiting new places – disappeared. Having a supportive partner in this time of crippling uncertainty was invaluable. Yet the impact of the lockdown fog on our relationship was undeniable. I realised I had no idea how to navigate a relationship in such strange circumstances. Whilst this was scary and uncertain, it forced me to bust wide open some popular relationship rhetoric, leading to a healthier and more sustainable love.
During the first leg of lockdown, I felt lonely, bored, and unfulfilled. Falling prey to the popular rhetoric that your partner has to be your everything, I thought this must be symptomatic of flaws in my relationship. My partner is supposed to fulfill me, be my best friend, intellectually challenge me, and be my main support. In a huge way, my partner does all of these things. But, as things started to disappear from my life with Covid, I realised how many other things had been fulfilling me. My best friends, for example, were a huge support: those comforting chats over tea and coffee made me feel loved and held. Arguing with my dad over politics kept my appreciation of different perspectives growing and challenged my thinking. Knowing I could pop over to my sisters for a chat about anything and everything was invaluable friendship. Thus, my partner was not my everything – and that was ok. How one person can ever be expected to be your ‘everything’ is crazy. A partner is a human being, not a demigod.
This brings me onto a second lesson learnt from lockdown. It became incredibly important to realise that I am responsible for my own happiness, not my partner. Now, this may sound like a hugely obvious thing to say. But during lockdown, like many of us, my mood took a huge hit. I looked upon my partner like an old Disney prince: I expected him to come and ‘save’ me from my gloom. When this did not happen, I rationalised that my relationship must be wrong: why wasn’t he curing my low mood?! Until I stumbled upon an important truth: you cannot put your happiness in the hands of anyone else, even your most loved person. It is so important to take radical responsibility for your own happiness, and revel in that.
The final gift lockdown bestowed upon my relationship was to bust wide open what love meant for me. I always believed love was a feeling. You feel butterflies when you see your partner, you want the best for them no matter what, and you love being around them. Whilst all these things are true, on day 80 of self-isolation during a global pandemic, you certainly may not be feeling this way towards your partner (!). Instead of a feeling, or a noun, love became a verb, an action: a moment everyday of actively choosing my partner. Some days I felt like I could cry with love for him. Some days he was just a person in my life who kept leaving his crap on my floor. But whatever my feelings were, I chose him each day, just as he chose me, and that, to me, is love.
And so, whilst lockdown challenged my relationship hugely, forcing both of us to reflect on ourselves together and apart, I believe it has revealed what is important to sustain us, leading to a stronger, healthier post-lockdown love.