Relationships

What’s Missing from a Pandemic Marriage? Other People

couple on sofa

On a recent night, something unusual happened…

My friend Aimee was over for dinner. My husband, daughter and I are in a tiny quarantine pod with her family, so once a week we set up the kids at the counter with hot dogs and baby carrots, and the adults sit around the table, like civilized people, pretending we are anywhere other than home: dinner, salad, wine. Placemats. Cloth napkins. It has, momentarily, the air of normalcy.

It started benignly enough: Aimee asked my husband something about work. Shameful as it sounds, my immediate instinct was to throw a tantrum — she’s really MY friend and I get so little time with her and I know all about your work! Can we please talk about anything else?! But once my husband started talking, I felt something unusual stir inside me, the thing I didn’t even know I’d been missing for almost a year: the thrill of seeing my partner through someone else’s eyes.

Much has been written about how hard this pandemic is on marriage — the forced togetherness; the unnatural weight of becoming the only other adult in the person’s orbit; and for many of us, the lonely slog of parenting without in-person school or assistance. For months I’ve thought about how much it would help me to see my girlfriends, to leave the apartment, to have a normal eight hours apart from my spouse. “Go to your office!” I often want to scream. (He can’t.)

But what I’d completely forgotten about in this year of isolation is the joy of being with your spouse and other people. It didn’t occur to me that some of the difficulty simply had to do with seeing your partner, day after day, month after month, through your same old, worn out eyes with absolutely no one else around to help you see them any differently.

Gone are the furtive glances across a party, when he’d wink at me the way I like while pouring himself a glass of red. Gone are the raucous dinners where he’d sit on the other side of the table, absorbed in conversation with someone (anyone!) else; when I’d catch a glimpse of his jawline from just the right angle, or be reminded how intently he listens to others, or how taken my friends are with him. Gone are the days of seeing one’s spouse in their element — at work, in a social setting, even simply dressed and put together, ready to leave the house. Those moments that, for many of us, gave rise to the heat, the lust, the interest, the curiosity in the first place. Those moments that made you want more.

It’s entirely possible that if Aimee hadn’t been there for dinner, if my husband had told me this particular story about his work over our usual rushed pasta (at the counter, a seven-year-old between us yelling for our attention), I would have half-listened or even cut it short. When it comes to work, we seem to have the same conversation over and over again. “How was teaching?” We ask each other. “Fine.” We have a joke that when I ask him how work is going, he can only say, “Can’t complain,” not because all is going well, but because I literally cannot hear one more complaint out of his mouth.

But here our friend was curious about the ins and outs of his job, which led to him recounting tales of living in China during the SARS outbreak; of deferring graduate school because of a clerical error; of the affection he feels for his hard-working graduate students — and something happened to me. I got that little, old rush I hadn’t felt in ages.

Here was my love, his outward face, on display again. Not the guy who forgets to throw out the garbage or make the bed or who plays the piano when I want him to be playing Legos with our kid. Here was the smart, kind, considered, polite, adventurous man I’d married. Here was, to put it simply, the person I’d fallen in love with. I so often, in these trying times, forget that guy.

We get married because we want to go beyond furtive glances at parties, drunken conversations over well-lit dinners, one-night stands where not much is revealed but a great time is had by all. We want the real stuff of intimacy — to be able to say to our partners eight times a week, “Do you think I have COVID?” and have them not divorce us.

But for intimacy to flourish, we also need not look at each other head-on for an endless series of terrifying months, our public personas sliced off completely, life reduced to survival and domesticity. For months I’d thought the solution might be for someone to leave for a while. I’d fantasize about driving off, or about him driving off for long periods of time. I dream about being alone in a cabin, no one asking me what’s for dinner or whether the credit card bill has been paid.

But maybe the solution is actually even more impossible right now: It is simply to bring others back into our orbits again. We need friends who force us to pull ourselves together, to get out of our literal and metaphorical pajamas. We need to see friends unmasked, up close, over dinner, over wine, over long, winding conversations not just because we love them, but for what they do for us. They provide this canvas, this stage. They allow us to breathe new life into our old relationships. They can help us remember why, of all people, we chose to marry each other at all.


Abigail Rasminsky is a writer, editor and teacher based in Los Angeles. She teaches creative writing at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and writes the weekly newsletter, People + Bodies.

P.S. Eight things I’ve learned about marriage, and the secret to a happy marriage.

(Photo by Javier Díez/Stocksy.)

  1. Lindsay says...

    This resonated with me. Thanks for sharing! I realized a few months ago how much I miss seeing my children through other people’s eyes. I can absolutely relate how the same is true for spouses

  2. Ella says...

    Anybody else living with a roommate and really struggling? This was so beautifully written and despite being single I related to a lot of it, but I’ve been having the hardest time living with a person I am not even in love with!!! So I feel a little jealous of those who are living with the person they love the most.

    • Kate says...

      Hmm, I have three housemates (plus cat) and I am so grateful for all of them and our pizza and taco night rituals. I lived with my partner for the first half of the pandemic, then he took a trip across the world and dumped me via text, so I’m pretty glad I’m not alone right now. And I am enjoying living with them more than living with that person I loved! Maybe you need a better roommate? Mine have almost always become close friends and it’s nice to have some alone time and space since being single.

  3. Jennifer says...

    I have experienced a similar feeling while observing/overhearing my husband on zoom calls for work or while leading meetings for the board of directors of a nonprofit that he chairs. He is a funny, calm, poised leader who says smart and insightful things, and seeing him in that light makes me feel googly-eyed with love and appreciation for him. I’ve been so grateful to have this experience over the past year of both of us working from home.

  4. Aneli says...

    Wonderful. Thank you

  5. JK says...

    I feel like this week I finally hit a burnout point with my husband, with whom I have been working from home this week, and love so much, but have seen 24/7 for the last year and just am kind of generally annoyed by all of a sudden. I’ve never felt this way before in all of our 10-year anniversary (though I feel this way regularly with literally everyone else on earth). I will admit it freaked me out a bit! Reading this really helped me to recontextualize my feelings. Thanks!

  6. This is SO good, and SO true! We couldn’t imagine not being with each other throughout everything… but with work and life being mushed together into one place, it’s ALL hard. And this… I truly do miss seeing my significant other through someone else’s interactions/eyes

  7. Alicia Bartz says...

    This is a stunningly beautiful and true.

  8. Beth Lariviere says...

    OMG this is so true! Bang on. Thanks

  9. Sarah k says...

    This was beautiful! I loved it.

  10. Eliza says...

    I felt this Thursday during parent teacher conferences over zoom. I was calling in from my office, husband was at home, and teacher in third location. I watched him make a wise observation about our son followed by a joke. The teacher laughed, and I realized, ” oh yeah, he’s handsome and funny, and other people like him.” Guys, this is pandemic romance. The new date night: parent-teacher conferences (10 min in the middle of the workday from separate locations). The bar is so, so low.

    • Justine says...

      Hahaha

  11. Olivia says...

    You have received all sorts of judgmental comments here. But note how different the approaches are within those – some have friend pods, some see family, some don’t, and surely everyone’s behaviors and risk tolerances still vary within that. I think that’s part of the issue – a year in it’s not as simple as “stay home.”

    To all of the people eschewing mental health, I think that’s an incredibly selfish perspective for you to take. Public health is about MUCH more than covid.

  12. KB says...

    This is lovely. I relate, but from the other end of the relationship spectrum – I just got into a serious relationship this fall. After a few weeks outdoor dates, we decided to go “all in” and be a part of one another’s pods. It’s been great, but it’s meant that early part of the relationship, which is often full of exciting dates and activities , meeting one another’s friends, maybe a first trip together, has been more like a settled-in partnership – just the two of us at one another’s apartments, cooking, watching TV, playing board games and talking. I love that we’ve gotten to know each other so well and feel so comfortable together, but I long for the kind of experience the author describes – seeing him interact with my friends, meeting up with him after work in the city, catching his eye across the room at a party. Reading this will certainly make me appreciate those things more when they happen (hopefully soon)!

  13. rt says...

    Nicely written but doesn’t resonate with me much. We were never big entertainers at now I’m 45 with two little kids it’s not like I’m spending a ton of time with having dinners out with a bunch of people, too much work. I’d be happy to do something with my husband outside the house and without kids (haven’t used babysitters this whole time), I wouldn’t mind going out with some girlfriends, but listening to my husband speak to someone not me is not something I really care about!

  14. Em says...

    wow. I needed to read this today. thank you so much.

  15. Megan says...

    This piece is so good!
    I left my computer at home yesterday when I went to teach (hybrid, distanced, masked, etc.) and my husband brought it to me as I was finishing up a class. Since our doors have to be opened for ventilation I could hear him distantly chatting with a coworker in the hall and I could NOT concentrate on African geography.
    I had forgotten that when I hear his voice in a crowd of people I am so distracted that I can’t focus, even after 19 years together. I told my 7th grade girls it’s a symptom of being in love.

    • Valérie says...

      this is heart-warming. thank you for sharing – and all the best to you both <3.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      How romantic ❤

  16. Meg says...

    I literally went to a cabin by myself for a week. It was heaven, and I am so lucky that I was able to do that. In times of intense togetherness, the job of the relationship is to cultivate separateness. You can’t enjoy the view otherwise!

    (although, full disclose, I like being at home every day with my husband, and I don’t want him to return to the office.)

  17. Juliana Anderson says...

    Oh, you should definitely do a post about polyamory/non-monogamy :)

  18. Olivia says...

    My husband and I have been working throughout COVID. He has also had COVID twice (yes, twice. My daughter and I did not get it). The strangest or most difficult thing for me (other than initially being worried we’d end up jobless, homeless, dead) is that since my daughter was 9 mos when it began, I haven’t really been able to be a mother in a public sphere. Big family gatherings or holidays – no. Church – no. Just anything, really. Motherhood feels like this private thing to me as opposed to sharing my child with the world. It’s almost made me feel like a kid still myself in some ways…idk. I’m sad about it, and looking forward to her second birthday in June, when we can probably have a family party.

    • Jessica says...

      My kid is similar in age, and I feel the same way. This is such a wild age, she’s learning so much, tackling new obstacles every day, feeling out her personality. I get so sad that my husband and I are the only ones to observe this, the only people who really know her. It has a bit of a if-a-tree-falls-in-a-forest depressing sort of feeling. It’s one of the things I’ve mourned most this year.

    • Elise says...

      Same here. My son is the exact same age as your daughter (turning 2 in June!) and I’m sad every day about this. I was so excited to be a parent in the world and loved seeing my son interact with others. Seeing others interact with him. It’s so hard.

    • Ali says...

      My son is two and I relate to this so much.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      That sounds so hard, since motherhood is already so isolating! I so hope you get to see family soon. (And I’m so relieved your husband is okay!). xx

    • MJ says...

      My son will be 2 in June. Absolutely relate to this. Sometimes, time feels like it’s stood still since March 2020 but I look at him and realize how much change has occurred.

    • A says...

      Yes, I feel this so hard. My son is the same age – will be 2 at the end of May – and I really mourn all the things we haven’t been able to do with him in this pivotal time in his baby to toddlerhood. Aside from not having gatherings with family or going places (the last time he was in a grocery store was Feb 2020, when he was 8 months old, and now he’s almost 2!), he hasn’t ever played with another child his age. This time last year, he was still at that age where babies hardly notice another baby playing near them. Since then he’s grown so much into a running, talking, playing little kid, but has no one his age to share it with. We occasionally interact from a distance with other kids at the park, but it’s definitely no the same as him getting to be in a room of his peers, sharing toys, etc.

  19. C says...

    This is interesting! We are doing a socially distanced meet up with some new coworkers of my husband’s tonight (… outdoor in 30 degree weather) which I am totally not looking forward to and was considering bailing on… but this convinced me to maybe give it a whirl. :)

  20. Rebeca says...

    Nothing profound to say except that I loved this so, so much. Yes, to every word!

  21. Sarah says...

    Not married or partnered but WOW this resonates! Thank you.

  22. Claudia says...

    So beautiful!

  23. Emma says...

    This is one of the best pieces of writing about Covid dynamics that I’ve seen recently. I had a very similar experience last night at outdoor drinks with friends we haven’t seen in 12 months. Watching my partner make our friends laugh felt like seeing a version of him I’d lost this year, even though he makes me laugh all the time.

    I also felt the flip side – he doesn’t like reality tv so I rarely talk about it with him, but I got into a heated and hilarious fake argument about a reality tv show with a friend that had the whole group laughing – I also started to recognize a part of myself I haven’t seen this year – the person who can flip between a serious debate and a silly topic seamlessly, who can make her friends laugh, who’s good at making everyone in the group feel included – those are things that make me feel like me that I consider some of my best qualities and I hadn’t even realized they were missing! I feel like I’ve only been living with the version of myself who can be anxious, self-centered, short-tempered this year, it was nice to see the good side of her again.

    Thank you for this piece :)

    • Carolyn says...

      This hit the nail on the head. I remember always being so happy to go home to my husband after being out with my friends because I had a fresh perspective. That is missing from life now. I get a touch of this when my husband and his father discuss something technical from work on our weekly zoom call. Yeah,I’ll take what I can get.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      This is so kind, thank you. And I totally hear you on wanting to see myself anew/through someone else’s too! AGH!

    • Amy says...

      This comment made me cry! My pandemic self is trying her best, but she’s also scared, exhausted, anxious, and burnt out. This made me remember I DO have a good side and as the days get longer and the vaccines keep rolling, it may be easier to feel like a whole and balanced person again sooner than we think. Thank you, Emma.

  24. Nigerian Girl says...

    This almost made me want a partner. Almost.

    • Ha! Same. Just a part-time one.

  25. Ella says...

    Love this. Another thing to look forward to in the warmer, brighter, vaccinated days ahead.

  26. jen says...

    You’ve said what I feel and didn’t even know I felt. Thank you for this tiny yet big peace of humanity that is happening. When you share I remember I’m not in this alone, our shared smirk at and wry smile about feeling this way gives me the courage to keep going with the same people in my same house for another day. Here’s to great friends and being together again!

  27. Emily says...

    It’s interesting to read different responses to the pandemic a year in. I’m curious about motivations behind more intense isolations… is it mostly to prevent getting sick or to protect others? Myself, I got covid earlier in February. Since then, I’ve had people over to our house, gone to an indoor park, visited family. For me, my mental health was suffering in this cold weather and has vastly improved doing these things. But I think it’s important to hear other people’s motivations to reach a place of mutual understanding rather than judgment or dismissal.

    • Tamara says...

      yes, it is to prevent getting sick and protect others and primarily to prevent/slow the spread which if it happens too quickly will overwhelm the hospital system (and other systems) which will cause even more people to die and suffer.

      I agree though that finding safe ways to take care of your mental health is important. We’ve done a lot of hiking, hanging out outside at a distance with friends, basically a lot of outdoor activities plus a very small friend pod. Also just doing a lot of self care and making time for pleasure like cooking yummy food, stretching, journaling, baths, etc.

      I’m curious, what is an indoor park? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    • KH says...

      For me it’s mostly protection for other people. I avoided indoor gatherings outside of our small pod of people to avoid spreading this disease. I’m also an infectious diseases physician and see COVID patients on a daily basis in the hospital, in the ICU. I’ve seen many of them die and their families grieve and the ICU nurses and physicians become more and more tired. I remember specifically how terrifying it was when we were nearly reaching capacity and people were still gathering together – visiting family out of state, groups of people throwing halloween parties, having dinners over at friends’ houses. I think you could have read any healthcare worker’s account of the pandemic online or in the news, or heard any respected scientist, epidemiologist, or physicians’ recommendations on avoiding the spread of this disease – and understood pretty clearly what the motivation for maintaining strict social distancing would be. So yeah, really difficult to “not pass judgement” on hearing people generally not give a shit about public health and the well-being of their community members so they can maintain their mental health. I can’t imagine what kind of mental health the ICU nurses are experiencing during this pandemic or the families grieving their dead loved ones. If everyone had undergone “intense isolation” there would be thousands of less dead people right now. If that’s not motivation, I don’t really know what is.

    • PM says...

      Motivations? There’s a pandemic going on and, in the US, over half a million people have died. I’m not sure what other motivation you need? If you’re not interested in protecting the lives of others, just say so. You don’t need to pretend to be curious about our motivations – we have been screaming them from the rooftop. I can’t imagine you don’t know what the motivations are and it’s a bit silly to act as if our motivations are some complex and hard to grasp concept. I understand that you need to take this stance in order to justify your actions though. And to be clear, I do absolutely pass judgment on those who are cavalier about public health.

    • Sadie says...

      I found that my risk tolerance was directly tied to the case load in my community. This made me realize that my main priority was to make sure I wasn’t contributing to community spread. As we all have, I learned a lot about my friend’s risk tolerance and would try to give people options about how to spend time together.

    • Tamara says...

      KH, I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve expressed about the suffering of not only covid patients, but also their families and the healthcare workers who take care of them, plus beyond that, morgue workers, funeral homes, all the other people who work at hospitals who are at increased risk and adjacent to all the suffering. This is why staying home and being careful is so so important. But mental health is also important because people also die when mental health takes a dive. And while I agree that it’s hard not to judge people who are being reckless, I’m trying to reserve my anger for our leaders who could have both implemented clear and consistent guidance and also paid people to stay home like other countries have done. We have that capability as a country but instead they just let people suffer and die. I’m done fighting amongst ourselves because that’s what the system was designed to do so that a few at the top could rule and make millions while the rest of us squabble. No more of that.

    • J says...

      My mental health is suffering as I come to a year’s anniversary of worrying that I, my partner, or my parents (or friends, friends’ parents, cousins, other relatives, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.) will either die of covid or become permanently disabled by the disease (remember, it is not only a die-survive dichotomy). At this point, staying home, not seeing people, and not traveling to visit family (I have not seen any family since 2019) is mostly to protect myself, given the incredible selfishness that Americans continue to show.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m with PM – “motivations”? I find it a surreal question to be posed, but my motivations for following public health advice during a pandemic include:

      – not wanting to take the chance of me spreading Covid to someone who ends up very ill or dead
      – not wanting to get Covid myself
      – to slow spread which could overwhelm health systems
      – I am extremely lucky to be able to work from home. I limit how much I frequent other people’s workplaces out of respect for those who can’t work from home. I don’t want my presence anywhere to make anyone feel unsafe, frustrated, overwhelmed or, as above, literally make them ill. (I go to the grocery store – I can easily go so don’t want to take up delivery slots from those who don’t)
      – I don’t want anything I do to make this whole thing last one bloody second longer than it is lasting.

      I try to largely live by the idea of ‘how would it be if everyone did this thing that I am doing?’. Of course I fail this test a lot in Normal Times, though I try. But at the moment, if everyone in my position (lucky to be able to work from home) went round doing whatever they wanted we would be ever further up shit creek. It’s the literal least I can do.

    • em says...

      I’m an oncologist and have lost multiple patients who were already dealing with cancer. my mental health suffers too! it has been since last year when I had to work in a COVID19 ICU and watch people die, and it still is, knowing that vaccinations are coming as quickly as we can manage – yet governors are rolling back mask mandates and opening indoor dining while so many essential workers are still unprotected, >2000 people are dying per day, and many others remain ill. it seems to me that you’re asking others to withhold judgment over your decisions, but respectfully, I would ask you to consider the frustrations of others as well. better times are coming! in the meanwhile, we can nourish our relationships in ways that are less risky – hiking, walking in the park, chatting across the driveway, virtual board games, etc.

  28. SP says...

    oh gosh, just gorgeously written!

    i broke up with my long term partner around christmas so while i very much do not have this experience, i love reading y’all’s love stories! i’ve been reading COJ since I was a lonely teenager in a tiny southern town and I feel like i’ve grown up looking up to the writers and commenters here. so this is how you love, so this is how you live. what a kind, funny, open group of folks we have here!

    also, now that i’m solidly single, if anyone wants to pass my number to the man in the pic up top eating pizza… whoa!

    • Alexandra says...

      Just want to chime in to say that I also have been reading CoJ since I was a lonely teenager AND I broke up with my longterm partner around the holidays! Sending you positive energy for this new chapter in your life :)

  29. D says...

    I loved this, beautifully written. This sentence was just too good “We want the real stuff of intimacy — to be able to say to our partners eight times a week, “Do you think I have COVID?” and have them not divorce us.”” Too accurate haha.

  30. Kristin says...

    This x 100. I have thought about this so many times over the past year. Glad I am not alone!

  31. Abigail says...

    Thank you so much for expressing in words what so many of us are feeling. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and sometimes just glance through. But today, I stopped and took the time to soak in all your words. I sometimes catch myself staring at my husband while he is playing with our 2-year old and think, “wow, I married this incredible man.” And then there are times where I just don’t want to be near him. The pandemic has changed the way we live our lives, and look at each other. I know that I appreciate my husband now more than ever, but do sometimes find myself wondering if we’re doing ok in life, or if we’re doing ok together as a family. It’s hard to put into words what this pandemic has done and what the pandemic has changed in all of us. You want to be alone, but you want the normalcy to come back of friends and family.

    Brilliant post.

  32. Anne S says...

    I’m always amazed by how much more attracted I feel to my husband when we’re with other people. Our “pod” includes his parents, so we visited last weekend to take a virtual cooking class with them. I can feel the change starting on the ride over, when my husband puts on our favorite podcast and reaches out to give my hand a squeeze.

    He immediately becomes more affectionate and attentive when we walk through the door, keeping his arm around me or a hand on my back, asking me if I need anything, even though we spent the whole day together beforehand. And I feel the same way, hardly able to resist giving him a kiss every few minutes and staring at him like a psycho. Then the afterglow when we get back home late at night and talk about the evening while we brush our teeth. We’re coming up on our first anniversary and I hope this is a phenomenon that continues our whole marriage.

  33. Hannah says...

    This hits home on so many levels! After one year staying in the same apartment with my husband, I really feel this. We don’t have kids yet and have the luxury of having two different rooms to work from – the office (him) and the living room (me) – which affords us space. But now that I’ve read this, I really miss seeing him in a social setting. I miss us talking to different people at parties, then flitting into each other’s orbit for a light touch on the back or a kiss on the forehead to show affection, before we gently move on and continue to chatting with other people.

    I’m excited, though, about the following prospect: we’ve ordered in from a fancy restaurant and I plan on getting dressed up (!) and wearing make-up (!!) for our date (!!!) – it might just be in our kitchen, but I’ll try to make the setting different with tons of candles and maybe even a table cloth. The occasion is special enough – we’ve been together for 7 years. Married for 1.5 years – 1 of those spent in pandemic self-isolation. And we still love each other. ;)

  34. CC says...

    Thank you for identifying and putting this into words in such a beautiful way!

  35. Hilde says...

    What a beautiful piece of art, thank you for this! And such a wonderful reminder of how to see someone through different lenses – I’ll carry this with me in my future relationships.

  36. Juana says...

    Amen! This is very true. It reminds me of the Esther Perel TED talk about relationships. The blurred lines between romance and being a roomate that make relationships have their ups and downs. Looking forward to having others re-enter iur orbit as well!

  37. Rose says...

    This is spot on, loved reading and going to share it with my husband!

  38. Agnès says...

    Reading your beautiful essay makes me realize how much you ve been going through in the us. Sending many thoughts, and above all, i can t complain.

  39. L says...

    This is beautifully written though I can admit that as the person who has been working at work (the hospital) throughout this entire pandemic and coming home to the same cranky husband and kids, I sometimes long for a furtive glance at a party or drunken conversation over dinner with any lighting. I find myself desperate for change from the monotony. I need to keep reminding myself that pandemics do not last forever.

  40. Rupa says...

    Beautiful, stunning essay! I can relate to all of it, and a (relatable and so true) perspective I haven’t heard yet during this pandemic.

  41. Jill says...

    I’ve been reading Cup of Jo for YEARS, since the very beginning. I just love this piece. I’ve felt this way about so many posts but have never commented (Caroline’s writing has made me cry many times), but now, with all social interactoins voided, I feel it’s time to send over some praise and thanks and appreciation for this blog and all its wonderful people and posts. Also, I’m a single 33 year old living with a roommate and somehow relate to this SO very much. Even seeing friends in the light of others eyes makes a difference in your perception and interactions, and all of that has been lost. It’s been interesting to realize the things that you did not know you missed or that made a difference in your day to day life until someone else points them out, as this beautiful piece does. Anyways, just sending thanks for years and years of following :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      This means so much to us all, Jill! Thank you so much, truly xoxo

  42. Rosie says...

    I love this! I would add that other people also let you see yourself through other eyes than your spouse’s – and perhaps appreciate other parts of your own sense of humour, interests your partner doesn’t share, etc. Even though I felt like a fish in water when all plans were cancelled and I didn’t even have to feel bad about it (!!❤️!!), I can’t wait to delight in others’ company again and feel my whole self stretch again – parts that may not easily come out when watching Netflix on the couch or over the Dreaded Zoom.

    • Abby Rasminsky says...

      OMG yes, absolutely! Am dying to see myself through someone else’s eyes, too! And be forced to pull myself together. Love this.

  43. Julia says...

    Today my husband and I went for a walk after work. It was cold and windy and I had been on zoom calls for 9 hours straight. After a couple minutes of walking together in what I thought was blissful silence, my husband turned and said “why aren’t you saying anything?” and my heart broke a little bit. It’s so odd sometimes how we live this same life together, but in parallel universes.

    • laura says...

      ah it’s hard when you’re not instinctively on the same page (especially if you usually are!) but I hope you were able to just share why you were enjoying the peace and silence, and that you both had an enjoyable walk after sharing :) <3

    • SarahN says...

      So very poetic…

      (I hate that i babble so much more than my partner. I wish he just babbled about all manner of unimportant stuff more)

    • AG says...

      I hear you and relate to your little heartbreak. Perhaps chalk it off from being tired, cold and windy?

      I’ve said a few times – we’re not on the same page, same book, same shelf. I don’t think we’re not even in the same library. LOL. Hang in there!

  44. Jen says...

    This was such an insightful and beautifully written essay.

  45. Molly says...

    Beautiful essay! I LOVED it. xo

  46. R says...

    I have heavily compartmentalized a previous LTR, but this article sprung to life a memory I have of my ex. We were out on a date to this fabulously bougie late night spot and we were very young, so it all felt so enchanting. he had excused himself to the bathroom when the song “closer” by the chain smokers came on. We were both soooo hipster-damaged that we despised the song and had relentlessly made fun of it. He came out of the bathroom and we made eye contact from across the room and simultaneously had a sarcastic little dance to that song. He wasn’t a very funny/lighthearted person so it was very surprising. It remains one of my favorite memories of him. That kind of spontaneity that you can only get when out and about is sorely missed.

  47. M says...

    Oddly, I felt the same feeling described in this article, except about myself instead of a partner. I’m in college right now and last week I ran for student office. I spent four long days outside in the cold just talking to strangers on campus about my platform (masked and 6 feet apart, of course). I was surprised by how much fun the whole thing was and I realized it was because I saw a side of myself that I really love and haven’t seen for a long time. I had forgotten how good I can be at empathizing with strangers and loving people I don’t even know. That side of me has been buried during the pandemic, and it had been so long since I last had the chance to deeply connect with a stranger. It was a wonderful thing to see myself in a new light and I honestly felt so much love for and pride in this forgotten version of me!

    • TT says...

      Love this so much. Sounds like the campaign was a success no matter the outcome!

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      I love this so much. Yes to seeing other parts of ourselves, too, and to being surprised.

  48. Shade says...

    Wow. What a brilliantly written post. This will stick with me for a while…

  49. Gabriela says...

    I wanted to comment so someone else knows that today is the anniversary of Jenny Rosenstrach writing “How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party.” It made me feel so inspired to try hosting more often hahahaha, *weep*.

    • Neela says...

      Ohhhhh, ouch! Let’s pray that this time next year we can look back on a these days and say ‘thank goodness that’s over!’

    • Cills says...

      Raise your hand if you LOVE Jenny!

  50. Em says...

    I love this and feel this! Double dates (though rare) have always been my favorites because of the new perspective they give me on my spouse!

  51. Tovah says...

    Oooooooo yes, this resonates. I hope we hear more from this great writer!

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      Oh, Tovah, that means so much. Thank you. xx

  52. HeatherL says...

    Aw, that is very nice. Spouse and I are trying so hard but so, so tired of each other at this point. But we’re all we got! Hanging in there for another few months…I know we can do it! This is a lovely article, thanks for writing it.

  53. liz says...

    We live in texas and while we are incredibly cautious about covid and havent gone to a bar or restaurant or even had anyone inside our house since last march besides my mother, we do get to have outdoor socially distanced get togethers as the weather is mild here. We cant do it every weekend due to weather but its often enough to get some time with people. The hard part here is everyone is on such different levels of caution. Some are just doing whatever they want going to bars and restaurants etc. and some like us are doing only outdoor distanced and our kids are in a very small pod with one other family for school. but our school is at 90% capacity and no one else feels the exact same so we limit our outdoor gatherings to those who are still taking precautions. Its hard to feel isolated looking at everyone else having fun on facebook like this is all a bad dream. It feels like you are sitting outside the window at a party looking in and you cant join.
    I wish everyone would just follow the CDC guidelines so we could end this as soon as possible. But thanks to our govenor I’m sure Texas is bound for a spike in cases. UGGGGG.

    • Lareesa says...

      Oh Liz, I feel you! I’ve really been struggling the last few weeks, feeling like we’re an island of caution surrounded by people partying in bars and flying to Florida and hosting huge gatherings. I don’t have a solution, just want to empathize. It’s extremely isolating.

    • Laura says...

      I live in FL and have an asthmatic child, and SO feel this. Most everyone in our lives are back to normal with the occasional mask on. It’s hard.

    • KH says...

      I’m sorry, but you’re doing the right thing. I can imagine how difficult that would be with so many people not caring around you.

    • margaret says...

      Well said, Liz. I just want to extend a huge thank you to all who have sacrificed by staying home in order to keep themselves and the rest of us safe. [Not to mention the heroic essential workers who have my undying gratitude] And for those who choose to ignore the guidelines and put all of us at heightened risk because they find that staying home is hard, well . . . Just know it’s really hard for us too.

  54. Annie Oh says...

    oh, this really resonated. in some ways i’ve loved this “forced” time with my husband. we both often travel for our work, so this is the longest time we’ve ever spent together and it’s been nice to have so much time with each other. but, I do miss those looks across the crowded rooms, watching him get animated explaining his job to other people, and so much else. I can’t wait for us all to get vaccines so we can start the return to a sense of normalcy.

  55. Mallory says...

    The other day my husband and I were jokingly arguing over who is funnier, me or him. I texted my friends being like, it’s definitely me, right??

    My friend texted back saying, “well… remember that time I broke one of your wine glasses and I felt so bad, and his response was to casually toss his wine glass at the wall to break his too? that was HILARIOUS.”

    I’d forgotten all about how funny he is with other people! I laughed so hard at the memory and can’t wait until I can see him through other peoples’ eyes again.

    • Sarah says...

      Oh my gosh! That IS hilarious! What a gracious response!

    • Stacey says...

      That is hilarious – love that story!

    • EmBed says...

      Haha, your husband does sound pretty funny. My husband and I also argue about who is funny, but for me there is no real contest, I know it’s me. :))

    • Mary says...

      Mallory this made me LOL. Sounds like a great dinner party crowd.

  56. Megan Powell says...

    100% spot on. I didn’t even know we were struggling with this until I was reading your words. Especially this part: “Here was my love, his outward face, on display again. Not the guy who forgets to throw out the garbage or make the bed or who plays the piano when I want him to be playing Legos with our kid.”

    I’m struggling right now with my marriage because I can’t seem to get past all the things he’s not doing, or doing right. Even though they are mostly petty and unreasonable.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      I had no idea I was feeling it until my friend came over and they started talking and I was like, OH MY GOD HOW HAVE WE BECOME SO ONE-DIMENSIONAL TO EACH OTHER?! It has truly helped me remember that this is supremely unnatural and one day it’ll all seem…easier? I hope? And I’ll also stop caring as much about the garbage? (Maybe?) I hear you on the struggle, big time. xx

    • MB says...

      I remember reading once on this site, something along the lines of ‘in your marriage try not to confuse roommate issues with relationship issues”.
      I think it’s hard when you feel the housework etc. isn’t equally divided and the general macro stress makes it easier to focus on the negative. You’re not the only one!

    • Emily says...

      @MB That quote stuck with me as well! I’ve returned to it a lot this year. It’s a good one.

  57. Linda says...

    wow. this was truly missing and i couldn’t quite put my finger on why. bravo-!

  58. Stacey says...

    Agreed! I met my fiancé a few months before covid, so he only got to meet a few people. It was so nice to meet up with a couple people recently, and hear him tell a funny story. They were clearly seeing a new side of him, when they’d only met him once and otherwise heard about him through me. I was looking over at him, thinking wow you look and sound so sexy right now. Here’s to more socializing soon.

  59. Danielle says...

    We live many states away from most people we know but I’ve actually been loving listening to my husband on work calls since we’ve both been working at home. He’s on calls most of the day and I love hearing him in his work element talking and joking with coworkers and clients. It makes me understand what his work day is like and appreciate him as this other professional and colleague that is separate from “husband”.

  60. sarah says...

    “to be able to say to our partners eight times a week, “Do you think I have COVID?” and have them not divorce us.”
    made my heart sing.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      With you, sister. The struggle is real. xx

  61. AJ says...

    Great piece. I’m single, but this still resonates – I shudder at the thought of spending a whole week with someone. Let alone a year of pandemic! Ha!
    But there is a truth in this that extends beyond marriage, I think. We are just never our best selves, or able to see the best in others and the world around us, without breaking free from our own heads.

  62. Katey says...

    Reading through the comments I got to thinking, it’s sort of like we are the moon to our beloved’s sunshine. When others are adoring them or just paying attention to them, we get to reflect their brilliance and we are lit up, too. Then I remembered, there’s a word, moony, which is sort like being smitten. Lovestruck. Just a linguistic tangent I wanted to share.

    • Danielle says...

      This is so beautiful!

    • Lindsay says...

      Love this so much!

  63. Karen says...

    Thanks – a lovely refresher on keeping perspective where our spouses and partners belong. Sharing with my better half!

  64. Joanna says...

    This resonated with my relationship with my husband, but I also realized it was the missing piece of my relationship with my nearly one year old too! She was born as the Covid wave finally crashed on everything, and hasn’t met the majority of our family and friends. I kept thinking I was just sad for them to not know her, sad for her to not have them loving on her, but now I see I have also been missing all the little things other people will notice in your kid that you may miss in the day to day. Who her expressions remind her of, or little quirks that are special to her that I take for granted as a kid thing. I can’t wait to meet my kid through all of their eyes now too!

  65. 100 percent agree. I’ve been saying the same thing lately to my sister. I need to see my husband in a different setting, with a foil other than our demanding 5-year-old (I showed him this Onion headline COJ featured recently when he and the 5-year-old would not stop trying to have two different conversations with me AT THE SAME TIME). What I wouldn’t give to see him at a dinner party.

  66. Mel says...

    YES, my husbands best friend from childhood recently stopped by for coffee. besides our pod couple (and their daughter conveniently same aged as our oldest daughter) we’ve seen no one. My husband made him espresso and talked about all he’s learned about making espresso at home, showed him his winter sowing garden and I slunk into our bedroom where have both been working for 11 months with our (newish) baby (4 yo is at pre-k, thank God) but kept the door cracked and listened to the 2 of them talk about life, their parents, their partners, music, what they want to do this summer and my heart just felt, relieved. I told his friend before he left that I miss being a couple in relationship with other people and named this very phenomenon here and he said it was something missing from his relationship, but hadn’t been able to put a finger on it. We made plans for a double date as soon as all our parents are vaccinated and we feel safe enough to do so. Soon, very soon.

  67. Emily says...

    This is lovely. I’m not married, but I think this is part of what also has been missing in online/app dating as well (esp now it’s essentially the only dating in covid). Part of what made me fall for my last boyfriend was seeing how charismatic he was in groups of people, helping my best friend’s sister, etc. — in app dating all you’re seeing is the other person in isolation! (now literally)
    Then I think also what you’re writing about is that ‘us against the world’ feeling when you attend a dinner or party with your partner — there’s something about knowing in a crowd of people that there is one person you share a strong connection with and know each other intimately.

  68. I too want to SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS every time my wonderful husband tells me a work story… I don’t prattle on and on and on about my job so what makes him think I want to hear about his day-to-day?
    I do not.
    Until recently I have kept my mouth shut but I’ve recently hit a pandemic patience wall and I simply cannot bear it anymore. I mentioned that he needs a new work wife and I think he got the picture. The stories have lessened lately at least… fingers crossed they don’t pick up again!

    • CEW says...

      Holy shit, lol.

    • Angela says...

      I do not give 2 shits about my husband’s work either. I couldn’t begin to even describe what I do to him, so why do I have to listen to him go on and on about construction shit.

    • Lainey says...

      I am so glad this is not only me!!

  69. Irina says...

    My husband and I have been very lucky in that we’ve actually been able to socialize with others more rather than less during the pandemic. One of the few things you can do safely during COVID is get together with people outside for walks, hikes, etc. This is exactly how we like to spend time with others. Yet prior to the pandemic, many of our friends and acquaintances also did many other things… eat out, go to bars, attend arts & cultural events, travel, host parties, etc. For various reasons, my husband and I were rarely able to join in on these activities. These days, however, I feel like we’re snowshoeing, skiing, walking, or simply standing around and chatting outside with a friend or two nearly every week, or even more frequently. Sometimes we do this together, other times only one of us participates, but it’s so good for both of us. And, bonus – it doesn’t cost anything! Win-win.

    • Rachel says...

      Yes! I’ve loved that the go-to is a blanket by the water or stroll in the park over bars and restaurants. As a nature loving introvert, the lack of pressure to spend lots of money in a crowd of people has been a dream.

    • Lauren says...

      I love nothing more than a picnic in a park and the fact that everyone else is now doing what *I* want to do has been a definite silver lining of this pandemic nightmare :)

  70. Jeannie says...

    Long before the pandemic, my husband and I went to dinner with another couple and I had that same feeling… seeing my partner through someone else’s eyes.

    I told my husband in the car on the way home that if we’re ever experiencing a rough patch to please set up a double-date with one of our favorite couples… we haven’t necessarily needed to do it, but he’ll mention it from time to time because it really stuck with him.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      So smart. Note taken. x

  71. Yes. To. All. Of. This. I miss my friends. My partner and I hadn’t been together long when the pandemic hit, and I feel like it has stolen a year-plus of us getting to know each other’s communities.

  72. Erica says...

    As someone who hasn’t had another person in her apt since July (my parents), hasn’t been in someone else’s since Sept (my parents), hasn’t been around coworkers since March 2020, and whose child hasn’t been inside a building besides ours in just as long (he was 8mo old when this started), it fascinates and confuses me as well. [We’re in Boston]

  73. KR A says...

    Wow! yes! my relationship started right at the beginning of the pandemic and i crave being out somewhere with my boyfriend and knowing we are going home together. so far 99% of our time spent together is on each other’s couches or in each other’s kitchens. i cherish it but there is absolutely nothing spontaneous about it. i cannot wait to feel that spontaneous pang of admiration watching him out and about. :))

    • Emma says...

      I’m so impressed – doesn’t this year feel longer than normal in the dating world? I met my boyfriend on Halloween and these 4 months have been the sweetest, everything has really clicked into place. But we definitely started feeling restless come January…it wasn’t until we met up with my two best girlfriends for outdoor drinks that I got to see him through their eyes. It was something totally missing! And I definitely *felt* it if you know what I mean haha. We’re so excited for warmer weather and outdoor BBQs to meet other friends this summer. It’s exciting to look forward to another chapter of our relationship that way.

  74. Allison says...

    This is so lovely! And yes, yes! I miss us with friends so very much.

  75. Sarah says...

    This really resonated! My husband is an introvert, and we’ve actually really enjoyed both working from home during this crazy time and spending all this time together, but I recall – and haven’t thought about much – the thrill of watching him through my friends’ eyes. He needs plenty of down time to recharge after social gatherings, but when he’s at one, he shines. When he makes a joke that causes them to burst out laughing, or when he fixes something in their house or car just because he likes to be helpful, or when they get to see how sweet he is to me…it just magnifies my love for him. And yes, the lust, too :) I can’t wait until we’re all vaxxed and can get together again, and I can see them seeing him with our baby, too!

  76. Sarah says...

    So interesting to hear the perspectives of those who have chosen to truly remain isolated. Everyone’s definition of what is “safe” is so different. I live in a tourist town (Asheville) and outside of wearing masks and slightly lower capacities it’s business as usual here at the restaurants and breweries. Tourists are flocking here every weekend and people are socializing. For me, a backyard hang with friends outside and distanced is perfectly acceptable, not to mention totally needed. I honestly don’t know anyone that is truly “in quarantine” anymore, nor have they been for some time, so it’s fascinating to me that everyone’s definition of what that means is now so different considering we are all under different rules (state-mandated and self-mandated).

    • Ellen says...

      Weather/climate is a big part of this. It’s barely been above freezing where we are; kind of puts a damper on outdoor hangs.

    • Meg says...

      This is so fascinating. I’m in Seattle and I don’t really know anybody who is “not in quarantine” anymore. None of my friends are going to restaurants or bars (that I know if at least!) Although we do lots of outdoor hangouts, it’s hard here with the weather. (Try having a drink with a friend on the deck when its 40s and drizzling every day lol, its not pleasant).

    • LP says...

      People using the term “quarantine” to describe the way we’re living in the US right now has actually become a massive pet peeve of mine. Unless you are sick/had an exposure and are isolating in a bedroom away from all other people for 14 days, you are not quarantined. Whether, like the author, you’re only seeing one other family, having outdoor hangs like y’all are, or something in between, we’re all just trying to live a version of our normal lives while taking precautions!

    • annie says...

      Hey Sarah! Also in NC (RDU area) & I agree with you. I get a lot of crap for saying this, but I had COVID in July and the hardest part wasn’t being sick; it was isolating even further for two weeks & not even getting my sanity-saving trips to the grocery. I struggle with pretty serious OCD/anxiety and being out of routine like that just made things so hard. I really don’t even remember those two weeks, like most of the pandemic- a combo of Zoloft-and-stress induced memory loss, I guess.
      I firmly believe what you’re saying is true- getting together *can* be safe and it *absolutely* is vital. Mental health impacts physical health & I truly worry about the generation of people, children especially, who have now lived through this deeply traumatic and stressful and unusual year. The things we usually cling to in times of turmoil- the comfort of family and friends, commuity of a church body, ritual of celebrating mundane events- have been stripped from us & it feels like a taboo to even raise concerns about that.

    • Mel says...

      You’re lucky to be somewhere warm :) Here in MN it’s just finally getting up into the 40’s – and in the Twin Cities people are *very* careful. We get judged for seeing my in-laws and they are the only people we see.

    • Georgina says...

      As someone from the UK (on week 8 of our third national lockdown) it is so WILD to me that people in other countries can do this! I think because most European countries are in some form of lockdown it just hadn’t occurred to me that other countries where Covid is a thing people do have the option to socialise, and it can be a personal choice. (By the way, I’m not saying this in a judgey way, although I think our lockdown is absolutely the right decision, it’s just I’ve become so used to it that I’d genuinely forgotten that socialising outside the household was allowed in the US!) My husband and I haven’t seen a single person except each other (and you know, people in the supermarket) since I last went into work at the beginning of December.

    • ae says...

      I feel like this is very south v. everyone else. But you’re right, the state-by-state handling is so different and where one state lags everyone else ends up falling behind (because of said travel/touristing followed immediately by traveling back to stricter home towns carrying who knows what to those places that have been behaving differently). Glad you’ve been able to be semi- normal down there!

    • Em says...

      Just piping up from Austin TX, but my little family has been taking strict precautions since March 2020. Even tho weather is nice here, we still don’t do outside hangs. I haven’t been to a grocery store in a year. My kid hasn’t had a playdate in a year. :( So, I don’t necessarily think it’s a southern thing.

    • A says...

      Also in Seattle like Meg–my fam and friends are still very restrictive. We’re not going to bars or restaurants, not going in grocery stores, no daycare, not going to office. I’ve been inside a public building (grocery store, coffee shop, doctor office) maybe 6x since last March? I second the folks saying outdoor hangs are weather dependent, but also, at some point you have to use a bathroom, which would require going inside. Since a lot of Seattleites are spread out (10-30 min drive to any of my friends houses), it’s not as easy to do quick outdoor hangs that wouldn’t eventually need a bathroom.

    • E says...

      As someone who hasn’t had another person in her apt since July (my parents), hasn’t been in someone else’s since Sept (my parents), hasn’t been around coworkers since March 2020, and whose child hasn’t been inside a building besides ours in just as long (he was 8mo old when this started), it fascinates and confuses me as well. My husband and I both work in live music and the majority of our colleagues are furloughed or let go; so as someone who sees her industry coming back last, “business as usual” these days infuriates me.

    • Rachael says...

      So interesting to read where everyone else is on lockdown procedures. My kids go to school every other day and my husband goes to his office twice a week, and outside of that we see nobody bc we figure that’s more than enough exposure already. Which means that for me (working from home) I see only my family members. I am so wildly jealous of my kids/husband for getting to see other human beings outside our family 2 days a week. (Like totally grass-green with envy.) It’s been a really long year for me, but not quite as hard for the rest of my family, so I definitely feel like we are at different places in our pandemic fatigue/anxiety.

    • MB says...

      This is just my experience, and I don’t mean it to be critical, but there are millions and millions of people who are still ‘living in quarantine’ around the world.
      As an American living in the UK, I’ve been aghast at how the virus has been handled in the US federally up until recently, but also state-by-state. We’re a few days away from the first restrictions being lifted here, which is the ability for our children to return to school. Oh, and we’ll be allowed to sit with a friend on a park bench and have a coffee! That’s the level of strictness here, so it blows my mind that in the US restaurants and bars are open. Infections rates are so high in the US, deaths are astonishing, hospitals and healthcare workers are facing decisions they never should have to. I can’t even believe tourism is allowed, and that I see friends on social media taking vacations – it absolutely blows my mind. Feels like an alternate universe.
      I recognize the UK is very different from the US in terms of population density, loyalty to and a deep respect for a national health service, and size, and although there have been some missteps overall I feel the gov’t has acted in the best interests of public safety.

    • Jessica says...

      It’s really hard for me to not feel angry at this sort of comment. This is something I’ve struggled with in this pandemic, reeling in my rage and judgement at what I feel are selfish decisions. The death toll in the US due to the pandemic has been staggering. I think it’s easy for younger people, particularly in warm States (where the sun fuels a sense of socializing) to feel a sense of apathy at what’s going on. But these very decisions have contributed to the US having one of the worse death tolls worldwide. Unfortunately though, these deaths are hidden in hospitals, confined more to older populations, out of public eyes, so the devastation is easy to down play, to act like it’s just up to people to decide “what they are comfortable” with. I’m not sure what my point is. These are just feelings I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. I worry about coming together when this is all done, whether relationships will be forever altered due to lack of agreement and list respect over how we should have behaved.

    • margaret says...

      I truly love the culture of kindness on this website that leads to these lovely women using caveats about not judging or being critical of others. But I’m going to be unlovely. This isn’t a matter of “opinion,” or different “perspectives.” There are public health guidelines that tell us wearing a mask is safe and eating in a restaurant is not. The consequence of engaging in unsafe conduct is that you could cause someone to suffer and die. Please have the “perspective” that you are willing to sacrifice in order to refrain from causing someone to suffer and die.

  77. Rue says...

    Being a pandemic household of two is what showed us we wanted to get married! We were discussing engagement before this began, but we got engaged in quarantine, and we’re hoping our wedding will be something guests can attend in-person in The World After.

    I think we’re maybe not far enough into partnership to fully have this essay’s thesis apply to us. But making wedding planning decisions in close physical proximity all the time has taught me a lot about how decisions do not have to take place the MOMENT the relevant information comes up or the thought pops into your head. There’s something to be said for reading the room, if you will, and creating the time and space for deciding-together conversations, rather than my default of shouting across the living room, “hey babe?! do we want to do two liquor options or three, if three is $300 more?!” with no regard for my partner’s headspace at the time I happen to shout something. Acknowledging that we both have interior worlds and that we can make an effort to respect each other’s inner worlds is maybe the biggest gift wedding planning has given us so far.

    • El says...

      Rue, thank you for writing this wise and perceptive comment! I had an uncomfortable but valuable sense of recognition, and it’s occurring to me how much it would get to me to be interrupted frequently (and does!). My husband and I both need to respect each other’s ‘interior worlds’, but it’s something I am particularly prone to forgetting.

  78. Caroline says...

    I love Abigail’s writing! Though I am not married– but in a rather new relationship (1.5 years) with the majority of our “get to know each other” phase occurring during pandemic, I can relate to a lot of her points. What especially rang true to me was:
    “We want the real stuff of intimacy — to be able to say to our partners eight times a week, “Do you think I have COVID?” and have them not divorce us.”
    My boyfriend asks this all the time and while initially it tries me crazy, it’s true that real intimacy is the act of being able to ask the same questions over and over. Very poignant!

    • Candice says...

      I’ve always thought that the true test of finding “your person” in life is that even when they drive you crazy, you really don’t mind.

  79. Anna says...

    “We want the real stuff of intimacy — to be able to say to our partners eight times a week, “Do you think I have COVID?” and have them not divorce us.”

    Hahahahahaha YES.

    I never thought of this before this profound essay, but in isolation it’s so hard to remember choosing / feel chosen. Seeing my husband around other people reminds me how much I wanted him and wanted to be chosen by him, out of the sea of other faces.

    • Jessica says...

      Yes!

    • K says...

      Wow this nailed it for me — you’re right that without comparisons it’s hard to remember why you chose your spouse!

      In the past my husband and I have very romantically told each other that we got married because there’s nobody else we could stand being around this much.

    • Linds says...

      Exactly!!

  80. Emily says...

    This made me cry with how much I miss my friends! I’m seeing a best friend in 3 weeks to exchange baby things, and even though it will be a weird situation (we’re both driving several hours and meeting in a park) I Cant. Freaking. Wait. My husband and I each see coworkers on our own, but haven’t interacted with many people together in the past year.

  81. Frances says...

    Really beautiful writing, thank you!

  82. Una says...

    This is wonderfully sweet (and I hope her husband enjoyed reading it). But, for my husband and me, the time we have had together during the pandemic has been cherished. I work in a hospital in PA, he is a teacher in TN (lol we are trying to figure out where we plan to end up permanently, and goddammit it WILL be in the same time zone!) If it weren’t for the pandemic (and subsequently, the closure of his school) we would have been achingly apart for a full year. Instead, he is with me, teaching remotely, and I get to wake up to him every morning. It has been a dreamy silver lining within the nightmare that the last year has been, and I can’t wait until I can take his proximity to me for granted.

    • margaret says...

      Una, you win the award for my favorite comment of the day! I needed a silver-lining story. ( :

      (Also, thank you for your hospital work!)

  83. MS says...

    As new parents, and both of us working from home this year, this is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.

  84. amy says...

    All of this. One of my all time favorite posts on Cup of Jo!

    • Abby Rasminsky says...

      Oh my gosh, thank you! This means so much. xx

  85. Meaghan says...

    Gosh, I feel this so much. I run a business with my husband and so you can imagine how compounding COVID has been upon the already forced togetherness that living AND working together as a team entails. Oh, and we have a young son, so we also parent together! Everything is TOGETHER.

    I ended up renting a separate office outside of our home for many reasons, but one was to get away! I see this man in every single facet, all day long, and it’s just impossible to keep up the romance that healthy distance promotes when you live this way. He seems to have no issues with this but I am an introverted, analytical processor and I need space to allow those feelings to thrive.

    I am very, very much looking forward to experiencing him once again outside of my own needs, if that makes sense. Rather than looking at him and thinking “did he do the dishes right? did he move the laundry? why doesn’t he ever finish leftovers before making more food? did he finish those projects I need? how did he respond to that client? what is he working on today and is that in synch with my list?”… gosh I want to just think “what a handsome, funny man I have in my life” and enjoy his presence in the world.

    • Clare says...

      I’m totally on the same page Meaghan! I also run a business with my partner and trying to draw the line between work relationship and romantic relationship (not to mention roommate relationship) has been so impossible!!
      We were preparing to open our business last spring and now are finally starting to get it off the ground a year later. The one silver lining has been that making the decision to push through the struggle rather than give up on the company has made us grow as a couple in ways we never would have otherwise. But I still can’t wait for a regular amount of space!

  86. Avery Dawkins says...

    This is SO spot on. Thank you for this! Makes me feel normal and nice to know so many others are feeling the same way.

  87. Chelsea says...

    This was beautiful and so relatable right now. My husband is going into an almost empty office to work all day at a computer and doing everything over zoom or email. I am home with 2 elementary age virtual learners and one 4 year old. We are tired and as social people both longing for more dinner parties and get togethers. My husband has a few work friends he hangs out with and I have a few mom friends I meet at the park and that kind of thing, but I think this idea of seeing your spouse through others eyes is so important. Thank you, Abigail! I am looking forward to a few small gatherings we have planned in the near future!

  88. Megan McC says...

    I love this! Last summer, I introduced my boyfriend to a number of my family members at a socially distanced, outdoor dinner at my mom’s.

    A few hours and a few glasses of wine (for me) later, I caught myself staring at him as he told stories to my family and felt this huge rush of love. As he talked, I picked up my phone and texted him, “Hi. You’re sitting next to me. I love you.”

  89. AP says...

    Recently, my husband was talking on the phone with his brother about something they both struggle with, and which I have been very critical of my husband about: alcohol abuse. Let me tell you, it brought me to tears to hear how lovingly and thoughtfully my husband spoke with his brother — and how he repeated many of the things I say to him on my more generous and compassionate days. It truly gave me a 180 degree different view of him. Partly, I think it helped to feel like we’re actually on the same team and not two people who have to be adversaries on this issue simply by virtue of being the only two adults in the house! Phew. Thanks for this perspective.

    • Catherine says...

      AP- that is so beautifully put. I recall overhearing many, many phone conversations my husband had with his father (who passed away several years ago) in which he would repeat things I had said, or give advice that I had given him in the past (not always on my best days), and it made me feel so heard- even if it wasn’t acknowledged in the moment.
      And I echo everyone’s love for this great post. CoJ saves the day, as always.

    • Abigail Rasminsky says...

      That’s so beautiful. How moving to see that side of him. x

  90. Jill says...

    That’s such an interesting perspective! I wonder if there is a difference between extrovert couples and introvert couples? Personally, the pandemic has left me feeling much closer to my husband. In normal life (I vaguely remember it!) our days would be consumed by so many more things and people, it felt like there was much less space for the two of us. It would be more common for me to feel a twinge of jealousy at having to share him with so many people, or surprise at watching him switch to life-of-the-party public performance mode. But now, locked in a flat just the two of us and our video conferences, we rely on each other so much more. We’ll pop by for chats or quick kiss breaks when we need a break between calls, and we pay much more attention to the inane details of each other’s lives (what are you having for lunch? did you have a nice walk outside?). There’s no doubt we’ve both gone fairly lockdown crazy but there’s a nice cosiness in doing it together. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll take normal pandemic-free life back in a *heartbeat*, but our weirdly cutesy coupledom has been an unexpected solace.

    • Michaela says...

      I think my partner and I are both introverts, and I also love the togetherness that this pandemic has granted us, but this essay felt spot on- as exhausting as I sometimes find it to get dressed up and go out with our friends, I so love getting to see my partner interacting with other people. It brings a different feeling into our interactions! We are VERY quarantined/isolated at this point because I’m pregnant, but we live with my parents right now. So our “pod” is the four of us, which I think maybe makes it a little easier than it would be if it were just the two of us, because there are more things happening than just two lives lived remotely! Honestly, sometimes I have my weekly therapy appointment and ALL I have to talk about is things I thought or felt, not things I did… which perhaps is a good thing, but does feel a little stifling. “How was your week?” “Well, I had a minor meltdown on Tuesday, but that’s really the only event of note…” haha!

    • Erin says...

      I completely relate to this Jill. The pandemic has lifted the panicked frenzy of work, socializing, dishes and love. Everything has slowed down and, just shy of a decade into our relationship, I find myself falling for my partner in magical new ways. While I suppose I do miss the pride of watching him teach a friend something new, we have been swooning over one another’s new interests, discoveries, and hilarious expressions of affection. I think the forced boredom has crafted us into even more interesting (and interested) people.

    • Kat says...

      I agree! Happy I found this comment because this article didn’t resonate with me either. We’ve always been social pre-pandemic but I didn’t realize until pandemic times that we’re perfectly content being introverted and cocooned in our little world too. It’s been wonderful with each others’ company.

  91. Meg says...

    This is a lovely essay that I enjoyed but that did not resonate much! Namely because I am married to a very introverted, slightly socially awkward man who becomes his less shiny self in social situations. The man who makes me swoon is the one who responds to my accusations of cover stealing with “I was framed!” and who sings to our dog. And I’ve gotten to spend so much more time with that version of him, rather than his stilted self in social/office/public situations.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s so interesting, Meg! Love hearing this perspective.

    • Christine says...

      Hi Meg, you’re not alone in not relating. My situation isn’t exactly the same; I wouldn’t describe my husband as socially awkward exactly, but more… socially indifferent maybe? I know from experience that he can come across as a bit negative on first impression, which can be painful for me when we’re trying to expand our social circle and make new friends (so, pre-pandemic). He’s not one to modify or soften his opinions for his audience for example. Anyway, this reminds me it might be time to have a talk before we re-enter society, haha.

    • Claudette says...

      I came to the comments to write something so similar!
      My husband is jewel of a human. He’s also a socially-awkward introvert. And I feel guilty that I often cringe watching him act jumpy around most of the people in our social circle.
      Covid’s given our relationship it’s challenges, but thankfully not this one!

    • Abby Rasminsky says...

      I find this so, so interesting, too! Especially because my husband (the one in this piece!) *is* in fact very introverted and sort of social awkward! I’m the social one, and in some ways I think he’s been very happy living with just me and our daughter and not worrying about contact with the outside world. Maybe I just like to see him interact with a select few others?! Because I forget he does so well? Thanks for sharing this!

    • Meg says...

      Christine, I can definitely relate on the socially indifferent part. At one point my husband told me that having friends was “a lot of work.” And Claudette, you are not alone in the cringe, though I also feel guilty about it.

      I do think post-pandemic I will be having a re-entry conversation with my husband. What kind of socializing did he miss, if any? What do we want to consciously add back to our life together and separately? It will be interesting!

    • Katey says...

      “I was framed.” That’s very funny.

    • June says...

      Meg, so well put. I was trying to figure out why this lovely essay didn’t resonate with me, and you hit it exactly! My husband and I are both introverted, so we’re living our best lives right now. We’re having a great period in our relationship.

    • Claire says...

      Yes! I was hoping to find this in the comments, because I feel so similarly.

    • L says...

      Christine, I think we are married to the same person. ;) Never have I heard my husband described so accurately. And Meg, I love the idea of a re-entry conversation. Putting that on the list of things we can talk about while we’re not exactly doing anything. Thanks!

    • Christine says...

      @L and @Meg At least I’m not alone! Thanks again for sharing

    • Eva says...

      I feel you Meg! I’m definitely the social one, my husband is quite reserved in social settings and doesn’t really let his full personality come out— he’s guarded on purpose so I totally get what you mean! I actually have quite a bit of anxiety about social events that were both supposed to go to— depending on the type of people there, my husband can often become very quiet because he often doesn’t relate well to millennials lol and it does make me uncomfortable as well.

  92. Sara says...

    Here to add to the chorus of YESes. This is me and my wonderful charming husband who has told me every story in his storybook and every joke in his joke book. I want to see him through someone’s eyes again!

  93. Elizabeth says...

    Yes! I feel similarly about being witnessed as a mother and pregnant person (toddler with another on the way). I’m aching to see my mom watch me comfort my son and pat my belly, to see my friends read my son books and delight in his knowing every word, to see my siblings see me being a mother and pick out funny ways I’m just like our parents (or not). I miss us all being seen by each other.

  94. Sara says...

    This is just so so good. I haven’t seen my partner through this lens or allowed myself the space and freedom (hi 3 small kids!) to even experience *myself* in this way for at least this pandemic and probably longer. This reminds me of that old saying: bored people are boring. So it seems to hold true that interested people are interesting. I’d like to find myself with enough outside foil (a friend over for dinner AMEN!) to experience both myself and my husband as interesting again.

  95. Nathalie says...

    YES! I’ve spent way too much time fantasizing about getting away from my family and even sketching multiple floorplans for a tiny house (just big enough for me). But maybe it’d be enough just to get out and see others again. Thanks for the reframe.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Sketching floor plans! Hahahaha love it

    • Abby Rasminsky says...

      Now I want a tiny house! STAT. xx

  96. This is so great!! Thank you Abigail.

  97. mimi says...

    Thank you for this post & your point of view which I can definitely agree with- I’ve been missing that aspect of life. Thank you.

  98. Forest says...

    OMG. Abby! I used to take your yoga classes in NYC at OM, many many many moons ago. What a pleasant surprise to come back across you in this space. You always had a way with words in your teaching; no surprise you’re a lovely writer as well.

    • Abby Rasminsky says...

      hi, hi!!!! thank you, and so nice to find you here! x

  99. Jo says...

    YES GOD YES. I have a weekly Zoom call with two of my best friends, and one of the zillion reasons I love it is that my husband will walk through the room and make a funny face or say something astute off-screen that makes them laugh and for a second I get to see him through their eyes—a handsome man of few words who can get right to the heart of my bullshit with a simple raised eyebrow. He is always that guy but I need the context of other people to remind me during these endless days of COVID togetherness.

  100. Em says...

    WHEW, I loved this and relate so much. It’s been a rough year in my relationship too. This is totally irrational, but does anyone else sometimes feel jealous or cheated, when they see their partner being charming and funny around other people? I feel like I get the grumpy, tired and distracted version of him, when it’s just us at home. And then when another couple comes over for dinner, he’s charismatic and hilarious and I feel like, hey can I get some of that when it’s just us?? (I feel bad even saying this because I’m no treat to be around when we’re alone either, and we’re all doing our best right now, him included).

    • karla says...

      i can so relate to this, EM! You are not alone.

    • Anne says...

      YES, totally relate! It makes me miss our honeymoon phase and crave his charming, fun side. And miss my own charming, fun side, hah!

    • Sadie says...

      I am this person. I will be sparkly for everyone accept my partner. It is horrible but I’m not actually sparkly and I just show that to him.

  101. Ruth says...

    THIS. OMG so spot on. Wow. One of the best essays I have read in 10 years reading this blog. <3 Thank you!!!!!

  102. Andrea says...

    This resonated with me so much. I think 2020 taught this introvert homebody (me) the importance of other people. As you wrote, other people bring out different parts of our partners—and of ourselves. A few months ago, I had a socially distanced backyard bonfire with two of my closest friends who I hadn’t seen in months. I wasn’t prepared for how much it made me feel like MYSELF for the first time in forever. I was struck by how these friends brought out different parts of my personality and identity. It was as if I was rediscovering pieces of myself that had been buried and all it took was sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with people who know me. My biggest takeaway from this past year: We need each other.

    • AnotherAndrea says...

      My biggest takeaway from the last year: People can be irrational and stubborn to the point of dying.

    • B says...

      Yes! I am a fellow introvert, and after things open back up, I’ve been telling people I will even attend the opening of an envelope. I miss people, which I surprised me! Even introverts need people it turns out :) (Just not all the time)

  103. Audrey says...

    this is so so relatable! Thanks for sharing, Abigail.

  104. Julie says...

    THIS. 100% THIS.