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Having been with the same partner on and off for nearly a decade and a half, I am no stranger to the way a relationship can–and inevitably will–take numerous distinctive forms. While it’s possible to deliberately renegotiate a relationship’s terms, it also happens organically, shaped by maturity, circumstance, mood, opinion, the pursuit of milestones–or the lack thereof. Historically, only hindsight has made me aware that a new iteration of my relationship came to pass–a sense of clarity that crystallizes years later, the byproduct of forward motion. That’s why this current era of social distancing is so unique: It has made me conscious of my relationship’s evolution in real-time.
I knew we’d be entering a new phase this summer, I just thought it would be a different one. We were supposed to get married, go on our honeymoon, and begin life as newlyweds–a special chapter, a period of growth–or so I’m told. There is a certain irony to the fact that instead of taking that step, we are remaining still, treading in the warm backwash of days that look and feel exactly the same.
The other night, when we were watching TV, a mound of sofa pillows between us, I leaned over and rested my head on Austin’s shoulder and joked, “Remember when we were in love?” His immediate instinct to assure me that we still are made me feel silly for fishing and tempted to do it again. My penchant for spinning neediness into sarcasm when I’m anxious is no match for his tendency toward sincerity–a good thing, since it’s a game I’m always trying to lose.
The New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme interviewed Esther Perel a couple weeks ago about navigating romantic relationships under the stressful circumstances of quarantine, and this quote keeps resurfacing in my mind: “I think, in general, when people live in acute stress, either the cracks in their relationship will be amplified or the light that shines through the cracks will be amplified. You get an amplification of the best and of the worst.”
I have friends whose relationships have experienced both extremes over the last two months, the cracks amplifying thoroughly enough for a permanent split to occur, or the light shining so brightly it bleaches away previous doubts. For many relationships, though, mine included, there seems to be a little bit of both–new cracks, new light sources, and a new form along with them.
I’m curious to hear more perspectives, though. If you were in a relationship before quarantine began, or if you started one during it, how has this experience reshaped the dynamic?