Surviving a Lockdown With My Boyfriend
I am going to be completely honest. I live with my boyfriend in a tiny 1.5-bedroom apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. When the government announced the movement control order (MCO) and my boyfriend was ordered to work from home for the next few months of lockdown, I wasn’t particularly thrilled.
Instead of fantasising about staring into his beautiful blue eyes all day, I knew the reality was that I would have to refrain from poking his eyes out in frustration.
It was reported by The Global Times that there has been an “unprecedented” spike in divorces in some districts of Xi’an, the capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.
I can understand why.
One of the big reasons why I chose to work from home 3 years ago was because of the freedom and flexibility I got with my time and space. I pick and choose who I interact with, and work as productively as possible, as I have minimal distractions.
This is something that you don’t necessarily get a choice over if you are stuck in a small apartment with your boyfriend 24/7 during a lockdown.
Turns out, I was being a bit overdramatic. We now work from home in harmony 95% of the time (I was hangry during the 5%). Here is what my boyfriend and I are doing to maintain harmony and productivity during the lockdown period.
1. Separate your workspaces and work time
There is nothing romantic about hearing your boyfriend whistle or hum the same tune 8 times in a row while creating lesson plans (he works as a teacher at an international school). Similarly, he doesn’t want to hear me furiously bashing my keyboard while typing passive-aggressive emails.
It is incredibly important to work in separate spaces. If you only have one bedroom, then someone is going to need to work on the dining table (take turns every week).
In line with this, plan your work time, so you don’t hear each other on conference calls. My boyfriend has all his calls in the morning while I work on non-phone related tasks. After lunch, it’s my turn to have conference calls.
2. Avoid noise pollution
As someone who is easily distracted, I struggle with this the most. To help me focus on my work when my boyfriend is having lots of conference calls, I stick on my headphones and play serene ethereal (but loud) music on YouTube.
Enya is my favourite. You can also search for “positive healing” and “positive relaxing” music to lift your spirits and keep you feeling positive.
Speaking of positive, when we are working by ourselves, we don’t realise all the noise we make when we are having a bad day. Stomping around, complaining, exhaling loudly, groaning, the works.
My boyfriend used to make all these noises unknowingly. It drove me up the wall and put me in a bad mood too.
Eventually, in quite simple terms, I told him his negativity was getting me down. He has contained it better ever since. Now, if each of us has a bad day, we are allowed 1 hour to rant and complain and get it out of our system, then we have to contain it so the other person isn’t affected too much.
3. Protect your most productive hours
Find a time in the day when you are most productive. Make sure you do your most important tasks at this time. Protect this time and furiously defend it against distractions.
This is a work in progress for me and my boyfriend and still causes fights.
For example, I will be in the middle of drafting a technically challenging finance article that involves percentages, ROI and all sorts of ratios, and I can feel myself finally getting into the flow of writing. My boyfriend will finish his conference call, walk over to my work corner and ask, “Cup of tea, love?” before rattling on about how his call went. Cue me losing my productive trail of thought.
If you can have an open conversation with your partner about the times you are most productive and request peace and no interruptions in these times, it will help avoid fights.
4. Share chores
To maintain a clean comfortable environment to work in, you and your partner will need to do chores around the house.
Avoid resentment from either party by taking turns and compromising. For example, I hate throwing the rubbish out, but I don’t mind scrubbing and cleaning the bathroom. My boyfriend vacuums and I mop.
Both of you need to pull your weight and if one doesn’t want to clean, they must take up another task, like cooking or grocery shopping, to keep it fair.
5. Give each other space
Sometimes humans can be like cats: we like strokes and cuddles, but we also just want to be left alone.
A few times a week, I like to curl up next to my window in the evening and read a book or e-course. My boyfriend sees me and leaves me to it, and it makes me feel so happy and content just to have my own space and do my own thing for a while.
Similarly, if he’s watching a football video on his laptop after work, I just leave him be and let him enjoy his own time.
After we have our own time apart, we reconvene in the best of moods, ready to laugh and chat together.
6. Let yourself off the hook
It is important to acknowledge that this pandemic has forced us all into unusually challenging situations. Naturally, these are going to have consequences.
I used to wonder if there was something wrong with my relationship when we fought. But then I realised, it’s only natural.
Take a breather and refrain from writing the relationship off as a failure. If you can, go for a walk alone and let your mind unwind. After that, come home and talk it out with your partner.
It is normal for a couple to fight during these trying times. Remember: all those pictures of couples being 100% happy all the time on Instagram are not accurate!
How To Survive a Lockdown When You’re Stuck With Your Partner 24/7
Being in a relationship during this pandemic is a privilege. So many people are scared, isolated, and are facing this pandemic alone, without support. Being grateful for this support helped me appreciate my boyfriend more and stop nitpicking at things that annoyed me during the lockdown.
All images courtesy of Aisha Preece.