Sex columnist Nadia Bokody says quarantining may have been the biggest hurdle your sex life has had to face.
My boyfriend is sitting opposite me, gnawing on an aggressively crunchy carrot while I work on my laptop.
This is hardly an antagonistic act, and yet, three bites in, I’m knee-deep in a murderous fantasy where I break the carrot out of his mouth and use it as a weapon to bludgeon him to death.
Here’s the thing about quarantine: it’s the test most relationships weren’t built to endure.
Even the most smug of the attached-to-the-hip couples were not equipped to spend 24-hours-a-day in a 50-square-metre space. Gush as you like that your partner is you “best friend”, but no two humans can withstand all of one another’s rage-inducing idiosyncrasies.
Sure, your SO’s habit of eating Doritos out of their lap and then sprinkling all the cheese dust over the couch was cute in small, charming doses. But after 14 days in lockdown together, it’s a pretty sure bet the mere sound of a chip packet opening sends your blood pressure skyrocketing.
It may explain why the first thing the married residents of Wuhan did when their city eased its quarantine restrictions was file for divorce. In fact, Shanghai divorce lawyer Steve Li told Bloomberg his caseload increased by 25 per cent since the city’s lockdown eased in mid-March.
The good news is, you’re most certainly not an outlier if your relationship has been holding on by a thread ever since spending time apart became an impossibility. In fact, you’re extremely normal.
The better news is, quarantine needn’t be the reason you and your partner call it quits. In spite of the spike in divorce rates seen over in China in the fallout of Covid–19, there are a number of ways to keep your sanity – and even your sex life – and emerge from self-isolation with your relationship intact. In the case you and your partner need to self-isolate again (we pray there isn’t a second wave), I recommend you both adhere to the following:
Schedule alone time
Unlike the good old days, when work and catching up with friends meant leaving the house, there aren’t a whole lot of avenues for having time apart from your partner in quarantine. Rather than wait until one of you loses the plot and murders the other with a root vegetable, try scheduling in alone time.
Set at least once a day, for an hour or more, that you actively give one another space. This may mean one of you staying home while the other goes for a walk, or having your partner haul up in your spare bedroom to reconnect with the PlayStation while you use the living room to get back in touch with your creative side and try some painting, or stress-relieving yoga (who am I kidding, I’ll be drinking a bottle of wine).
The simple act of taking time apart will make you better appreciate one another when you reconnect, and in many cases, avoid a potential argument.
Schedule date night
Just as it’s important to schedule time apart in self-iso, it’s important to schedule it together – but that doesn’t mean time to hang out in your sweats on the couch.
Actually pencil in a date night once a week where you both dress up as though you’re going out for dinner and drinks, then light some candles, order in from your favourite restaurant and spend the evening flirting, chatting about things that don’t involve bills and to-do lists and reconnecting with the people you both were when you first started dating.
Research has shown that simple acts that create feelings of novelty can temporarily reignite those fluttery feelings we typically experience in the “honeymoon phase” of our relationships. So, although you might feel a bit silly doing your brows to go sit in the living room, science says your relationship (and your sex life) will thank you for it.
It’s easy to deprioritise sex when things get stressful. After a day of sitting through your partner’s toenail picking and avoiding arguments over whose turn it is to choose what to watch on Netflix, it’s not altogether unsurprising you’re probably not feeling particularly up for jumping their bones.
But here’s the thing about sex: we need to do it regularly, or we lose it. Our libidos function much like muscles – work them out repeatedly at the gym and you can expect to see noticeable results. But slack off and get lazy, and before you know it your biceps will have packed it in.
It’s why some experts go as far as recommending scheduling in sex, to keep your libido in check. And while I’m not a fan of this strategy, given its tendency to make sex feel like a rather clinical, obligatory affair, I do advise making a regular, concerted effort to be physically intimate with your partner – even if that’s just long, passionate kissing one night and getting handsy the next. While it’s not necessary to have penetrative sex to stay physically connected, it is essential you make some form of physical contact a frequent part of your relationship.
The good news is, sex actually lowers our stress levels and increases dopamine – the feel-good hormone that makes us feel so buzzy and happy we might even totally overlook something typically rage-inducing, say, like a boyfriend loudly eating a carrot.