It's a period of ups and downs, intense highs and catastrophic lows where you ask yourself: 'will we get through this?'
I’m not talking about coronavirus; I’m talking about moving in with your partner. Which, incidentally, I did three weeks ago.
When we made the decision, after three years, to co-habit I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. I’m an introvert who needs periods alone and time spent in silence. But it felt right, so we took the plunge, moving into a one-bedroom flat in north London.
On our first night we cooked together, listened to Fleetwood Mac and then I sat on the sofa and cried.
Coronavirus had started to spread but that was not the reason I was tearful. It was the new life I had chosen, with a man I suddenly felt I didn’t know as well now that we shared a postcode and a new, unfamiliar bed.
That was Sunday. By Tuesday, my boyfriend’s office had closed and, two days after that, I was told to work from home. Now, of course, we have been told to stay in our houses. It means my partner and I are suddenly living in a very different world - and home - than the one we signed up to. That's why I'd caution anyone thinking of following Government advice to 'test' your relationship by moving in together during coronavirus, to think very carefully.
Of course, we had spent copious amounts of time together, but we did not yet have the synchronicity of a couple who also know each other as housemates. Making breakfast felt clunky, taking meetings via Skype felt intrusive and by lunchtime on our first day of working at home together, we had disagreed on what music to listen to and where we should keep the biscuits.
After living separately for so many years, we were both accustomed to our own routines. On top of that, the routines of the world outside were changing rapidly, too.
Lots of people told me that moving in with a partner is stressful at the best of times, but add to that spending 23.5 hours inside together and a global pandemic, and it can become hard to differentiate the problems of the world from your own relationship. I found myself asking several times a day: is this right?
As I went to sleep, my partner’s back to mine, I thought over and over about the news reports of hundreds of Chinese couples filing for divorce after isolation.
Like many people, our days started to merge into one long string of working, eating, gathering around the laptop to hear Boris Johnson’s update and then falling into a weary slumber.
Things felt fraught and then better, then fraught again and so when the time for self-isolation came (I had exhibited symptoms), the ‘make or break’ scenario seemed like a serendipitous sign: if this wasn’t right, I wanted to know sooner rather than later.
That was four days ago and since then I’ve lost track of the number of times one of us has asked ‘you okay?’ to be met with a passive aggressive ‘yep’, and how often someone has gone to sit in the loo for longer than necessary.
But there was warmth within the discomfort: shared looks that lingered over the table, kind gestures in cups of tea left, unrequested, beside laptops and moments of safety at the realisation that we’d never been more together than now.
We have divided to conquer. One person cooks dinner each night, deciding on what to make and so eliminating any chance of a disagreement. And aside from working in the same room, our days are largely separate: I call my mum, do 10 minutes of stretching and listen to a podcast, while he prefers the exercise bike and catching up on sports news (what’s left of it). We are even taking our daily walks alone.
We tried to do everything together when we first moved in - as if cohabiting means you must be stuck to one another - but have found that smell segments of separation and normality are working well for us.
I have started getting into bed without feeling like it was someone else's, we have found a new sleeping position without ever talking about it and new, subtle ways of caring for each other are starting to creep in. I hung up his washing, he put my laptop on charge so it didn’t run out of battery.
It’s a situation we didn’t know we were signing up for, but we’re working it out, step by solitary step.