About a year ago, I moved back in with my parents and younger sibling, with my partner of four years and our adopted greyhound in tow. The pandemic brought unsteady work, which put me and my partner in a financially precarious position. Saving proved impossible while we kept up with our rent and expenses, so when my parents offered to take us in for minimal rent, we accepted the opportunity to save without hesitation.
We are not the only ones moving home in the midst of the pandemic, either. For the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of young Americans are living with their parents. According to an analysis of monthly Census Bureau data conducted by Pew Research Center, in July 2020, 52 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were living with one or both of their parents, up from 47 percent recorded in February.
We both feel incredibly lucky to have been able to move in with my family to ease financial and mental-health struggles, especially given that so many did not experience the same luxury of choice. And while I am close with my family, and my partner fits in with our dynamic effortlessly, our relationship has fundamentally changed as a result of this dynamic. We spend all of our time as a family unit, with our only one-on-one time being in bed at night. Family games nights replaced date nights, I started wearing fleecy “do not touch me” pajamas to bed, and we’ve found ourselves in a number of dry spells.
After a particularly long stretch without sex, we acknowledged that our relationship had taken a turn towards being more platonic than passionate. So, we resolved to make more effort with each other, while also taking care to respect my family, too. Date nights returned, time alone resumed, and I promised to leave the fleece pajamas in the dresser more often.
For all other couples living with parents in quarantine who find themselves in a similar situation of feeling as though the romance is gone, fear not: It’s possible to turn the heat back up while living under Mom and Dad’s roof. Below, a pro offers specific tips for how to make that happen.
5 tips to maintain a healthy romantic relationship for a couple living with parents in quarantine.
1. Communication is key
Clear communication forms the basis of any healthy relationship, and it is even more important to try and maintain when you are starting to feel emotionally or physically disconnected. “Agree to check in with each other at least once a week,” says relationship coach Michele Willmott. “The following dialogue points can provide a useful structure: What do I appreciate about myself and you right now? How am I feeling? What are my wishes, hopes and dreams? Is there anything I would like you to know?”
Use those prompts as a jumping off point to keep talking, and don’t ever let arguments go unresolved.
2. Introduce variety into your week and organize date nights
Remember that you aren’t a child anymore and your parents probably don’t need—or want—you to sit with them every single night. “Instead, take turns with your partner to plan an activity or date night once a week to keep an element of surprise and fun between you,” says Willmott.
This could be anything from eating out—depending on your risk tolerance and guidelines in place where you live—to going for an evening walk to even playing a board game together. “Avoid getting stuck in front of Netflix in your bedroom just because you are trying to stay out of the way of your parents,” she adds.
3. Find time for physical intimacy
One of the biggest obstacles in my personal dynamic of being a couple living with my parents and partner in quarantine has been maintaining physical intimacy in my romantic relationship. I don’t feel comfortable showing affection in front of my parents, so I often ignore any of my partner’s attempts to get close to me while in the same room as them.
And when you can hear the slightest cough from your parents in the next room, sex is the last thing on your mind. The solve for this? “Plan ahead and adapt if necessary,” Willmott suggests. Wild 2 a.m. kitchen sex may be off the table for now if you’re a couple living with parents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead for a time when your parents aren’t around.
4. Put some healthy boundaries in place
After my step-father walked into our room without knocking to find us having sex, we knew it was time to set some boundaries to ensure there were no more awkward accidents. That said, every person and couple’s specific boundaries might look a little different.
“Make sure your parents know that you expect them to respect your privacy as you would theirs. Also be prepared to have conversations about food preparation, cooking and cleaning so that unnecessary friction between everyone is avoided,” Willmott says.
5. Remember it is your parent’s space
Above all, remember to be appreciative towards your parents, who have given up their space for you. “Have a conversation with your partner about how you would like to show up as a couple in this space, so that you avoid reverting back to being that sulky teenager again,” Willmott says. It may be that they are struggling with some of the same issues as you, so check in with them from time to time too and be aware of their feelings.
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