HOW COVID STRENGTHENED MY RELATIONSHIP

I am at a weird, in-between stage in my relationship. My boyfriend hasn’t popped the big question yet, but everyone knows it is going to happen any day now. He is more than just ‘a boyfriend’ but he is also not quite my fiancé.

 For lack of a better word, he is my beyoncé.

 At the beginning of last year, we had checked off all the things a couple should do before getting married.

 Talk about future goals: Check.

 Celebrate every major holiday together: Check.

 Meet the families, change the relationship status on Facebook, move in together, have the ‘kids talk’, get all the drama out of the way: Check, check, check, check, and check.

 Like hand sanitizer, I was about 99.99% sure we’re working fine.

 Our relationship is a car with its turn signal on as it speeds towards the engagement exit. If we wanted to, we could back out at any moment. But it would cause a whole scene and annoy everyone around us.

 Before quarantine, a wave of doubts began to flood my brain.  Are we going to get tired of each another? Are we still going to have time for our relationship as we get older and have more responsibilities? What if we fall out of love?

 I am not going to go into detail about our on-again-off-again love story. But I can tell you no one would blame either of us for having a few lingering doubts given our 10-year history.

Despite the part of me that was questioning our longevity, I was looking forward to a great March. We had welcomed a new puppy to our little family that already included a dog I got with another boyfriend. (I’m good at getting guys to buy me puppies, I guess). We were planning on moving into our very own apartment without any roommates. Both our careers were heading in a positive direction. Our first anniversary was on March 22nd.

 The global pandemic put an asterisk on our perfect month.

 We moved back to our shared hometown to be closer to our families. We are fortunate that his mother has an extra room we could stay in for the discounted price of $0.00 a month.

 As a freelancer in the entertainment industry, I am not what you would call ‘essential’. I had a lot of time to get anxious about all the doubts that continued to creep into my subconscious.

 It only took a couple of days for me to feel like we were thrown into a test run of what married life would be like. We had committed to one another through sickness and in health until death by COVID do we part.

 I figured everything would be fine. We had already been living together, right? What could possibly change? As usual, I was a naïve fool.

 The beginning of quarantine was rough.

 First came the boredom. Before the pandemic spread, we were already living a quiet, sheltered life. But at least then it was by choice.

 Then our depression kicked in around the same time. For a while, there was an air of sadness even though nothing had happened to us. We were growing lethargic together as the days wore on.

Cabin fever hit and we both started to break a little. ‘The Shining’ started making more sense to me as the days dragged on with little to do. Drained of energy and inspiration, I was turning nocturnal. I was grumpy during the day and insanely active at night. I would sometimes change from carefree to agitated within the same hour. He would take my moods as they came, but I could tell that my anxieties began to weigh on him as much as they weighed on me.

 In a blink of an eye, we had become a married couple glued to the hips. We shared meals, finances, and a single room/office space that we rarely ever left. We had both gained some quarantine weight and started looking scrappy and unkempt. We had two high maintenance dogs always competing for our attention. Most afternoons were spent staring at screens in total silence.   The only thing missing from our marriage trial-run was a ring, and the espresso machine I want from a wedding registry.

 I started to get sick on Easter Sunday. I suffered from terrible chills and high fevers for a couple of days before I was taken to the ER. I was ushered into a tent outside of the hospital where I waited to get tested for COVID.

 We were only five minutes away from home and I figured he was going to pick me up after I got discharged. But my beyonce decided to wait outside of the tent for 3 ½ hours as nurses drew blood and hooked me up to an IV.

 I was going to be fine that night. I was feeling awful, but I knew I could have had it a lot worse. It did not even cross my mind for a second that I might die. As my beyonce stood outside in his mom’s pink windbreaker, he confessed it was something that he thought about several times. Later, he would hug me tight and say he would not know what to do if he ever lost me. 

Our energy began to shift. I have since recovered and things have gone back to our new sense of normal except now, we are a little more grateful. The fear of potentially losing me gave him a new outlook on our relationship. The memory of my giant pink beyonce waiting for me in the middle of the night reassures me we are going to be okay.

 I no longer have doubts about whether we are good for one another. We get to live in the modern-day equivalent of a marriage bootcamp. Being “stuck” together helped us learn how to stay together. I can feel our intimacy get stronger with every long day that passes us by. 

 He cooks, I clean. He is better at disciplining the dogs and I am better at making plans. He is the morning person, I am the night owl. We have perfected a routine that works for both of us as we make the best out of a globally bad situation.

 For the first time since we have known one another, I finally feel like we are more than just high school sweethearts making Shakespearian levels of mistakes. I guess this is what growing up feels like.

 I know for a fact we will absolutely continue to get very annoyed with one another due to boredom and bad habits. I know fur babies and, eventually, human children will test our sanity for many years as we continue to balance budgets and build a life.

 I also know that time will keep taking away things we take for granted. Our carefree social lives, our youth, and our health will not be around forever. I know there will be plenty of times where it will just be him and me in a room together with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

 This all used to scare me – so much so that I broke up with him twice before we finally got back together again. But I have gotten a sneak peek of what the two of us are capable of when we are strong. I get why people say some of the strongest bonds happen in the midst of adversity.

I do not know what else this life will throw our way, but I am not scared anymore. My doubts have been replaced by daydreams.

Sarah de Leon is a writer, producer, and talent manager living in Eugene, Oregon with her boyfriend and two dogs. To learn more about her, please visit www.sarahdeleon.com

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