Welcome to Love Lockdown: a new weekly column about how people are navigating romantic relationships in the time of coronavirus.
Last Monday night, my husband Phil and I tuned into Boris Johnson’s broadcast to the nation while sharing some rhubarb crumble and ice cream on the sofa. When lockdown was officially announced, I side-eyed Phil to check his response. Something in the air felt kinda...sexy?
That night, as the reality of our new lives sunk in, I started looking forward to going into lockdown with Phil and spending some quality time together. He travels for work most weeks, so the time we have together is limited. Despite this, our Monday to Friday is filled with mushy texts, flirty FaceTime calls and passionate reunions; even though we've been together for years, we struggle to keep our hands off each other and I still get butterflies when I see him.
My head was spinning with ideas. Could this be the best excuse for a home-based honeymoon? Who needed to jet off somewhere exotic when you could have romantic picnics on the kitchen floor, steamy sex 24/7, snogs in the hallway, candlelit baths and frisky makeout sessions in the utility room.
This seemed like the perfect plan to me, and a realistic one too. Romance ain’t dead in our relationship. Since we bought our house two-and-a-half years ago, I wake up to Phil making breakfast for me every morning (which varies between a Spanish omelette and an array of fruit and cereals laid out on the dining room table), all because he knows I struggle to function properly before 9am.
But here’s the thing. Pre-lockdown, we’d normally start and finish the day together but now all routine has completely vanished. Being in isolation, working from home and going on one walk a day has meant our sleeping and eating patterns aren’t aligning. I’m guilty of going to bed and waking up later, whereas Phil’s kept to his normal early riser routine. And where we’d usually get all lovey-dovey after a film in the evening, coronavirus news updates have left us drained and overwhelmed.
Despite this and given how affectionate our marriage is, I thought lovemaking in lockdown would be business as usual. More time at home = more sex, right? Wrong. Our days have somehow been filled with longer work hours, binge eating, rushing out to supermarkets, Houseparty chats, online workouts and COVID-19 news updates.
And when it comes to feeling sexy in lockdown, I’ve never felt so far from it. Not commuting into town for meetings or going out for dinner with friends has meant that wild hair is an around-the-clock look, makeup has been demoted to low priority and staying in my jammies 'til 2pm is a new vibe.
On Thursday, we realised we just weren’t prioritising spending time with each other, even though we were spending every minute together. I was 40 minutes into my virtual Zumba class, which was taking place in the kitchen, when Phil beckoned me to come upstairs. Sweating profusely and so out of breath from trying to master the upbeat salsa routine that I couldn’t even give him a verbal rejection, we had to admit that our sex drives just weren’t synching.
When it hit home that this was not normal for us, we agreed we needed to find time together with absolutely no distractions. We had been guilty of thinking lockdown would inevitably lead to more time together, but that was complacent of us.
It dawned on us that the time and effort we put into our marriage pre-COVID-19 was still required – if not more so.
Finding peace in positivity and appreciation has helped us get back to a healthier mindset – and we’re trying our best to stay away from Twitter and every news channel on the hour.
As for myself, I’ve learned the importance of self-care in lockdown. Attempting to get back to my skincare regime and pampering myself with face masks and at-home facials has been a saviour. Heck, I’ve even started spritzing my signature fragrance every morning to feel more like myself. Focusing on my own mental wellbeing has helped us both, how we prioritise each other and can find meaning in this uncertain, frightening time.
Love in lockdown is definitely a new challenge for couples, whether you’ve just started dating, are happily married or celebrating a milestone anniversary. My advice is to try and accept that the world is in a stage of temporary grief. And while you’re longing to get back to normality, be that a great sex life or resuming your favourite hobby, we’re all just trying to find our new normal in this transition period. And that’s okay.