As if breakups and divorces weren’t already hard enough, some people are getting hit with a double whammy: dealing with a breakup and a pandemic. Yikes.
The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not an ideal time for a breakup, and splits during this time may present a whole new set of challenges…especially if you’re quarantined with your ex.
But breakups happen, and so apparently do pandemics, and life goes on. The good news here is that with time, both situations will likely get better. In the meantime, we spoke to two relationship experts about how you can cope if you’re in one of these less-than-ideal situations.
If You’re Quarantined With Your Ex
While being quarantined with your ex may seem the stuff of nightmare, there are still ways to make it easier and hopefully, less awkward. Use the tips below to ease the tension if you’re quarantined with your ex.
Communicate openly and honestly
Being quarantined with your ex — who you just broke up with — is not ideal, and it’s probably awkward at times. “Call out the elephant in the room and acknowledge that this is awkward, uncomfortable…or whatever word feels appropriate for your particular situation,” says New York City-based relationship coach Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT. “Ask yourself, ‘What would make this 1% less awkward, uncomfortable or challenging?’ and share it with your ex. Then, ask them the same question.”
Have some kind of team mentality
After a breakup, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel like you and your partner are on the same team anymore. However, now, you have a different kind of teammate — certainly not a lovey-dovey one. Especially if you’re dealing with a divorce, you’re going to have lots of things to sort out, and it’s best to do that on civil terms. Wright says.“Regardless of your relationship status, at this point, you’re in this together. So, it’s going to be a lot easier for both of you if the mentality is being on a team to get through quarantine versus picking fights or making one or both of you victims in the situation.”
Whether you’re in a mansion or a studio apartment, you’ll need to set some boundaries, both physical and metaphorical. Especially if the breakup or divorce is fresh, these boundaries can be essential for keeping the situation civil. Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends having a civil conversation about respectful boundaries when you are both calm, and acknowledging the reality of the situation. You can say, “Let’s problem solve for [this situation] in a way that makes quarantine tolerable so that both of us can cope with it.” This could mean setting designated times for each of you to use shared spaces like the kitchen, figuring out how you will both have separate spaces to work during the day (if you both work from home), and asking for personal space — physically and emotionally.
Engage in “respectful distancing”
We’re not talking about staying six feet apart to prevent spreading germs —we’re talking about you and your ex giving each other some space for some privacy during this strange time. Mendez calls this “respectful distancing.” You’ll want some space to talk to whoever you want to talk to (romantically or not) without your ex breathing down your neck, right? Give your ex some space and privacy, and hopefully they will do the same.
If You’re Quarantined Away From Your Ex (Or For Either Situation, Really)
While breakups are rarely easy, if you’re quarantined away from your ex, you may have found yourself in the more enviable situation when it comes to quarantine living. The following tips can help you process the breakup while the usual distractions — work, social events, time with friends — are unavailable during the pandemic.
Allow yourself space to feel
All this extra time you might have right now also leaves lots of time for introspection. For some people, it’s too much. After a breakup, they like to get out and stay as busy as possible so they don’t have to dwell on the breakup. However, in this case, you really have no choice but to sit with the emotions. But hey, reflection doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Let yourself cry, grieve the relationship you lost, journal, vent to your friends — whatever you’ve gotta do. “Remember that both the quarantine and your feelings around the breakup/divorce are temporary and they won’t kill you. So, feel them. Honor them. Share them,” says Wright.
There’s so much uncertainty right now about when everything will be back to normal, or even what that “normal” will look like going forward. It’s understandable that a lot of us are looking into the future and stressing about it. Mendez recommends practicing mindfulness to keep yourself in the here and now. If you’re in the present moment, observing things as they are right now, you can experience some stress relief, even if just for a few minutes.
This can also help with acceptance. The state of the world right now is not something we can change. We cannot change the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic, that the economy is teetering, and that so many of the events we once enjoyed are canceled or delayed. While obviously not ideal, acceptance can help you find more peace with the situation. “With mindfulness, you accept where you’re at, and then you manage where you’re at. You’re not stuck,” says Mendez.
Engage in fun, healthy distractions
While you might not be able to do things you’d hope to do after a breakup, like go out with friends or travel somewhere for a change of scenery, you still can find fun things to do that’ll brighten your day and keep you from slipping into misery. “I would encourage anyone navigating this right now to think about what they’d love to do if they could do anything and then adapt that to the current situation,” Wright says. “Would you want to go get drinks with a friend? Have drinks with your friend over Zoom. Would you want to see a concert? Check out the online concerts and events going on. Would you want to start talking to new people, even dating? Register on a dating app and dip your toe in.”
Stay off of social media
Don’t stalk your ex! Even though nobody’s going out and socializing (or, at least, they shouldn’t be, and please don’t) people are still posting on social media. Seeing what your ex is posting probably won’t make you feel any better. You might want to unfollow or mute them to keep them out of sight, out of mind. Additionally, avoid posting about your breakup on your social media. It’s best to keep those thoughts in your private journal, not your Facebook.
Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll be able to get through this breakup in a healthy way. Stay present, and stay strong. If you’re struggling with these feelings, online therapy can help you process a breakup. Try Talkspace to speak to a licensed therapist today.