The taste of sweet white wine lingered on my lips as I stole kisses from my husband inside a bar at a friend's wedding reception. My face was glowing from a much-needed morning at a spa, and I was feeling confident (and a little tipsy) in my new dress, heels, and makeup. We stayed in a boutique hotel during this toddler-free weekend, connecting and talking about how we needed to get away more often, just the two of us. We came home from that short trip on March 1, 2020, feeling renewed in our relationship and hopeful for the year to come.
Not even a month went by before our home state of Texas — and the entire world — shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our blissful weekend lit a spark of hope and desire in our four-year-old marriage, only to be practically doused out a few weeks later. I know that we have been very lucky not to get sick, but that doesn't invalidate the feelings of sadness, despair, anxiety, depression, fear, and overall uncertainty that comes from living through a global pandemic and not knowing when it's going to end. And that can take a serious toll on a relationship.
[We've been able to] see more of each other's good moods, instead of just our bone-tired leftovers at the end of a long day.
I'm not going to talk about sex (OK, maybe a little), but the thing is, being stuck inside the house with your partner all the time is, sorry, not that erotic to me. Especially when you have needy kids, you have to convert part of your bedroom into a home office, and it feels like the world is ending every time you turn on the news. After our weekend away, focusing on our relationship immediately slipped to the back burner for a while.
At least, it did for the first few months of the pandemic (how has it been almost a year already?). After we started embracing the "new normal," buying cute masks, and uncovering new ways to have fun in the house, I realised something. Somehow, going through a global pandemic kind of brought me and my husband closer than ever, which has been a really cool and unexpected silver lining to this dark and stormy year.
My husband and I started the pandemic living at my parents' house, and during that time we were able to pay off a lot of debt and buy our own home. But we quickly realised that getting our own space wasn't enough to magically teleport our relationship back to the pre-coronavirus days. It was actually going to take some work, and I wasn't sure if I had the energy to keep up. Luckily, my husband is filled with reservoirs of patience and doesn't ever take my anxiety or much-needed alone time personally (like he shouldn't, because it isn't about him!). He encouraged me to take care of myself first, which I did by getting enough sleep, reading more, and finding ways to have fun at home. And I did the same for him.
We also worked hard to turn anything into a date night, from cleaning and organising our house and going to the Starbucks drive-thru to baking together and watching Netflix late at night. Since we were both working from home, we saw each other much more than we were used to, but it turned out to be a huge blessing. We got to eat lunch together every day, go on walks after work, and see more of each other's good moods, instead of just our bone-tired leftovers at the end of a long day. He got to bond with the kids more, I got breaks from making lunches, and we had more time at the end of the day to just be together.
This year has taught me that you don't have to have a fancy hotel and big parties to have fun with your partner. Quiet nights at home with plenty of wine in the fridge and a funny rom-com on TV can create the same charged atmosphere. It's not about how often you have sex (although that is great too); it's about how connected you feel, how excited you are to see someone day after day, and how happy you are to have someone who supports and loves you when everything else in the world is uncertain. My relationship with my husband, like any relationship, takes work, but even a pandemic can't stop us from dancing in the kitchen, laughing at ridiculous movie lines, and falling in love a little more every day. I still can't wait for our next weekend getaway when everything returns to normal, but in the meantime I'm having just as much fun stealing kisses while cooking dinner.