Moving in together during coronavirus isolation

New couples are cohabitating sooner than planned due to the pandemic – here's how to make it work

“Hey baby. Want to split rent?” my now-husband asked while making me late-night grilled cheese a month into dating. Five years later, things are still golden.

Responses from my fellow dating professionals vary from brow furrowing to high fives. We’re seeing a lot more early cohabitation lately, as new partners decide to live together over dating long-distance in their own city.

Caroline Owen and Damon Gold were making long-distance work between California and Ontario, but the U.S./Canada border closure caused concern, Owen says.

“Realizing that we’d likely be apart for some time, or stuck together indefinitely, we opted for the latter.”

Some decisions came down to the financial realities of this pandemic. Gail, a Toronto-based nail artist, did the math before moving in with her partner, Cat.

“As time has passed and the CERB amount was disclosed and released, I realized I would only have $50 of it left after my rent was paid,” she says.

“It made no sense to use $2000 in government funds that I’ll later be taxed on to pay rent on a tiny space that I cannot work/live out of anymore.”

There are growing pains that come with living together, but Gail explains that communication is key to handling conflict: “We seem to have more conflicts that seem to be about the small stuff — the little things where we both need to communicate what our thought process was or express our needs more fully.”

The increased time together has been a gift for some couples. Content marketing consultant Jasmine Williams and comedian/actor Alan Lewis moved in together after she went to take care of him while he was sick (unrelated to COVID-19) and just stayed.

Williams sees the bright side: “Before the pandemic, we had pretty much opposite schedules – he works nights and I work 9-5. Now we see each other all day every day, which could’ve been terrible – but overall, it’s been nice.”

It’s a strange time, and bonds can strengthen when we handle challenges together. It may be uncommon to move in together early, but a lot of things are uncommon right now.

What will happen to these partnerships? It’s hard to say – but at least one couple is celebrating.

“We weren’t really sure how it would go, but we both feel closer and more connected for this time together,” Owen says. “It’s given us a chance to really get to know each other and figure out if we can make it work long term as a couple. We feel confident enough that we just announced our engagement!”

Time to pop the bubbly I found in the back of the liquor cabinet.

Tips for cohabitating during a crisis

Spend time alone: If you have space, spend time in different areas. Otherwise, use headphones to immerse yourself in music, a TV show, a podcast or a video game.

Do activities together: Writer Caroline Aksich and market researcher Mauricio Yin Vieira used to do rugby and jiu-jitsu, respectively – but now they’re trying boxing together. “He’s been helping me up my game,” says Aksich.

Plan date nights: Get takeout or cook together, put on some nice music, take the time to talk — and not just about COVID-19.

Stay on top of hygiene: You don’t need to put on a top hat and tails, but brush your teeth, run a comb through your hair, and put on some clean loungewear.

Contextualize your disagreements: Aksich says being gentle with one another during tough times is key. “We made a commitment to each other that if we ever were angry or we ever lashed out in any way to remember that it wasn’t coming from a place of malice, it was coming from a place of frustration with other things and with the situation, not with each other.”

Socialize with others: Reach out to friends, family and online meetup groups. No one person can be your whole world.

Have an exit strategy: Social isolation measures have led to concerns about an increase in domestic abuse. In the event that your living situation becomes dangerous, shelters are available for people leaving situations involving domestic violence. A shelter location tool is available here.

Claire AH is a matchmaker, dating coach and owner of Friend Of A Friend Matchmaking.

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