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2 COVID Strains on a Relationship

Solutions for two seemingly small issues that can lead to a big problem.

mstlion Silhouette, Open ClipArt, Public Domain
Source: mstlion Silhouette, Open ClipArt, Public Domain

Yesterday, I wrote about two COVID strains: holiday gatherings and remote schooling.

Today, I focus on two COVID strains on relationships. They’re seemingly small problems, definitely in the category of first-world problems, yet a few of my clients have reported that such apparent trivialities are quite straining on their relationship. The first problem: being bored with the friends in their COVID bubble. The second problem: arguing about what movies and TV to watch.

I’ve converted these concerns into composite letters and add my response.


We’ve been following the public health urgings to limit our social interactions to a small number of people in our COVID bubble. For us, that’s two couples we like, each of which we see perhaps once a month, socially distanced, masked, tested, open-windowed, blah-blah-blah.

The problem is that now, eight months into the pandemic’s restrictions and the promise of their continuing for months to come, we’re already quite bored with both couples. We talk about the same few things, we know each others’ views, plans, interests, and family and personal issues. For the lack of as-safe alternatives, we continue to get together but I'm starting to dread seeing them although my girlfriend still wants to continue.

Dear Bored,

Sometimes, it's worth continuing a friendship even when bored. When situations and feelings change as they often do, your familiarity and shared history can allow for friendship depth that's hard to match in a newer relationship.

But let's assume you'd like to make a new friend(s). Assuming you don’t want to substitute another of your existing friends for that couple in your bubble, there are COVID-safe ways to identify possible new friends. For example, today, it seems that the closest bond is among political allies. So, do you want to identify a potential new friend by participating in an online forum for people who share your political perspective? Or might you want to invite a few ideological kinsmen that you already know for a Zoom chat—one time or even regularly? Less focused, might you want to organize a COVID-safer TGIF, for example, inviting neighbors to meet in front of your home, maybe weekly, bundled up in cold weather, perhaps supplemented by liquid warmth?

* * *


I know this sounds shallow but my girlfriend and I fight about what TV shows or movies to watch. I believe that I give in at least half the time but she insists that she gives in most of the time. Any advice?

Dear Fighter Over the Remote,

First, two solutions that may be obvious and simplistic, but we often forget to do such things. You needn’t always watch together. For example, while making dinner, my wife may watch something she likes that she knows I would like less. Some of the best relationships build in plenty of time for separate activities. Also, in the category of the obvious but often forgotten: Track how often each of you gives in. Just don't pretend to object to your partner’s choice merely so you can score a point.

Ask yourselves, “How important is it that each of you gets your choice half the time?” I doubt that you often find your partner's choice horrible. Do you want to increase your tolerance for watching something you find merely okay? Remember that the core benefits of a couple’s watching TV together are to be physically close, to have new things to talk about, and to enjoy recreation that is relatively safe, even in the time of COVID.

Relatedly, should you replace some of your annoyance with gratitude for the brilliant, dogged people who make available to you an enormous number of movies and TV shows, easily bingeable, for free or near-free, which you can start and take a break from whenever you like? When I was growing up, watching a TV series meant having to wait a whole week between episodes and having to watch each at one sitting, without interruption, except for commercials. Watching a movie meant seeing it only at specified showtimes, driving, parking, paying good money plus a usurious amount for soda or popcorn, having to watch the entire movie without a break, in complete silence. Now, my wife and I enjoy making comments during the show, including blaming someone for choosing that awful movie.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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