Hot topics | Coronavirus pandemic

Return To Office Is Affected By Couples Who Loved WFH Life Who Don't Understand WTHO

Return To Office Is Affected By Couples Who Loved WFH Life Who Don't Understand WTHO

Jess, 28, can only think of one thing: going back to see her boyfriend after an hour and two cups of coffee.

I know I'm being a little crazy, but it feels awful to be away from him now, she says. I always want to go home to snuggle, she says.

After working together for a year, Jess and her boyfriend settled into secluded routines. Theyd go to bed together, look through emails, sit at their kitchen table, and take turns making lunch during the week. Jesss office reopened in August, and her boyfriend remained hidden, presenting a surprisingly difficult transition for the couple.

I find that I have to call and text him on my breaks even though I don't have much to say, Jess adds. I just want to be home with him so badly, she added.

Youre probably used to wearing stretchy pants, doing laundry between meetings, and having your partner around 24/7 to provide quick dopamine hits after a long career working from home. As offices reopen and one or both partners return to work in person, couples are negotiating their routines and communication habits once again.

How WFH Changed Relationships and How It Changes People's Relations

According to a 2020 study of 2,002 adults in the UK conducted by eharmony and Relate, 'a month in lockdown feels like ten years of ties', according to one-third of people living with their partner say. Additionally, over two-thirds of respondents reported that spending time at home together strengthened their relationships.

Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Renewed Focus, says working from home with he partner gives her more time for developing emotional intimacy and establishing new habits, such as coffee in bed or afternoon walks. You may feel closer to your partner than ever before, and uneasy about the idea of not being around them all the time.

Dr. Robinson-Brown, a psychiatrist, tells Bustle that the last 18 and ten months have literally transformed the way we think about relationships. From shifting communication patterns to getting used to the ability to tag-team regularly with your partner on tasks and chores its now a routine that feels like the norm for many individuals, he added.

After finding a new rhythm with your partner always by your side, the idea of being apart may cause some anxiety. If your daily routine together provided you with a lot of relaxation or gave you something to look forward to especially when things were so uncertain last year - having that added level of security taken away may necessitate some adjustment.

On the other hand, for extroverted people who work for coworker happy hours and water cooler chit-chat, returning to in-person work has been a welcome change. Liza (she/her), 27, feels energetic going to work IRL after failed attempts at bread-making and at-home couples yoga. She feels like she's her own person when she puts on outside clothes, takes the bus, and spends some time away from her husband.

Its been a great return to my usual routine, and my wife and I have responsibilities to report on! Liza says.

Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, believes that the switch back to the office might trigger previous lifestyle patterns. Whereas work from home was a great equalizer of sorts, couples may now have to figure out how to preserve that newly-leveled distribution of chores as their schedules rise to avoid falling into old patterns.

Dr. Klapow tells Bustle that each couple will be different in their work history, as will their working methods. These factors, in combination with personality and communication styles, will determine how comfortable or uncomfortable couples will feel, according to the study.

How Couples Are Navigating The Return To Office Life After A Year Out of the Office?

Las, 26, and his partner, Lassa, 28, believed working from home meant living in the moment. With no commute or office dress code, the couple could enjoy their mornings together. During [lockdown], we could spend so much time together, and it was wonderful, Las tells Bustle. We could cuddle in the morning and then I could get up at 7:50 and be ready to roll at 8:00 a.m., said the father.

Las and their partner are both now working in person, and carving out quality time is increasingly a challenge. They say, We have to work together to get time.

All the experts agree that resuming work life is a marathon, not merely sag. After spending so much time together at home, you and your partner are most likely not ready to be in your own offices and not talk all day.

Dr. Klapow says, Take the transition incrementally. Be patient, communicate with each other, and respect each others' needs regarding more or less time apart as the transition takes place.

Just as re-adjusting to office life will take time, finding a new home balance will require time.

While they used to be able to go to the grocery store together and deal with household chores as they arise, Jess says she and her partner have had to establish a more formal division of work. She says she does the laundry and shopping on weekends. By the time my boyfriend is still at home during the day, he does most of the work, explains the 34-year-old.

Working from home provides Las and their partner with consistent routines, but they also share the desire to change cooking and cleaning routine each week depending on their spouses availability. My partner works retail, so her schedule is not reliable, they add. Every time they get their hours for the week, we have to sit down and make a plan, she added.

Dr. Robinson-Brown encourages her patients to start small with these new lifestyle changes and to be open as they go.

She adds, Build up to a new normal that works for you. Dont underestimate the power of a text or quick video chat to ground you and remind you that your partner will be with you when you get back home.

What About Couples That Never Worked IRL?

For service workers, healthcare professionals, and other individuals who went to work in-person during lockdown, the issue is more about coping with the return to employment narrative.

Jackie, 24, a bicycle courier, lives with her longtime partner, who works in the service industry. She explains that their conflicting schedules combined with the sheer exhaustion of the past year and a half has resulted in less quality time together. All the talk about the return to work now leaves Jackie and her partner feeling abandoned.

Jackie tells Bustle, The opening back up rhetoric is surreal. Its like everyoneve been on a meditation retreat while Im in spooky movies, he says.

Alice, a 27-year-old nurse, is equally perplexed, speaking about the strain the last year has taken on her love life. I've been a lot too exhausted and stressed out to devote any time or energy to my partner, she says. My capacity for emotional connection has significantly diminished, she added.

Both Alice and Jackie describe feeling pressure from friends and social media to be on dates or taking weekend getaways. Yet, they both have a tendency to avoid romantic activities, or at least an inability to.

Dr. Robinson-Brown explains that its completely understandable to feel overwhelmed right now for those on the front lines. Instead of trying to get you to have an elaborate, Bachelor-esque date with your partner, she suggests building your comfort and emotional bandwidth by doing small social activities. Start by meeting a friend for supper or jog in the park, and, if youre feeling up to it, try to take some intentional time with your partner.

As with many things, take it at a pace that works for you, she says.


Renewed Focus is led by Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Reneewed focus.

Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who practices as he works with children and adolescents.

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