How to handle coronavirus tension with relationships and roommates

Nick Angel, 40, is serious about social distancing. Especially when it comes to his wife, Kashfia.

“I’ve been working from home since last week, so on Monday I went to sit on the couch with my husband. He was like, ‘No, no, I think you should go somewhere else,’ ” Kashfia Angel, 35, tells The Post.

And Nick’s getting on her nerves, too.

“This morning I asked him, ‘Do you need to type that loud?’ He was typing so loud,” says the graphic designer.

New Yorkers are hunkering down in their apartments during the coronavirus outbreak — some working from home, some newly laid off and some simply trying to practice social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to dial down in-person interactions to reduce COVID-19 infection rates.

For most locals, that means a lot less time engaging with the outside world — and a whole lot of facetime with whoever they live with. And it’s leading to serious tension between couples and roommates.

“Many fights coming out of this will stem from not having space, and being overwhelmed,” says Melissa Thoen, a couples’ therapist and the clinical director at the Ackerman Institute for the Family therapy practice in Manhattan. She says romantic relationships are especially vulnerable to that kind of stress: In the Chinese city of Xi’an, for example, requests for divorces from couples coming out of month-plus quarantines can’t be processed fast enough.

One of the biggest disagreements that New Yorkers are having in their cramped apartments is how to properly social distance.

For the Angels, who have been married for four years and live on the Lower East Side, coronavirus has exacerbated their personality differences.

“I’m more of a risk-taker, and my husband’s more cautious,” says Kashfia. On Saturday, they got into a fight when she wanted to get out of the house. “I was looking up the one museum that was open, and my husband said, ‘We’re not going.’ ”

Although they’re on more of the same page now — “on Sunday is when it started to hit that this is serious” — Kashfia expects that they’ll have more growing pains as health guidelines continue shifting.

Thoen thinks this dynamic is playing out all over the country. She says that now, more than ever, it’s important to communicate clearly and frequently to bridge the gap with your partner.

“Especially when panic is evolving, you need to take a step back and make sure both people are being heard,” says Thoen. “One strategy is to explain to your partner your concerns or worries, then have them reiterate what you said.”

Michael Day, 36, says his partner Byron Regej, 35, is “more alarmist” than him. While Regej was working from the couple’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment last week, Day, a furniture contractor, was still out and about taking business meetings.

“He kept on saying to me, ‘If you keep doing this, do not bother coming back,’” says Day.

At first, they butted heads. But after his last client lunch — “at the Garden at the Four Seasons, on Wednesday” — Day decided to defer to his partner. He canceled all of his meetings for the coming week, and the couple booked a beach house in Mattituck, New York, to ride out the pandemic.

Although Day still thinks they may have been overreacting, he says that honoring Regej’s worries felt more important at the moment.

“In uncertain times, I think the healthier thing is to default to the person who’s a little more paranoid, while maintaining positivity for them,” Day says.

Another tip from the couples counselor: Use “I feel” and “I hear” statements. If you think your partner is leaving the house too often, Thoen suggests saying, “You going to the park gives me anxiety and makes me worry about you and what could happen to our family.”

All of this is good and well for committed romantic partners. Things get a little trickier for people trapped inside with their Craigslist roomies.

Zara Lockshin, a 34 year-old tech associate, lives in Williamsburg with two roommates who are having trouble with social distancing.

“With roommates, you can’t control where they go, how often they wash their hands and who they see,” says Lockshin. “They wanted to make a bunch of trips to get really fancy coffee for a quarantine, and I explained that every time we leave the house, we’re more at risk.”

To make matters worse, one of her roommates planned to have his girlfriend hole up at their place during lockdown.

“The idea of sharing a small space with them having sex all the time and being in the common spaces and our small bathroom really upset me,” says Lockshin, who describes herself as conflict-averse.

As for her other roommate? Well, he’s still trying to lock down a quarantine boo.

“He went on a Tinder date on Saturday night and told us that now she has a fever,” Lockshin says. “Like, how dare you go on a Tinder date.”

She felt “resentful” and “powerless.” So on Sunday, she called a house meeting with her two roommates. They sat down and discussed various social-distancing sins, emerging with an accord: Out-of-the-house jaunts will be limited to walks, bike rides and essential grocery trips.

Thoen says a meeting is a good idea for frustrated roommates. She recommends that people in Lockshin’s position continue to keep the lines of communication open and to listen — really listen.

“Hearing each other is the best way to argue,” says Thoen. “Make sure you’re understanding and hearing what they’re saying, and try to empathize.”

Finally, if you’re upset about something, Thoen says to speak up right away.

“Now is not the time for conflict avoidance,” she says.

Contact Us