Who knew you needed privacy for a healthy sex life? We sure didn’t. No one told us this, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t part of those vows we recited on our wedding day. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, with no privacy day in and day out, as long as you both shall live. Doesn’t sound familiar, does it?
Ever since the shelter in place started, we can’t escape the capture of the other’s madness. Like most couples, we both enjoyed going our separate ways at the start of each day, and then reconvening back in the evening. We each had space to pursue what was important to us and then could come back to celebrate victories of the day and share rat race war stories. “Your life is yours to live. I love you, but I will not interfere and will support you when you need it” has turned into “Well, we’re trapped in a room together, and everything seems to be fucked. Let’s try to make the best of it.”
In other words, togetherness has become a monthly subscription we can’t cancel.
Being in each other’s company 24/7 has overexposed us to each other in a way that has affected our sexual intimacy. It took us a few weeks to realize this was happening because at first we figured the lack of sex was just the stress of everything changing so quickly, mixed with the deep sense of uncertainty about the future and a growing need for constant comfort as the pandemic progressed. Little by little, however, we realized that it was more than just anxiety and fear keeping us from having sex.
A Zoom call with our polycule in late April helped snap things back into perspective. We got off a marathon call filled with laughter, vulnerability, and reminders of the relationships we have waiting for us on the other side of all of this uncertainty, and almost immediately ripped each other’s clothes off when the call was over. It wasn’t the first time we’d had sex since being forced to shelter in place, but it was the first time we both felt such an intense need and desire in weeks. We talked after, realizing something had shifted, almost like a fog had been lifted that we hadn’t even realized existed to that point.
It became apparent that the change of priorities in our relationship was unspoken and necessary to get us through the early days of the pandemic, but now it feels like a loop we have to work twice as hard as usual to break free from every day. When we lost all sense of privacy, we lost a part of our perceived identities. We don’t easily subscribe to “comfort,” but instead have always enjoyed mystery and adventure in our relationship. It’s part of the reason why we started dating other couples six years ago: the excitement that comes with exploring something new and unknown deepened our sexual intimacy and lit up our passion for one another.
But, surely, we haven’t seen everything yet? And, assuming that is true, how do we make room for surprises when we’re living out of each other’s pockets during the shelter in place?
Re-establishing daily routines has helped with that, as has finding reasons to get out of each other’s company, even for short periods of time, and remembering to put on headphones when the other is on a work call. More than anything, however, keeping our connection alive with our other partners has helped, reminding us of the excitement and mystery that still exists in (and outside) of our relationship, and providing that sense of community we continue to miss while we shelter in place.