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It doesn’t take a Modern Love column to tell you that relationships can flourish — or wither — in times of stress. Add months of isolation, the physical and emotional toll of a pandemic, followed by global protests, and this period we’re living through has the capacity to reshape relationships on a broad scale.

Rather than publishing one story this week, we decided to try to capture a bigger picture by featuring numerous voices. We wanted to know how people who are living together — romantically or otherwise — have fared with so much time together. Will this era be more about the costs of claustrophobia or the deepening of love? What about the fights? The annoying habits? The romance? The chaos? Here are 18 stories of isolating together.

‘I have to lock the bathroom’





‘Working’ From Home

How’s everyone doing with their work from home situation, which I’m calling “work from here.” So I thought I’d show you a little bit of what my work 360 looks like right now. I’ve got a child asking for help with bubbles. Say Hi, Charlie. “Hi.” Okay, should we go show what our dining room table looks like right now. This is our living room that is turned into a sandpit. Can you say hi, Will? Come here, bud. We’re going to walk in here. “Where is it?” I’ll show you in a sec. My husband on a work call. “That’s true.” And my mom making sure that our liquor is restocked. Okay, hope you’re enjoying your day. Can you say bye, Charlie? “Bye.” Bye!

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Erin Gallagher, 38
Living with her husband, Brian, their two sons, as well as her mother and dog.

I learned that space and time away from my husband and children is good for everyone, especially me. My husband has started saying “woo!” to everything in quarantine, and it makes me want to scream. My children are amazing and empathetic and annoying. I have to lock the bathroom or they climb into the shower with me or stand next to me while I’m on the toilet. Small breaks: riding the Peloton with headphones on, taking a bath, solo walks, drives to Starbucks and Target runs.

‘I never fought with my grandparents’

ImageFamily Zoom celebrating my Grandpa’s 84th birthday. Both laptops are mine; they don’t even know how to use their flip phones.
Family Zoom celebrating my Grandpa’s 84th birthday. Both laptops are mine; they don’t even know how to use their flip phones.Credit…Rachelle Olden

Rachelle Olden, 36
Columbia, S.C.
Living with her grandparents Ann and Charles. She’ll return to her home in Seattle soon.

I never fought with my grandparents, but three months of quarantine can change any relationship. Arguments with my grandmother started over my dog’s ban from the kitchen, then moved to the mistakes I’m making in my love life and on to the length of my summer dresses.

Lately we’ve been arguing about the approach to the Black Lives Matter protests: My grandmother’s experience as a Black woman in America, born in rural South Carolina to sharecropping parents, is extremely different from my own, as a Duke University-educated and Microsoft-employed Black woman. I am her wildest dream.

We debate how Black Americans protest police brutality and systemic racism. She wants me to stay home, away from the tear gas and rubber bullets, and not speak so candidly to my white colleagues, for fear that I’ll lose my corporate job. I believe the consequences of a peaceful protest don’t outweigh the necessity to make my voice heard.





Meet My Grandparents

One of our favorite memories is our daily breakfast together.

Hi, I’m Rachelle, and “I’m grandpa” and that’s Nana. “I’m Nana.” She didn’t want to be on the camera. So I’ve been hanging out with my grandparents for about three months now due to covid, and I didn’t want to be lonely in Seattle. Grandpa, what’s your favorite memory of me being here? “Breakfast in the morning.” Oh yes. Breakfast. Every morning, my grandmother cooks us a hot breakfast before my 84-year-old grandfather goes to work as a landscaper. He’s been owning his landscaping company for about 30 years now. And he still works every day. Grandpa so what do we talk about at breakfast. “What your day’s going to be like.” My grandparents think I’m actually unemployed since I work from home during covid. Well, it’s been a really great time with them. I love them. And I’m really grateful for this, this precious time with them. Say bye grandpa. “Bye.” Say bye, Nana. “Bye!” Bye.

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One of our favorite memories is our daily breakfast together.

I moved in with my grandparents after a long-term relationship with my middle school sweetheart ended abruptly in March. I’ve tried online dating — my grandmother swipes on my behalf. I went on a social-distanced date and my grandmother critiqued every outfit.

My grandparents have a 57-year marriage. I thought they had marriage figured out and could teach me, but they don’t. They argue and act childish like most couples. I guess I’m on my own with this marriage thing.

They would probably say living with me for the past three months is the best Covid-19 gift. I not only grocery shop but also introduced them to streaming church on YouTube. They don’t understand “working from home” and therefore think I’m unemployed. They’re sad to see me go.


On our colorful couch.

Credit…Photos by Lilian Howard

Lilian Howard, 83
Virginia Beach, Va.
Living with Lydia, her 24-year-old roommate.

Unlike many millennials in my experience, Lydia is a great cook, has a real curiosity about a huge number of things, and is tidy and even-tempered. She defers to me on all household matters, which certainly helps us get along.

Now, during the pandemic, we take our evening meals together, very often with a ballet, opera or theater event streamed from somewhere in the world. We sometimes like to admire attractive men on the TV. Having a roommate helps with expenses — and the sense of someone near is comforting.

‘I learned that I could rely on my husband — briefly’


Morning cuddles.Credit…Candace Fujii

Candace Fujii, 31
Asaka, Japan
Living with her husband, Taiki, and their toddler.

I was sick for two weeks in April, though I didn’t get tested for the coronavirus. I learned that I could rely on my husband — briefly. It took two weeks for him to go from very willing to pitch in to noticeably irritated that I wasn’t feeling 100 percent yet.

There was a dark period during my illness where I wished I was back in my parents’ New England home, with no neighbors around, roaming the woods with my child. I realized that ache will never go away and I don’t know what to do about it.

Having a baby in a society that already put much of the child care on the shoulders of the mother, working or not, did in most of our romance long ago. I have also started to feel twinges of anxiety about my decision not to go back to work. I don’t regret the choice to stay home with my baby, but job hunting looks even more bleak post-quarantine.

‘Yes, we’re still living in the yurt’





‘Mood-Altering Foods’

“Mood-Altering Foods”: A parody on “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical “Oliver.”

Pot is what some people choose. Other folks indulge in booze when they feel life is cruel. There are some who turn to prayer. Religion is their bill of fare. Whatever works for you is cool. My secret way to get through lousy days is to break out my heavenly stash. Of the treats that I love from the angels above and shove in the comforting love of Mood-altering foods, ranch flavor Doritos. Well I chomp on Twinkies and Cheetos. Ding Dongs, Pop Tarts and Oreos. Who needs a shrink session? Curl up on the couch and feed your depression. Mood-altering foods. Take in the aroma. That soon will send you in to a blissful coma. Fritters squirted with canned whipped cream, hot pop-ems and fresh rolls, Oh mood, wonderful, mood, marvelous mood-altering foods! Mood-altering foods are always there for ya. Haagen-Dazs will send you into a creamy euphoria. Raw chocolate chip cookie dough, Marie Callender’s pie, moist Duncan Hines layer cake makes me high! Mood-altering foods, look what’s on the menu. Just loosen your belt, two inches, and then you’ll soon have a new attitude; life isn’t so rude, with mood, wonderful, mood-altering foods! Nutritional foods! Just won’t cut the mustard. Aye-aye, Captain Crunch! I love you, Betty Crocker. Just thinking of Sarah Lee sends my senses reeling. Her cheesecake can take away that empty, bleak feeling. Mood-altering foods, What wouldn’t I give for! Sweet, salty trans fats give me something to live for. You don’t have to be faded to do nothing but brood — just climb in bed with your stash and pig out on mood, wonderful, mood, glorious, mood, fabulous, mood-altering foods!

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“Mood-Altering Foods”: A parody on “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical “Oliver.”

David Mielke, 57
Vashon Island, Wash.
Living with his husband, Tom.

My husband and I rented a 20-foot yurt 11 years ago because we knew it would either teach us to be good communicators or reveal that we were better suited to monkhood. We thought if our marriage could survive sharing such a small space, it could survive anything.

Since social isolation began, we wanted a creative way to deal with conflicts. So we’ve been collaborating on “Broadway in the Yurt” — classic show tunes with a twist. The song “Mood-Altering Foods” — a twist on “Food Glorious Food” from the musical “Oliver” — was born out of my penchant for comfort foods when stressed and Tom feeling that maybe it wasn’t the healthiest way of dealing with things.

We’ve learned that the only thing more conducive to growth than living in a yurt is living in a yurt during quarantine.

‘We were supposed to be here for three days’


We watch films to pass the time.

Credit…Photos by Bianca Carminati

Bianca Carminati, 34
Gili Meno, Indonesia
Living with her boyfriend, Eduardo.

My boyfriend and I are accidentally living on an island in Indonesia; we were supposed to be here for just three days when lockdown happened. The island is mostly deserted — virtually all tourists have left, so we are alone all the time.

Eduardo and I had been having a nonexclusive, long-distance relationship for two years and decided to travel around Southeast Asia. When coronavirus exploded, we decided not to go back to our countries (the United States for him, Brazil for me) so we could stay together.

Since lockdown, we’ve had some very intense conversations, sorting out a lot of our past. Issues of jealousy that were never part of our history suddenly became inescapable. We thought about breaking up. But with no boats out of the island and no flights out of Indonesia, leaving was not an option. Now, almost three months later, we’re crazy serious about each other.

‘My brother and I had a bare-bones relationship’


I’ve convinced my brother do a few workout videos on YouTube with me every day.Credit…Carter Teng

Carter Teng, 20
Raleigh, N.C.
Living with her parents and 10-year-old brother, River.

Before Covid-19, my brother and I had a bare-bones relationship. With a 10-year age difference, there’s not much we can talk about. But after seeing his addiction to video games since I’ve been home, I’ve entered into the uncharted waters of violently arguing with him about his life’s priorities and then tearfully making up.

In just two months, we’ve shared more tears and hugs than the past 10 years combined. It’s been a time of many firsts — the first time I had a deep conversation with him, the first time I told him a secret and the first time I told him I love him.

After this pandemic subsides, I want to remain actively involved in my brother’s life. I now feel responsible for his well-being, as much as I imagine a parent cares for their child. Maybe I won’t take a job on the west coast after graduation; maybe I’ll stay on the East Coast to be close.

‘We have grieved, grown and healed’


I’m always on the couch; he’s always leaning on the divider between the kitchen and the living room.Credit…Kelly Sterling

Kelly Sterling, 32
Living with her husband, Randy.

Before entering this quarantine, my husband and I suffered a miscarriage. I had a dilation and curettage procedure a week before New York City shut down. We had to adjust quickly to our new reality: staying home, losing a pregnancy and my husband getting laid off. I had a hard time sleeping. I’d wake up at 3 a.m. on the couch. My husband would find me in the morning and we’d just sit there, holding each other.

My husband is resilient. I would snap at him for being positive about the future or hopeful that we will get pregnant again, feeling like it was too soon. I realized that’s just him, though. Positivity is how he grieves.

The last couple of months have allowed us time to grieve in a way we normally wouldn’t have. I was scheduled to return to work a few days after the procedure.

We started having conversations with our families and friends, opening up about what had happened. People told us stories of their own losses and their friends’ losses. Even though we were stuck at home, we felt love and support from the outside world. Randy and I have come a long way during this time — now, we accept our loss as part of our story.

‘More than sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll’


Quarantine photo shoot.Credit…Photos by Kellie Krueger

Crafting cardboard coffins.

Kellie Krueger, 32
Los Angeles
Living with her boyfriend, Tony, who moved into her studio apartment.

We went from seeing each other on weekends at goth and rock clubs — and enjoying maybe one lazy day after — to this. We actually haven’t fought much. So many L.A. relationships are superficial, and I sometimes feared ours was too. But it’s not. Our proximity has proved to me than our relationship is more than sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

Overall, we communicate more deeply than we did before this pandemic. The best part has been learning more about each other’s true nature. When I’m feeling down, I don’t need to speak or explain. Tony reaches his arms out to hold me and suggests we take a drive to see the ocean.

Our one-year anniversary is today, but we’ve chosen to take a week apart for personal space. It feels healthy and right, because my apartment is so small.

‘We’re still getting to know each other’


When we fight, he can go outside and chop wood to blow off steam.Credit…Natasha Scripture

Natasha Scripture, 42
Frederick, Md.
Living with her fiancé, Ali, and their daughter Layla.

We got pregnant the first time we had sex, after knowing each other briefly. We’ve been living together for 15 months total.

He’s a doctor who’s fanatical about cleaning yet hoards old clothes — undergarments with holes in them, neon socks from the ’80s — and takes a long time to do things, like send an email, whereas I can do 17 things simultaneously. We are learning what it means to be a team … and struggling to be one, too.

I’m alone with the baby most of the day while he works, in another section of the house, sometimes treating coronavirus patients via telemedicine. When the baby naps, I have to get my writing done. It is sacred, fleeting time. My partner has learned not to come near me during those moments or I’ll kill him.

‘Look, I made us masks from these old socks!’


Wearing the masks Steve made.Credit…Photos by Lou Storey

Lou Storey, 65
Long Branch, N.J.
Living with his husband, Steve.

Our personalities have become amplified in quarantine. Steve became hyper-efficient, harnessing YouTube-inspired homesteading wisdom: “Look, I made us masks from these old socks!” I sit for long stretches (minutes, hours, days?) looking out the window, sighing, saying “Remember when …?”

I have these conversations with Rufus, our patient cat, while Steve researches which trees have edible leaves. So, I suppose Steve would say, “Lou fell apart during the crisis while I saved the day!”

‘My 13 brothers and sisters and I decided to return to Ohio’





At-Home Graduation

“My younger sister was supposed to graduate high school and my younger brother was supposed to graduate college. Since their ceremonies were cancelled, we had a prom and graduation at home.”

“Oh, yes!” “Yay!” “Beautiful!’

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“My younger sister was supposed to graduate high school and my younger brother was supposed to graduate college. Since their ceremonies were cancelled, we had a prom and graduation at home.”

Caroline Driscoll, 23
Salem, Ohio
Living with her parents, siblings, brother-in-law and two nephews.

Before the travel advisories were issued in early March, my 13 brothers and sisters and I decided to return to Ohio and isolate in our childhood home. We have never all lived together at once.

Before coronavirus, we would only see each other for a couple days at a time, a few times a year. Hurt feelings used to go unaddressed for fear of ruining the little time we had together.

Now, there’s no excuse to ignore something that’s bothering us, talk it out and resolve it. There’s also no way to avoid one another given the close quarters; some of us are sharing beds with other siblings.

We’re learning more about each other. I feel like I’m meeting my siblings for the first time. I knew them as children, and now I have the honor of getting to know them as adults.

‘We’ve started arguing in British accents’


Tie-dye experiment.Credit…Photos by Kendra Peart

Benjamin with the dogs.

Kendra Peart, 24
Delray Beach, Fla.
Living with her boyfriend, Benjamin.

Our biggest argument was after I asked him to help more with chores and he called me a nag. Not sure why, but that triggered me and we didn’t talk for a day. We just awkwardly avoided each other around the house.

He apologized later and we talked about shared responsibility and watched a movie. But the day we didn’t talk was refreshing. The space was more important than we realized. We’ve recently started arguing in British accents in order to avoid taking the little things too seriously.

‘We sing and dance like teenagers’


DuBose and Chris.Credit…Photos by DuBose Forrest

We depend on each other to find our lost glasses.

DuBose Forrest, 68
Lafayette, Calif.
Living with her husband of four months, Chris.

We have both arrived at the age where there’s no time for fussing and fighting. He may occasionally be short with me if he is stressed because of work or misunderstandings, but I let it go. Similarly, he is very understanding and calms me when I’m upset.

Because we have so much more time together, we indulge in sex almost daily, and the fact that he can and that I want to has amazed me. Even better, he comes out of the study throughout his work day to kiss me, and makes a point of starting his day exercising with me and ending it snuggling. We sing and dance like teenagers.

‘Losing the will to take off our sweatpants’


Matching pajama pants.Credit…Photos by Liz Carroll

Ready to venture outside.

Liz Carroll, 52
Living with her husband, Dorion.

As the months go on, we’re sort of losing the will to take off our sweatpants. My husband clips his toenails much more frequently than I was previously aware. His offer to make dinner once every three weeks has not changed even though we now cook every meal at home. He really doesn’t want to watch “whatever” I want even if he claims he doesn’t care.

That said, our relationship is rock solid. We are dying to travel more and realize that where we live doesn’t really matter. We could ditch this apartment, get a mail forwarding system and live anywhere.

‘Our good communication has broken down’


Pre-quarantine days.Credit…Amber Elliot

Amber Elliot, 30
Aberdeen Township, N.J.
Living with her boyfriend and their two cats.

Before this, we rarely raised our voices and were both quick to apologize. It seems our good communication has broken down. Usually we are both noncombative, but when you have to face a harsh reality every day, it’s hard to ignore or make excuses.

He always said a major reason for the distance in our relationship was that I worked too much. But now that we have all of this time together, it’s been detrimental to our relationship. There have been a few bright spots. I was having a bad day and he knew I had been craving a McFlurry, so he went out and got one for me with extra M&Ms. It reminds me to keep the compassion alive.

But when our lease is up, we will not be living together anymore, and I will be moving across the country. This time has been revealing not only for my relationship but for the whole structure and meaning of my life.

‘When I hit what seems to be my bottom, I just keep going’


My daughter grips my bruised legs because she doesn’t want me to walk away.Credit…April Friges

April Friges, 38
Living with her 2½-year-old daughter.

I’m a single mom. My daughter splits half her time with her father, but the hardest day was when I allowed her to watch television for five hours so I could work, but I really just sat on the floor staring, unable to do anything.

I’m a professor at a university, and it was difficult just ending the semester, without support or day care. Things got really tough. But I found that when I hit what seems to be my bottom, I just keep going.

‘The perfect time to create something new’


Getting some sun.Credit…Photos by Ariana Shapiro

Boxing food for families in need.

Ariana Shapiro, 26
New Haven, Conn.
Living with her boyfriend, who will join her lease in June.

I get lost on endless Zoom calls. Some days I hear a sharp knock on the door of my home office and look up to see my boyfriend mooning me, his cheeks pressed tight against the glass door, just out of sight of the camera. It lifts my spirits.

In March we started collecting food from our neighbors and distributing it to families in need. We weren’t ready to move in before, but we are now. We started a mutual aid network together and we talk about what’s next: A worker’s cooperative? A political campaign? A nonprofit? We realized that this is the perfect time to create something new.

Edited by Jessica Bennett, Daniel Jones, Miya Lee and Anya Strzemien, with photo editing by Eve Lyons.

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