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Social Graces: What to do when your partner or roommate wants to relax COVID-19 quarantine rules but you don't

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: From the start, you and your partner or roommate have been on the same page with a COVID-19 safety routine. Now they want to relax the rules, but you don't. What should you say?

A: The best thing you can do is actually have a conversation together. This includes making eye contact, putting the phones away, and sitting face-to-face - intentionally taking time to discuss the matter. Agree to try to understand one another's perspective. Each person will need to know how much they are willing to compromise and what consequences they feel they need to carry out in order to feel respected in the relationship. For example, if one partner feels unsafe, and the other partner doesn't want to increase their safety routine, the partner that feels unsafe may need to set some boundaries. This might include keeping some extra physical distance or sanitizing more frequently.

Additionally, because the situation is changing so rapidly, it would be helpful for each partner to agree to revisit the conversation in a week and see if they're able to get on the same page. It's also helpful to let the science do the talking, so see if each partner can each commit to taking an hour to research appropriate precautions. See if you can get in alignment about a safety routine together.

- Lauren Cook, therapist and author of "Name Your Story: How to Talk Openly About Mental Health While Embracing Wellness"

A: Fear, uncertainty and confusion are experiences commonly had if you are living in 2020. At a time when the world is trying to open up and normalize, these issues can creep into our own homes. Expectations for connecting with others are shifting and social norms are being adjusted. Living space is sacred, so it is important to consider and establish a sense of safety amid this changing environment. Given that every individual will have different conceptualizations of what activities they view as safe or risky, your partner or roommate will likely have different views as time goes on.


It is best to find a time to sit with these individuals to define the boundaries of the shared space and how to interact with them at this current moment. Given that any change in context requires a change in expectations, it is crucial to revisit this as our world adjusts. It is necessary that you advocate for boundaries that allow you to respect others and yourself simultaneously. It is important to be clear and open about the expectations you are communicating. Avoid a debate about sources of authority and what we believe to be true, or convincing others that the way they are interacting in the current state is either irresponsible or unnecessarily cautious. These approaches will only magnify the differences and cause you to focus more on uncertainty. The goal of the conversation should be to maximize both safety and respect for one another.

- Jeffrey Kraft, licensed therapist at Pinnacle Counseling

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