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February 18, 2023 2:55 PM   Subscribe

How to work out comfort levels within couples during this stage of the pandemic?

My partner is the most cautious person I know in relation to covid. She left her previous job when they made her start coming in to the office again and now has found a new remote job. She won't allow anyone into our house and hasn't for 3 years. No friends, no trades folk, nobody.

I work in a very social field, so I need to now see people for work and she understands this, so she's not happy about it and fearful, but knows it's a job requirement.

Even pre-pandemic she didn't really want anyone in the house, whereas I love having people over, and I really miss it. It's been an ongoing discussion in our relationship and compromises on both sides. She doesn't understand why all socializing can't stay out of our house, nor why out of town guests or family can't just stay in a hotel. I've accepted that this is our shared space and if she doesn't want anyone else in here, not much I can do about it.

So now, I'd love to be socializing more in other people's houses and feel like that if what folks seems to be doing. The people around me anyway.

We were just invited to old friends' for dinner tomorrow night, and she said, no way. I really want to go. A restaurant is out of the question, due to their kids, and so on.

I'm looking for tips and perspective on how we navigate this. Are people not socializing in each other's house as much as I think they are? I feel like I don't have a good perspective on all this. Trying to meet my partner's anxiety needs and also for us both to have good health social time.
posted by miles1972 to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not going to get into issues of objective reasonableness or unreasonableness, but I will say that your wife is an extreme outlier. Even the previously most cautious people I know are travelling, rarely wear masks, and generally doing whatever they did pre-pandemic except when they have reason to be on heightened alert like a known potential exposure.

That said, your description makes it sound like your wife never liked having people over, so to some degree she may be using COVID as an excuse to avoid seeing people. Not that I blame her, I also hate having people in my house. That feeling can be worse for women since they are often the ones who unfairly take the brunt of any judgement over perceived deficiencies in decoration or housekeeping.

Is there some reason why you must visit with people at your own house? I've found that if you're a generous, helpful, and easy guest many people are happy to have the get togethers at their place.
posted by wierdo at 3:08 PM on February 18, 2023 [17 favorites]

Response by poster: I know she is an outlier, I am asking how to take care of that. And sorry, to be clear, I'm not asking about having people over at our place. I'm asking about going to other people's places. As I said in the original question: "I've accepted that this is our shared space and if she doesn't want anyone else in here, not much I can do about it."
posted by miles1972 at 3:19 PM on February 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

This sounds really hard. My partner is more cautious and doesn’t value social things as highly as I do. How ever they understand how I value them and then we work out compromises.

You can die or get disabled doing a lot of things. It’s all matters of degrees and worthy of discussion and compromise. Does she know how much you care about this? If not then she can’t be able to compromise on her tightly held modus operandi.

If she knows and says no anyway then perhaps finding a way into the conversation with quantifiable facts could be useful. My wife is willing is willing to go out more when the wastewater is low.

If this is impossible then you may have to make choices. Their lack of need or want for social engagement is not typical of most people.

People are mostly back to socializing like normal. Not everyone, but most people.
posted by creiszhanson at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I wouldn’t go as far as wierdo, we know several people who are maintaining similar levels of caution and we still mask and avoid indoor dining. I don’t think it’s useful to compare to what others are doing, but rather to find out what would make her feel comfortable going, and what would make her comfortable about you going about such things.

Maybe you quarantine in a separate space for a few days then test after you do something that exceeds her comfort for exposure.
posted by advicepig at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2023 [7 favorites]

Your partner is an outlier. Most people I know are pretty much back to pre-2020 levels of caution about illness, maybe with a little more disclosure about minor respiratory symptoms. The more cautious people I know avoid restaurants and other public spaces where they would need to remove their masks, but will still do indoor socializing at home with small groups of people they know, sometimes with rapid testing beforehand.

Would your partner be comfortable with going to dinner at your friends’ house if everyone takes a rapid test right before? If everyone is symptom free and tests negative, the odds of someone transmitting covid are extremely low though of course not zero. If your partner is still uncomfortable with that, I think it’s worth getting to the root of what’s going on with her - is this truly covid cautiousness, or is there something else going on in terms of her anxiety?
posted by maleficent at 3:26 PM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

Since you asked, I would say that the vast majority of people in the U.S. who are not elderly or immunocompromised or living in a household with someone who is are socializing as they did before. That doesn't necessarily mean your wife is wrong, but it does mean that she is now acting well against the social norms of most communities and that inevitably will constrain both her social activities and yours, if you choose to let her define the overall level of safety for the household. (It is not entirely clear to me whether she is okay with your going while she stays home.) The degree to which that is important will vary by individual, but it sounds like it matters to you.

If she is not okay with your socializing in groups, this becomes a very difficult question. Perhaps you might discuss with her what she sees as the conditions necessary for her to be able to accept your going out socially. Discussing this might give you some clarity on whether she is essentially expecting you never to socialize outside of the house except when required for work ever again, or whether she's waiting out the winter, or whether she is in the iron grip of aggravated anxiety and is not planning but merely reacting. Then, unfortunately, you have some choices to make, which I don't know that it's possible for anyone who doesn't know you well to advise you on.

If she is okay with your going out to can't expect to be able to impose guests on someone in their own home. But it seems a lot easier of a compromise for you not to see people in your actual home, but still go out to see them, for at least some more time going forward, than if you're in the first situation.

If you're really asking if your wife is suffering from a flare of anxiety, no one can judge from this limited information. I know a reasonable person who is still going around in a respirator. I don't agree with her judgment but I don't think her choices are coming from disordered reason. But I do think some people have been pushed over the edge by the last couple of difficult years. So it could go either way.
posted by praemunire at 3:36 PM on February 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

For me it’s about communication and honesty. I have some friends with children who I’ve spent time with, unmasked, throughout the pandemic. However, I trust them to tell me if they have felt sick or had a known exposure, or if their kids did, or are about to visit their immunocompromised parents, or anything else of note. My brother will be visiting me in a couple weeks and he is coming from Texas and will be staying with me for part of it. But, he will take a rapid test, stay in a hotel the first night, and is very good about masking and hygiene while flying because he is a frequent traveler, often to East Asian countries that have the whole masking thing down pat. There will always be some level of concern for me but I am doing my best to handle my (medicated) anxiety, my misanthropic tendencies, my need for social engagement and family connections, and my always evolving understanding of disease processes. The key for me seems to be talking openly about my concerns with people I want to see, so they know to be just as open, thereby creating trust so we can proceed honestly.

Maybe your partner would be okay with you being more sociable without her as long as there is a robust plan in place for what to do if you catch something? I have a plan that’s pretty simple because I’m in a house with a full bathroom on each floor, including a guest room in the basement. So if I or my partner get sick, we each get a floor and then the floor in between will be aired out all the time and used as a transition space for bringing things to each other. If you don’t have something like this, figure out what would feel reasonable to her as a plan so she isn’t as worried about what to do if you come home with something.
posted by Mizu at 3:37 PM on February 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

This sounds really hard.

I am very cautious - I get IV immunoglobulin infusions because cancer treatment borked my immune system - but I socialize in friends' houses with a mask in my bag to use as needed. I am also extremely introverted and I did not mind several years of being home without socializing at all, so I totally get your partner's general inclination to not want people to come over.

But if she was like this before, then she should own that it's about her preferences, not COVID. Then you can have an honest conversation about it. As it stands, she's using COVID as a get-out-of-socializing-free card that keeps you from socializing as a couple at all, not just at home. She may not be doing that on purpose, but that's the outcome and it's unfair to you.

COVID isn't going anywhere. They're working on an annual vaccine. How long do you socialize on your own before you (and your/her friends) get used to her not being there? How long can any relationship last when one person's preferences mean the other person's need for human connection is unmet?
posted by headnsouth at 3:54 PM on February 18, 2023 [18 favorites]

Are people not socializing in each other's house as much as I think they are?

At this point, I don't know anyone is isn't socializing in at least some friends' houses, unmasked, and that includes elderly and immunocompromised people. I do know people who still ask that anyone who enters their house do a rapid test first - rapid tests do a good job measuring current viral levels - so if everyone tests negative before a dinner party, chances are very good nobody will be spreading the virus.

So, as has already been suggested, I'd first off see if some sort of testing regime would satisfy your partner.

But second, I think it would likely be beneficial to see a couple's counselor over this - because it sounds like your partner's views are quite intense, and so it would likely be worth having a neutral third party in the room while you try to figure out what her fears exactly are based on and what she'd like from you, and for her to hopefully understand that your need for occasional indoor socialization is as much of a need as is the socialization required by your work.

Finally, where is your partner getting her COVID-related news from? Because there are some Twitter accounts that often misrepresent the science (like, not mentioning that a doom-and-gloom sounding study was entirely from pre-vaccines), and so if that's partly fueling her anxiety, you'll need to address that somehow.
posted by coffeecat at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

Our household is quite cautious and we just navigate this on a case-by-case basis, sometimes accepting a social invitation and sometimes declining if we think it's not worth it. One of us had to go unmasked to a big banquet awards ceremony for work, so that person slept in a different room for several nights and took covid tests when they felt any hint of symptoms in order to detect it asap if it came up (it didn't). Maybe this would be a way for you to socialize with friends? Especially if you take your partner's worries into account and ask your friends to have the windows open, and encourage them to cancel the plans if any of them are feeling a little unwell.

Your partner might also relax a bit over time if she sees that you can carefully increase your socialization and still not bring illness home. It can be very unnerving to go out unprotected in the world after three years of isolation, so gradual steps are probably best.
posted by xo at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

We wear masks for indoor socializing or ask everyone to test beforehand. Would she be open to testing?
posted by shadygrove at 4:22 PM on February 18, 2023 [11 favorites]

My question (which you do not need to answer here) is whether this is really about covid, or is more fundamentally stemming from something more like social anxiety or regular anxiety?

If the concern is primarily covid, that leads into one kind of conversation, about science and risk tolerance and mitigation measures (like people testing beforehand, say).

But given that this maybe predates covid to some extent, I am wondering if there is a different conversation that's more about anxiety, different needs for socialization, and so on. There was a suggestion of couples counseling above, and I would agree with that -- having a neutral venue to discuss and understand feelings and needs seems like it would help a lot.

Are people not socializing in each other's house as much as I think they are? I

Like others have said, broadly speaking most people have mostly gone back to socializing in familiar ways. Restaurants here (in a very blue town in a blue state that imposed very strict pandemic controls) are full, and so are bars and breweries; we've had people over and been over to people's houses. Like with your work, mine has gone back to in-person social events though people are still free to choose remote or in-office work based on their preference.

I will also say that personally, sometimes still I get really weirded out in social situations after such a long time of minimizing that and associating social situations with danger. It's a hard transition and I think a lot of people are struggling to find the right balance point.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:32 PM on February 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

I'm not unlike you and your partner - one of the most cautious within a large group of friends. An outlier.

However, this stuck out to me:

A restaurant is out of the question, due to their kids, and so on.

Perhaps I misunderstand, but this doesn't make sense to me - do you or your partnter have the idea that socializing in public at a restaurant with dozens of people is somehow safer than at a private residence with a much smaller group? Because it's not, and if you or your partner thinks it is, this seems like it's pointing to some other deeper issue or misunderstanding?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:34 PM on February 18, 2023 [20 favorites]

Also, in terms of risk, it might help to clarify your rough ages, whether you and partner are both vaxxed and boosted and bivalent boosted, and if you have any other risk factors.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:36 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

We are seeing very few people but have begun very intermittently - and deliberately letting at least a week go by between exposures - seeing people indoors in small numbers, with testing where that might be applicable (particularly if we are seeing people with kids in school), and cancelling if anybody has any suspicion of illness. We also don't hang out with people who are especially promiscuous to exposure risks, either - kids at school is unavoidable in some cases, but no I'm not going into someone's house/car if they're nightclubbing or eating out every other night or constantly on airplanes for work. My husband is on immunosuppressants, I have risk factors*, every risk we take is still balanced against the possibility of being permanently incapacitated.

I don't think your wife is wrong to maintain her level of caution, in the grand scheme of things. I am certainly not going to tell anyone else they should just go get sick and it'll be fine. My partner and I are checking in very often to make sure neither of us is pushing it further than the other is okay with. So I'm not going to support the idea that you go tell her that everybody is out licking doorknobs again and so should she. If my husband wanted to go to an event I felt was too risky, but he couldn't get out of it or wouldn't...I guess one of us would be staying elsewhere for about a week, and I'm not sure things would be the same between us after that, especially if it was something I considered non-essential. We had conversations before we met up with anybody anywhere, and I've considered us lucky that we've stayed pretty in sync, but also aware that might start diverging at some point and we'll have to wrestle with that.

*And it's worth remembering that there are a LOT of risk factors, including having had COVID one or more times.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:43 PM on February 18, 2023 [6 favorites]

(On that point...

"The paper some think shows increased risks from reinfections is not *at all* comparing first and later infection risks. See disclaimer from the paper.

Of course reinfections are, on average, milder — the evidence is overwhelming.

🧵on nuances below.")
posted by praemunire at 4:52 PM on February 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

It sounds like she doesn't want to socialize, period. Does she prevent you from socializing? Or do you want to socialize as a couple? It sounds like your best bet to go socialize by yourself.
posted by saturdaymornings at 5:04 PM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

They say that after a natural disaster, unless there's a plan in place, things mostly go back to the way they were, even if there are better ways to do things. The political end of the pandemic is coming. It will be here in May.

I am still not socializing indoors. I don't expect to. For me, this has nothing to do with anxiety. It's a calculation. I don't want to hurt people. Unlike your partner, I miss socializing indoors quite a lot. I'll reassess in a couple years, but from where I'm at, based on every time I look into the statistics, she's being quite reasonable. I am not expecting to eat at another restaurant indoors for the rest of my life.

I saw a Canadian statistic recently that showed that there were more deaths from Covid in 2022 than in 2020. Being in the minority doesn't make her wrong.

Can you lean on the following analogy to take some of the newness of the situation out of your thought process?

Say you lived with someone who biked for transportation because they knew cars were deadly and didn't want to kill someone. You want to go somewhere that's a 20-minute drive and they tell you sure, no problem, but it'll take them a couple hours to get there if you want to meet up in a while. And other bike/car scenarios. How would you want to address this difference in comfort levels if you were talking about transportation?
posted by aniola at 5:09 PM on February 18, 2023 [19 favorites]

Three words: portable HEPA filters. Would she feel better if say, she brought one over to someone's house? When it's warmer out, will she eat outside with people if they ask her over or is that still a no-go?

Beyond that: yes, pretty much even the most paranoid friend of mine has gone back to having people in the house (masks on except for eating, but eating is still happening inside when outside can't be done) at this point. This nightmare is never going to end, which is why people have given up and gone back to normal.

I don't really know what to tell you, because I believe in following the most cautious person's needs and this is your live in SO. The home is the one safe space from covid...theoretically (until someone brings it home, anyway). Presumably you may just need to go alone, take precautions, and quarantine yourself if that makes her feel safer.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:25 PM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

In our house, our default assumption is that the most covid- cautious person (not always the same person, depends what the risk under discussion is) gets their way, end of story most of the time. If there is a specific unusual reason to negotiate something else we do, and we just do our best to mitigate risk as we can. “Seeing family for the first time in three years” is something we make it work for. “I miss dinner parties” is not.

Most people in my social circles are closer to where your wife has landed than where you have, but there are certainly various degrees of caution. Outside a pod situation, which is still fairly common among people I know, dinner hangouts are an outdoors event since they require unmasking, so they’re mostly not happening until spring.
posted by Stacey at 5:38 PM on February 18, 2023 [10 favorites]

Can you go to dinner at your friends' place without her? Because that seems like the only option here. I think you should do some thinking about how important socializing is to you and whether or not it's something you are willing to sacrifice for this relationship long term.
posted by emd3737 at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

An interesting way to look at this question would be to ask what you’d do if there were no such thing as Covid, and you wanted to socialize, but your partner never wanted
to for some other maybe-unusual-but-valid reason (extreme anxiety, extreme introversion, doesn’t like these friends, she’s a werewolf who can’t resist human flesh.) What would you do? Would she be okay if you went by yourself occasionally?
posted by kapers at 7:32 PM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

We get covid by breathing air that has been breathed out by a person with covid, so CO2 monitoring, ventilation and filtration are the path forward. Belgium and France have both, to some degree, mandated indoor air quality monitoring (and display), as have some school districts in the US (sorry no link but I think it's a school district in Boston that has real-time CO2 monitoring displayed online).

So...yes to all manner of indoor ventilation (open a window, sit apart, meet outside) and air filtration (HEPA filters, Corsi-Rosenthal boxes) as well as CO2 monitoring, the latter of which will not tell you anything about covid directly but will tell you how much of the air you are breathing in has already done a tour through somebody else's lungs. Here is a chart showing the % rebreathed air at different values of CO2 ppm. Note the original study was published in 2003 - indoor air quality is not a new idea.

You can look online for instructions to make Corsi-Rosenthal boxes (homemade air filtration devices that cost around $100 - much cheaper than a commercial HEPA filter and with research evidence that they are actually better than the commercial filters).

You can also make a homemade air filter using computer fans and hang it above the dining room table (with bonus LEDs) or place on the table or anywhere in a room where socializing will happen.

Here are a few people to check out for ideas. Richard Corsi, Alex 'CR Boxes everywhere', Jim Rosenthal.
posted by lulu68 at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2023 [7 favorites]

You mentioned “compromises on all sides” but not allowed to have friends over or visit them at their house, and you can’t even have a plumber visit. I’m not seeing compromise so much as demand and acquiescence.

Going to someone’s house is safer than a restaurant or other public gathering place. This isn’t unreasonable or out of step with what other people are doing.

Don’t curtail all your joy and connection to service someone’s untreated anxiety disorder.
posted by jeoc at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2023 [23 favorites]

It sounds to me like you have a partner with low social needs and low risk tolerance for Covid, and a job that requires socialization and a degree of risk for getting Covid. It may be that your partner thinks your household is already using a fair amount of your “risk budget” on your work activities, combined with not having much need for socialization herself, so she doesn’t think eating at a friend’s house is worth the risk. That seems logical to me, not anxiety. She’s making a risk assessment based on her needs. The problem is that there’s a misalignment between her socialization needs and risk tolerance and yours. I don’t think telling her that other people are doing these activities is going to help at all. I do think it’s harder for someone who is used to (and it sounds like perfectly happy to) being more isolated to feel comfortable in the same situations as someone who is more extroverted and has been around people more frequently lately. When things like this have come up in my own house, we talk through what would make everyone comfortable, as has been mentioned above. We do a lot of our socializing outdoors, or we do things indoors where we can stay masked. When family members visit from out of town, we ask them to test first when they get here. We recently had housework done and the workers didn’t mask, so we opened all the windows and ran HEPA filters and stayed masked ourselves for about an hour after they left. I think the best starting point would be to discuss what can be done to make her feel safer about you socializing and figure out how to reach a compromise so that you’re able to do more without creating resentment on either end.
posted by notheotherone at 8:59 PM on February 18, 2023 [7 favorites]

We were just invited to old friends' for dinner tomorrow night, and she said, no way. I really want to go.

Say you lived with someone who biked for transportation because they knew cars were deadly and didn't want to kill someone. You want to go somewhere that's a 20-minute drive and they tell you sure, no problem, but it'll take them a couple hours to get there if you want to meet up in a while.

I think the bike analogy may have implied a direct parallel that I didn't intend. But I think it can work. To patch the analogy up (so you can work through where you'd fall on a more familiar topic), I would say that having dinner with friends would be like wanting her to get in the car with you because you're going that way anyway.
posted by aniola at 10:08 PM on February 18, 2023

I'm looking for tips and perspective on how we navigate this. Are people not socializing in each other's house as much as I think they are? I feel like I don't have a good perspective on all this. Trying to meet my partner's anxiety needs and also for us both to have good health social time.

We go to people's houses to socialize when windows will be open and/or everyone is testing beforehand. Since it's been cold testing has been the default. We are probably more cautious than most of our friends, but have not run across other people who are resistant to testing. Our friend group is full of people who understand that not everyone has the same comfort levels and generally defaults to whatever makes the most cautious people comfortable. It means we get to see each other and that's nice.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:02 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

People are, broadly speaking, back to pre-pandemic levels of socializing, with (in my dark blue neck of the woods) a heightened awareness of respiratory symptoms -- generally testing if feel sick, etc.

That said, there is a large contingent of people who got real comfortable with not going out, and prefer to keep it that way. (Hell even I refuse to go to in-person meetings, not because I'm worried about covid but because if I can "attend" a meeting on Zoom in my room in sweatpants and a juicy novel in the adjoining window, then why would I do anything else?) And you said your partner never liked socializing even before the pandemic, so I'm not surprised she's uninterested in getting back to it. (I think if this were just about covid, she'd ask about testing or ventilation, and she's not doing that, right? I think she just doesn't want to go.)

I just think you need to go if you want to go. It's not ok for her to make you stay isolated. And you can't make her go. I realize it's awkward if you were invited as a couple, but it sounds like that's how it's going to be, for a while at least. Talk to the hosts first, see if their seating arrangement can handle it being just you. (They may need to invite more people, etc.) You don't need to get into exactly why, just say "Partner's not ready to socialize in person yet" and ask if that is ok.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:04 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I have low social needs. I also have high covid risk tolerance (compared to your partner). But even though I am not anxious about covid I do have to psych myself up to deal with people in person again. I loved working entirely from home. I loved not having to go to work socials etc.

So my feeling is that covid may help her avoid addressing the real differences in social needs between you. And she gets the benefit of pointing to ‚valid‘ concerns why the way forward is denying your needs to meet hers. Maybe that isn’t even a conscious thing, maybe it is.

What happens if your appliance dies and you need a new one? Or your shower starts to leak or your roof? Are you expected to live with that because no tradespeople are allowed in the house? What happens if you need at home medical care? What happens if you just go to dinners with friends alone? (Would that even be acceptable for you? It would work for some couples and not for others).

She doesn’t get to have it all her own way. And she should be actively involved in identifying where the compromise could be found. Couples therapy would be a way to explore that if your conversations to date are not fruitful but I guess that would entail leaving the house…I guess my point is that if she is interested in having a relationship that allows both of you to get your needs met, she doesn’t get to nix all options that don’t entail nobody ever coming to the house and nobody ever leaving it except for work. Because that doesn’t meet your needs. And if that turns out to be an acceptable outcome for her, would you want to be in such a relationship long term?
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:08 AM on February 19, 2023 [8 favorites]

Is the "no visitors" thing really about Covid?
It might be, but you mentioned that this was an issue before the pandemic.

One of the things that helped me realise that I suffer from severe anxiety and am also autistic, is being unusually unwilling to have other people in my space. It's a extremely common feeling among the other female autistic people I know.

Not suggesting that your wife is necessarily neurodivergent, but that for some of us, people who are different for whatever reason, having other people in our safe space is EXTREMELY stressful and not something that's easy to just get over.

The fact that it's unusual to be like that is irrelevant.

If you want to find a way to make this work for both of you, you'll need to be careful never to make your wife feel as if the situation is being forced on her. Give her plenty of warning of any event she might not be ready for. Give her a chance to get over her initial instinctive resistance,if she's able to do that.
posted by Zumbador at 5:31 AM on February 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

COVID is a red herring. Your wife has an untreated disorder. Ideally she needs to realize this and enter therapy to address it. I've spoken with a therapist who has encountered many people in whom COVID triggered some underlying disorder in new ways that present similarly to your wife's. You need to discuss this with your wife. Enter couple's therapy if she refuses to engage and acknowledge her condition.
posted by TheLinenLenin at 9:02 AM on February 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

I get the impression that she is not trying to stop you from socializing, she is just not willing to do so herself. And that isn't necessarily a problem. If it IS a problem for you, because you think her mental health is suffering or because it's important to you to socialize as a couple or whatever, that's a different question.
posted by metasarah at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

We are still in the middle of a pandemic. I am still masking everywhere, and frankly it infuriates me that other people aren’t, because anyone who isn’t is playing Russian Roulette with the lives of those who are high risk. There are people in my office who’ve had Covid four times, and yet still don’t mask. Over the last two weeks, everyone in the office but me has had it, and I’ve been terrified that I would somehow carry it home to my partner who has severe asthma. And it’s also incredibly unfair that since I always mask and therefore don’t get sick, I’ve had to cover the jobs of everyone else in the office several times over, often covering multiple jobs at a time, while they stay home with an avoidable illness. So I would say that it doesn’t matter if other people are socializing; it matters what the right thing to do is. And the right thing to do is to not socialize so as to not risk infecting people at high risk. And also to protect your own health, since even mild cases can result in blood clots that kill people unexpectedly.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:28 PM on February 19, 2023 [9 favorites]

I also want to add that last week my partner got extremely ill and we thought he might have had Covid. It wasn’t, but the only time in my life I’ve been that scared was when I thought my child might be dead. It took me until I was 56 years old to find this person, and if he had been ripped away from me due to other people’s selfishness, you’d have been hearing about me in the media, because I would have gone ballistic.

People’s “calculated risks” are killing other people’s family members.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:36 PM on February 19, 2023 [5 favorites]

IMHO it's worth having a conversation with your s/o about her specific concerns* about COVID.

*e.g. long covid, responsibility to society, possibility of death etc.

I do think understanding the root of her specific fears can help you navigate the situation better.

The good news is that 3 years on, there are some generally agreed upon COVID-related "best practices" that work pretty well if implemented appropriately. Would your wife be willing to meet up outside when everyone (or just her) was masked? If you have a backyard, can you host things outside and ask people to wear masks when coming inside to use the (well-ventilated) restroom? (Or use a suitable outdoor camping toilet)? Or if she joined you, you would both mask up, say hello, and leave before dinner was served? (Eating together... especially indoors is relatively more risky than indoor activities where masks can stay on).

It is at least theoretically possible that there is less covid exposure from a family member staying with you than staying in a hotel.

I think it would also be helpful to talk with your wife about her long term outlook. You might want to consider planning what you would do if a handy person needs to visit the abode. Moreover, if you live in a single family house where ADU's are permitted, perhaps an ADU might make sense in the long term.

Finally, is your wife taking care of her self in other ways? (E.g. getting enough daylight, exercise).
posted by oceano at 1:00 AM on February 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

My household is still extremely Covid cautious. We don’t eat in restaurants, we wear n95 or 99 masks (Flo Mask) in indoor public places, and limit how much time we spend in such places to mostly necessities.

But we still have an active social life! The biggest part of our social life is having friends or family come stay with us every month for days or weeks.

Here’s how we do it:
- no unvaccinated guests
- every visitor is careful about making for a week before arrival
- visitors take a Covid test every other day for 3-5 days prior to the visit and then every other day of the visit depending on length of visit and exposures
- we have coway and blueair air filters in bedrooms and rooms people congregate and we run them continually while guests are here
- we keep the hvac circulation on constantly while guests are here and have a merv-11 or 13 filter in it
- we have a swordfish uv light in our hvac system - easy to install and relatively cheap
- we have a co2 meter and open windows and/or turn on vent fans when people are here and it gets above about 800.

We’ve had different people stay with us (including a group of 4 adults and a dog) almost every month for several years no with no Covid transmission.

We occasionally have unmasked guests over for dinner and other short term stuff if we know they’re somewhat cautious and have a negative rapid test that day.

Visits to other people’s homes are much more curtailed. We typically mask the entire time and only stay a short while. Exception is elderly neighbours who have an air filter right by the kitchen table where we chat and who don’t have a very active social life.

I use enovid before and after hanging out unmasked with those neighbours or other high risk activities (like days I’m at the hospital for 4 hours for treatments).

Trades/cleaners are allowed in the home. Most mask because they see we are masked, but some don’t. We run the air filters and open the windows while they’re here and for an hour after they leave.

Basically, if you’re making sure indoor air quality is extremely good and/or people aren’t sick, then hanging out isn’t very risky from a Covid perspective.

If she’s not willing to have socializing in your home where you all can control the risk, then your (and her) risk will necessarily be higher.

Keeping up with your vaccines, masking and (maybe) enovid along with supporting your own health and immune system with adequate sleep, good food, and exercise can help reduce your odds of getting sick and transmitting Covid. You could also consider a portable air filter - I have an elderly friend who can’t bear to give up choir and sings masked and with a CR box running.
posted by congen at 10:08 AM on February 20, 2023 [5 favorites]

I would encourage you to talk with your partner to separate out what is anxiety and what is smart caution around Covid. My comment is related to Covid, not anxiety. It is still a pandemic and it feels like more of a disaster now because so many people are “over it” and living it up like it’s 2019, along with many trusted sources of data going away or becoming less reliable (e.g. test positivity rates). What I am experiencing as an extremely Covid-cautious person is people belittling my caution as just anxiety, and it is insulting. Do not gaslight your partner about this. So many people have offered great suggestions for how to gather more safely, and I hope you take those to heart and bring a willingness to work together to your conversations with your partner. You can figure this out and create a solution that works for both of you!

One suggestion I have not seen yet is that you could have house rules for when people come over for repair and maintenance. Even people who are very different from us in terms of Covid prevention understand “my house my rules.” Our rule is that workers must wear KN95 masks and we will provide the masks. We will call first to confirm and thankfully no one has refused, but we are also ready with our responses if they do. We also do what others have said, and keep windows and doors open and air filters running for a while after they leave. This took a lot of conversations with my partner, but it’s important. This is an opportunity for you two to build trust and safety and closeness, and I hope you do. It’s been a hard time and creating safety for you both is worth it.

One other thing. It may seem like everyone is back to usual, but please remember that millions of people have been excluded from public life due to long Covid, and that is why you will not see them out and about. The same with people who are still taking Covid seriously - you don’t see us because public spaces are largely inaccessible to us now. But it doesn’t mean we don’t exist!
posted by rocketing at 1:29 PM on February 20, 2023 [5 favorites]

She won't allow anyone into our house and hasn't for 3 years. No friends, no trades folk, nobody.
Lots of folks are speaking to the socializing issue, but I wanted to speak to trade folks. What happens if your plumbing breaks? Can you have a repair person in the house when your partner leaves?

I think you could find trades folks who'd be willing to wear a mask while doing work in your house. You could open the windows, too. If your partner is unwilling to have a repair person in the house, for a needed repair, even if they are masked and the windows are open and they aren't home -- then I don't think this is just about Covid, and I do think this is probably something you need to figure out.

What if you were injured and they needed to call an ambulance? Would EMTs be allowed in? That's an extreme example, but it's one I would ask.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

My partner and I live separately, so different set of issues, but we're trying to negotiate around seeing each other more frequently while respecting different risk tolerances. Both of us are outliers, he is less tolerant than I am (I have been taking public transport wearing an N95 or P100 and occasionally seeing small groups of friends inside unmasked, he is back at the office wearing an N95 while inside, to illustrate our highest risk activities).

We are working out what reasonable risk mitigation measures are with a lot of discussion. So his tolerance governs, but we talk about if there are ways to lower risk acceptably for him. If there aren't any that make him feel okay with something I am doing, I don't see him until I've cleared 2 negative tests. So we schedule important things in advance and I avoid higher exposure risks ahead of them.

If you have the ability to do as advicepig suggests and isolate from one another after a higher risk activity, that might open up more space for you to do some things even if she doesn't want to. But "other people are doing this so you should really feel okay about it" isn't a productive discussion point. "It is important to me to be able to do X things, how can we make that work?" is more like it.

A practice point might be around allowing tradespeople in. Maintenance and repair are important. I get avoiding entirely optional work, but there really needs to be an agreed plan that isn't "nothing and no one enters the house no matter what."
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:28 PM on February 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

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