For most (all) couples living together during lockdown, the pandemic has had one common side effect: arguing, lots of arguing.
Being forced to spend every waking second with someone isn’t ideal, and even couples with “perfect” relationships (if there is such a thing) are feeling the strain of spending an unnatural amount of time together.
You wake up and they’re right there. You start cooking but they’ve already used the ingredients. You make yourself a coffee and they want one too. You go for a shower and they come in to use the loo. You want some peace and quiet and they decide to play music or have a Zoom call with no headphones. You go to the sink and their washing up is still there and flies are circling. Every single thing they do is annoying (until once every three days they decide to do something nice).
So yeah, there’s infinite things to argue about during lockdown: in fact, bickering is probably the new smoking (or maybe the new sex, seeing as no one’s doing that anymore either).
If you're going through this right now, or are single and want a reason to feel superior, here are some of the most common arguments that couples are having right now.
(BTW: neither of the authors of this list have children, so if you do there's probably an entire separate list that needs to be written for kid-related arguments – we can't wait to read it and feel very, very glad we're childless right now).
“Can you just do your washing up?”
It’s the big one: the blockbuster, the showpiece (but also the most boring) of lockdown arguments. Couples who are lucky enough to live in a house with a dishwasher are massively privileged in this area (although we suppose the dishwasher still needs to be loaded and unloaded, and some people are weirdos who rinse the dishes beforehand).
This argument should have its own Attenborough episode, because it’s that much of a ritual now that being inside 24/7 generates much more washing up than normal. One person peers into the pile of washing up and starts indignantly pointing at all the dishes which aren’t theirs, or are from the nice meal they cooked for both of you (so they don’t have to wash up). Then the chaos begins until one side gives in and begins washing the dishes at a passive aggressively loud volume (and low quality).
The argument continues to happen because this makes the person who was accused of not pulling their weight much more likely to call out their partner for their sanctimonious washing up pedantry when they inevitably let their game slip. And so the process repeats, every day, FOREVER.
“You never go to the shop!”
This argument grows from the same tree as the “washing up” fight, and occurs with similar regularity because as soon as food and supplies are used they have to be replaced. At its core, this is about one person feeling like the other isn’t contributing to the basics as much as the other. Right now this argument is particularly intense because, you know, going to the shop is practically risking your life.
At its worst, this can be used as some metaphor for the relationship as a whole, which is obviously ridiculous given the current circumstances. Besides, different jobs have different patterns of hours which might allow one person to visit the shops more often.
This often ends with one person begrudgingly going to the shop, which turns out to be coincidentally “sold out” of what their partner really wanted...
“But it’s YOUR turn to cook”
Ah, the endless cooking dilemma. This takes on many forms. Often it’s not just about the cooking, but about the intensely strenuous cognitive exercise of actually working out what you can eat that’s not pasta.
Inevitably, there will be one person who will gladly have crisps and hummus for dinner for weeks on end to avoid the arduous task of coming up with something more imaginative, while the other wants to live some sort of Pinterest dream-life of daily homemade gourmet spreads. This will descend into the standard “I’ve cooked for the past five days in a row!” “Yeah but you’re the one who wants to eat stuff that takes all evening to create!” screaming match.
The only solution here really is for the less gastronomically inclined to spend the entirety of what used to be their commuting and Pret lunch budget on Deliveroos. In these unprecedented times, we fully support throwing money at the problem.
“Can’t you just put headphones on?”
Spending 24 hours a day with someone really isn’t natural, no matter how much you liked or fancied them before lockdown. It’s the perfect environment to realise every bad habit your partner has, which seems to occur all the time because there’s nothing else to focus on. Truly, the ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Chicago has never been more relatable.
One person not wearing headphones to listen to music, watch a Netflix show or have a work conference call in the communal space is a common bicker. On a broader level, it speaks to one person feeling like the other isn’t acknowledging that the home is a shared living space, not their office, no matter how it might feel right now.
“Have you ordered it yet?”
Now that we’re all stuck at home, we seem to be desperately in need of all the things we never knew we wanted. Ice-cream makers, hairdressing scissors (more on this later), novelty vibrators, extra laptop chargers, a rowing machine (to each their own), and so on. The problem is, that there’s always one person lumbered with the task of researching all the different options, finding the best choice and actually placing the order.
This usually falls to the hands of the most discerning consumer in the household (who’s inevitably the one who pays for a Prime account), while the other stares blankly at 14 Amazon tabs of different types of robot vacuum cleaners trying to internalise pointless specs to offer some kind of contribution to the process. But weirdly, the decision never actually seems to be made and five days later a casual: “Did you ever actually order the boiled egg peeler we agreed on or nah?” will descend into some sort of passive aggressive stand-off where one person inevitably co-opts the term “emotional labour” and the other screams: “I don’t even LIKE boiled eggs anyway!” and storms off to the other side of the room. Yay, capitalism!
"No, you can’t cut my hair" / "Shut up, I’m not cutting your hair" / "WTF did you do to my hair?!"
Perhaps the most laboured point of our new lockdown lives is how obsessed we’ve all apparently become with our hair. There seems to be no end to the people bleaching the living daylights out of it, or deciding to attempt that pixie cut no hairdresser ever agreed to inflict on their face because life is short and if not now, when?
But self-hairdressing is basically an impossible task, so many of those lucky enough to have a lockdown partner are enlisting their extra pair of hands for assistance, which the wise among us will politely decline on the basis that a bad haircut cannot possibly ever end in a stronger relationship, leading to the obvious “if you really loved me you would do this for me!” emotional blackmail moment.
Then there’s the thrill seekers, who will live for the opportunity to channel their inner Jonathan Van Ness on a reluctant partner who is totally fine with the increasingly mullet-like state of their tresses. Because we’re all going a bit mad, you may find yourself chasing your partner around the dining table brandishing a pair of scissors explaining over and over again how when you were six years old you cut the hair of every doll you had into the perfect Rachel and they never once complained!
If the reluctant half gives in, don’t think that’s going to be the end of it. It turns out cutting hair is actually really really hard. It will not look like the Instagram lookbook you created and someone will cry. You can always just make like the cool kids and shave it all off.
“You’re always on your phone”
Coronavirus has made a lot of us even more dependent on our devices that we were before. The weekly screen time reports have been truly *horrifying*. During lockdown it can be quite hard to carve out “quality” time together. It’s not like you can go to the cinema, pop out for dinner or do many of the things couples normally do to unwind.
One person being accused of spending too much time on their phone is a common argument that couples have, even out of lockdown. But when quality time is even harder to come by, the feeling that someone isn’t “in the moment” and is staring at their phone too much is going to cause tensions to rise.
Though it’s difficult not to be on your phone right now, given the sheer volume of news that’s hurtling towards us at all times, so maybe cut your partner some slack…
“You always pick what we watch”
Watching TV and films is how lots of people are spending their evenings these days. And deciding what to watch is a good old relationship power struggle, particularly if one person wants to watch Too Hot to Handle on Netflix and the other wants to watch The Revenant. Some couples are dealing with this by having alternate nights where each person gets to pick what’s on the screen… which sounds like hell.
Or the endless counterpoint: “Can’t you just pick something to watch?”
Much like the cooking debate, picking something to watch is a chore in itself. Something not so intense that it’ll crawl into our already weird enough corona-riddled nightmares, yet just stimulating enough that it’ll take our minds off the horrifying reality we’re living through. Basically, we just want more Tiger Kings, and they don’t exist.
Half way through the fourth night in a row of going through the watching-trailers-for-45-minutes-and-landing-on-nothing ritual, someone will inevitably break first and land on the exasperated sigh followed by: “I literally don’t care any more can you JUST PICK SOMETHING!”
By the time the argument is over it will be about 11:45pm and the window of opportunity for Netflix time has passed, so you’ll go to bed mildly annoyed, do another day’s work and when you finish up say: “Do you fancy watching something?” and so the endless cycle continues.
“No, YOU drank the entire bottle of wine!”
Look, there’s very little to do for entertainment at the moment so wine is of the essence. Those lucky enough to live with someone else have a built-in excuse for when their subconscious decides to pipe up suggesting that the volume of bottles in the increasingly frequent recycling dump is maybe getting a bit out of hand.
By all means, convince yourself it wasn’t you, but do not – under any circumstances – blame the other person out loud. No one will admit to being the main source of the alcohol consumption and there’s nothing like a bit of wine-shaming to bring out the worst in us.
In particular, this argument will come up once you’ve both had a couple of drinks, realise you’ve run out and a boozy variation of the “it’s your turn to go to the shop” debacle kicks off. If there’s one thing that’s definitely worth stockpiling, it’s wine. We have it on good authority that the Aldi Sauvignon Blanc that comes in a box is actually pretty good and only about 60 per cent vinegary. You’re welcome.
“Do you ever stop working?”
Lockdown means that many of us have more of an insight into what the other half’s job is, which can be quite fascinating. But this can cause tension in relationships too because one person might get frustrated over how much time the other is spending on their job, while others might start to resent their partner for having a job that seems easier or less stressful.
These tensions might be heightened right now as some industries have got much busier, while others have ground to a halt with people on furlough. This creates the perfect backdrop for arguments over work and words like “workaholic” to be thrown around.
“You never clean properly!”
This is similar to the washing up argument, but occurs less regularly and has deeper undercurrents about “standards” in a relationship.
Some people’s version of “cleaning” is another’s version of “tidying”. In fact, “clean” to different people means drastically different things, and two people being cooped up in a house together is bound to create more mess than normal. Also, people who outsource their cleaning are now, for obvious reasons, having to do it themselves.
The bathroom seems to be the main battleground for this particular lockdown war, because no one ever wants to clean that up.
“Have you definitely disinfected that?”
This isn’t exactly about cleaning, but about the very particular ritual coronavirus has given us. It’s the washing of all the packaging of every bit of shopping, and then the washing of everything you touched after coming into contact with said shopping (phone screen, Monzo card, doorknob, keys, tote bag…). Not to mention the endless wiping of all surfaces which have been touched by anything coming in from the outside world.
Inevitably there will be one person who’s way more conscientious than the other, but instead of doing the godforsaken washing of the things themselves, they’ll just follow you around looking judgemental and piping up “don’t forget the tap! You touched the tap!” at the most inopportune moment. Staying home and staying safe is exhausting.
“Do you HAVE to eat/sleep/breathe that loudly?”
It’s very unlikely that any of us have developed a new wildly irritating way of going about performing basic staying-alive functions since lockdown, yet OH MY GOD how did we never notice how annoying it was in all the years we’ve lived together?!
This is the absolute mother of all lockdown fights: irrational, nonsensical, hurtfully personal and completely counterproductive, yet there’s something so selfishly cathartic about lashing out in frustration at someone for something they literally cannot control.
So yes: lockdown has turned us all into monsters. It is what it is. Enjoy!