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How long should I let COVID-19 postpone a breakup that needs to happen?

  • Author: Wayne and Wanda
  • Updated: June 6
  • Published June 6

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a few years and we moved in together last fall when his lease was up. It made sense at the time, given that we spent most of our time together anyway.

Pretty soon after we moved in together, we started having problems. I figured it was natural to have a bumpy transition period, but as time went on, I learned things that became big flags for me. For one, my boyfriend is horrible with money and I didn’t realize that before. He skips or pays bills late, he spends money on things we don’t need, and he has no savings. He’s also messy, and I don’t mean cluttered, I mean hair on the bathroom floor, no incentive to help out with chores or clean up after himself.

As this year started, I was seriously thinking about breaking up with him. I just was really struggling to live with him and I didn’t see how we could move backwards and keep dating and have him move out. Then COVID-19 happened.

All the old issues are just compounded now that we are home together all the time. He has seemed to get more intense about the relationship, more clingy, while I feel myself pulling away emotionally. I know I need to break up with him, but it feels like you can’t break up with someone right now — like the rules have changed. I mean, I think about him having to find a new place to live, being alone and I just feel so guilty. What can I do?

Wanda says:

You are not alone, my friend: COVID breakups and divorces are a thing. For those of us who live with our partners, we are likely spending more time with them than we have in years. On top of that, we’re dealing with upheaval to our work routines, anxious children, confused pets and dismantled social lives and rituals. As a collective society, even the littlest things can trigger big emotions.

For some duos, this unusual nearness to each other is endearing, comforting and treasured. But some couples were already fractured and headed for Splitsville prior to the pressures of quarantine, and others are finding their standard domestic complacency rocked by the realities of close quarters. Even before COVID, you had doubts, and now you’re sure that this is not the relationship for you. Check yourself, and make sure you can say that with certainty that your decision isn’t clouded by the stress and strange realities of the age of COVID; and if you’re sure you want to end the relationship, then yes, you should break up with him, COVID or no COVID.

Some might tell you to ride it out. I challenge that: ride it out until when? No one knows how long this pandemic and its impacts will change the way we live our daily lives. Do you want to spend months, or more, miserable in a relationship that is stifling and unsatisfying? No way.

A breakup in the time of COVID should be handled like any breakup, anytime: honestly, respectfully and directly. Just as you deserve to be happy, your boyfriend deserves a partner who truly wants to be with him, and the longer you aren’t forthright with him, the longer you’re keeping him from finding that special someone.

Wayne says:

And boy, it’s going to take an extra special someone to put up with this guy! Clingy feelings and clumped up hair? Unpaid bills and unfinished chores? Sounds like a fun roommate and awesome partner!

Sure, your reaching the boiling point could have been accelerated at a microwaved rate by the intensity of proximity from the past few months. But think about it: you wanted to break up with him practically the moment he unpacked his bags — which were filled, no doubt, with filthy clothes and dumped on your bedroom floor rather than placed neatly in a dresser or closet. This hunker-down experience just confirms what you’ve known for a long time — you aren’t built for the long run.

My concern is that you dated this dude for years and either didn’t recognize or simply ignored his unique traits before you let him invade your space. I can’t imagine his apartment was a castle of cleanliness and I doubt he was Mr. Responsible before he moved in. If that's not what you're looking for, why did you let it keep going? And why the heck did you let him move in?

You missed a window for a clean breakup when you two started talking about moving in together. And yes, this is a crazy time in the world. But apartments are still being rented, breakups are still happening, and people are still moving on. Don’t waste any more time. Move on and move him out of your life so you can get a clean start and a clean home.

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