My partner is avoiding me in the house we share

Join me at 10 a.m. tomorrow for a talk with Joy Allen, who runs the music therapy program at Berklee. RSVP here.

I know this stay-at-home order has taken a toll on many people and relationships, and I'm one of them. I'm quarantined with my "boyfriend" of almost 20 years, and he has avoided me and ignored me the entire time. It's been a month since he last told me he loves me – and I'm not even sure why. I've tried talking to him, texting him, and I even wrote an actual physical letter to him, but haven't had any response. I don't know why he isn't responding to me, or how much longer he plans to partake in this very awkward dance around each other.

We have children together, and are both "essential" employees, so we go about our work days and then I return home to cook and clean as normal, but we sleep on opposite sides of the bed and haven't had any physical contact at all. I'm very confused by this and can't even get him to say more than "OK" or one word answers when I speak to him.

Do you have any suggestions about how or if we can fix/move past this? We have had trust issues with cheating in the past. I accept that a mistake doesn't have to define the person or the relationship. I have suggested therapy more than once to no avail. I do not believe this is another piece in the pattern – it's something different. But how do I know what it is if I can't get him to talk. I try to be supportive, but I wonder if I'm just nagging and making it worse. Do I keep pushing the issue, or is it just time to move on? How do you know if the love is truly gone if he won't say ANYTHING? Thank you and stay safe.

– Silence


Thank you for the essential work you do.

So ... when people tell me they're having problems with a partner right now, I ask them to think about what's new. If it's an old problem, it might be more pronounced right now, but if it's new, it might be about fear. Exhaustion. Misery about the state of the world – especially if you have to be in it every day. You say the two of you have had trust issues in the past, but it sounds like this silent treatment lines up with the pandemic. In some ways, that makes a lot of sense.

We all deal with stress in different ways. Some people want company, while others need as much space as possible. Some want to process scary things and confront them, while others would rather have small talk as a distraction.

My advice for now, knowing that he's not open to therapy, is to see about counseling for yourself (I'll include links below). You might also tell him, "It seems like you need space. I want to respect that – and to give you what you need – as long as I can be comfortable in the house, too." Then go about your day. Read and listen to music in your downtime, if you can. Call other people. Maybe he'll turn to you when there's less pressure.

I guess my point is that none of this is normal. Take care of yourself and get the help you need, and then let him know you're here ... whenever.

– Meredith

BU psychology professor (and couples counselor specialist) Steven Sandage gave me these links when I asked him where couples can get help right now.

* Commonwealth Psychology

* South Shore Family Health Collaborative

* New England Center for EFT

* Therapy Training Boston