Couples Quality Time, All the Time

The Four Percent


Ms. Cipolla, for example, has learned that she and her husband have more in common professionally than she thought. He works in venture capital. She works for a start-up. His calls were distracting not just because they were loud, but because they were interesting. Once Mr. Rossiter moved his office into the bedroom, and the two had a little daytime distance, Ms. Cipolla found herself seeking his professional advice, and talking more about work at the end of their day.

A little distance, even in cramped quarters, makes a difference. Faith Roberson, a Manhattan home organizer, said that couples should create “the illusion of space,” even if they don’t have much to spare. Choose a spot and claim it as yours, with a dedicated workstation and your own office supplies. “A lot of times people are territorial without even realizing they are,” she said. If you have to work in a shared room, treat it like an office with an open floor plan. Designate the bedroom or a closet for work calls, and schedule times to use the conference room.

As in many of life’s trying situations, a shared nemesis also helps. “Designate a pretend office assistant to blame” when pens or chargers go missing, said Clea Shearer, a co-owner of The Home Edit, a Nashville home organizer. Molly Tolsky, a writer, made a similar suggestion in a viral Tweet, telling followers, “In our apartment, Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don’t know what to do about her.”

When you spend every waking (and sleeping) moment together, you may find yourself agreeing to decorating decisions that, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be acceptable. About a week ago, Pierre Sorien, 33, an avid rock climber, installed a hangboard (used to build hand and finger strength) above the bathroom door and a pull-up bar over the bedroom door in the one-bedroom Lower East Side apartment he shares with his wife, Tess Alpern, 30.

“I never formally agreed to it,” said Ms. Alpern, a kindergarten teacher who has transformed their living room into a virtual classroom with a giant white board. But now that Mr. Sorien’s daily 4 a.m. trips to the gym are on hiatus, she relented. “Right when we moved in, he bought this hangboard and I was like, ‘Absolutely not!’ But I realize he needs this to say sane.”

For the most part, Ms. Alpern sees herself, not her husband, as the more challenging constant companion. She spends most of her days talking to colleagues and students over video chat, while Mr. Sorien, a partner of Wünder Creamery, a cultured dairy company, works quietly in their bedroom.

Ms. Alpern, who describes herself as “a very talkative, emotional person,” has discovered that her husband’s quiet stoicism is an unexpected lifeline in a time of turmoil. “The fact that he’s able to be this very stable and reliable and pragmatic person is probably what is going to get us through this,” she said. “I don’t know how we’d survive if he was as frantic and freaked out as I am.”

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