how was your week?

1,281 New York Readers on Personal Relationships in the Pandemic

‘We built our whole life around being close, and now we’re all in these little silos.’

Photo: Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images
Photo: Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images

This week, known coronavirus deaths in the United States passed 60,000. As more than a dozen states prepared to reopen, cases continued to grow in many areas across the country. In the Tri-State area, New Jersey’s death rate has surpassed that in New York, where Governor Cuomo announced schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year, and the final patients at the Javits Center’s makeshift hospital were released this week. And as another month began without significant tenant assistance, the #CancelRent movement continued to gain traction. Here’s how 1,281 New York readers are feeling right now — and how their personal and familial relationships are faring during quarantine. (Note: Graphs show week-over-week responses, all other results are from week eight only.)

How would you describe your emotional state right now?

Very anxious and/or scared: 11%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 35%
Concerned: 38%
Slightly concerned: 11%
Totally fine: 5%

Do you, or anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?

No: 76%
Yes: 24%

How often are you leaving your home?

Not at all: 11.5%
Just for essential errands: 81%
I still have to leave for work, but am not making many other trips: 6%
I’m living my life as normal: 1.50% 

If you’re a New York resident, when do you think New York City will reopen?

June: 21.5%
July: 32.8%
August: 14.4%
September: 16.7%
October: 2.8%
November or later: 11.9%

Are you sheltering in place somewhere that’s not your primary residence?

No: 89.5%
Yes: 10.5%

If so, where are you staying?

A family member’s home: 46%
A friend’s home: 3%
A significant other’s home: 20%
A short term rental: 10%
Other: 21%

Has your employer reduced your pay since the outbreak began?

No: 46%
Yes: 15%
Not applicable: 39%

If your employer has reduced your pay, how much of a pay cut did you receive?

Less than 5%: 7.4%
5-10%: 9.7%
10-15%: 5.7%
15-20%: 14.7%
More than 20%: 62.3%

Have you lost work or had your hours reduced since the outbreak began?

No: 46%
Yes: 24.5%
Not applicable: 29.5%

If you’ve lost work, have you applied for unemployment?

I’ve applied successfully: 28%
I’m trying to apply but I can’t get through (site is crashing/ phone lines busy.): 13%
I haven’t applied because I’m not sure if I’m eligible: 24.5%
I haven’t applied for other reasons: 34.5%

Has anyone in your household applied for unemployment?

No: 82.5%
Yes: 14%
They’re trying to apply but can’t get through (site is crashing/ phone lines busy): 3.5%

How has the pandemic affected your personal and familial relationships?

“I’ve made up an imaginary boyfriend named Bill and talk to him sometimes. He’s very nice! For context, I’m a 33-year-old man.”

“I moved from California to NYC last fall. My brother and sister-in-law have lived in the city for several years now, so I was excited to build this new life with them nearby. Yet COVID-19 has made that proximity painful. I’ve had it, they have not. We don’t yet know what immunity looks like and I don’t want to risk giving it to them, so I see them in stairwells and on Zoom or I’ll call when I’m walking past their apartment. I haven’t hugged them, or anyone, in eight weeks.”

“My father suffers from ALS and has to use a home breathing apparatus with a mask. So he is in the high-risk category of having serious complications if he contracts the virus. I don’t feel comfortable going home to visit him for fear the little I actually have been going out has made me a carrier of the virus. FaceTime and Zoom are great but it’s not the same as a real visit. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have the opportunity to visit him.”

“I live with my husband, our infant daughter, and our two cats. Things definitely feel strained at times, so every day, we make an effort to say thank you to the other for something they did, even if it’s a ‘standard’ thing we do. Thank you for scooping the litter. Thank you for unloading the dishwasher. Thank you for feeding our daughter. Thank you for being a great partner. These days, any kind of gratitude or appreciation goes a long way when we’re all feeling stretched.”

“I am hornier than ever before, I crave human contact, and my parents are getting to me.”

“I live in an apartment in my son’s house. He’s a veterinarian and his wife is a nurse at the local hospital. Both are working full time and the main problem is the two kids, three and seven. At 83, I’m too old and frail to keep up with a three-year-old, so my son has to take them to his office all day. My main problem is my sense of guilt and helplessness that I can’t be of any use at all during this crisis. As a single parent of four boys, I’m used to being the steadfast one, and here I sit!”

“I am sheltering alone. I was in graduate school, which has gone remote. I feel isolated and bleak. I don’t even feel like I really have any relationships anymore. I know that’s not true, but nothing seems real anymore.”

“My wife and I consider ourselves separated, even though we are still living together with our two older children (16 and 21), who we haven’t told yet due to a variety of complicated reasons. We have made extra efforts to respect each other’s personal space and have managed to make our living situation civil, bearable, and mostly peaceful. We don’t see the pandemic as a blessing in disguise as we have no desire to reconcile. It’s proven that we can be a good team as co-parents, housemates, and financial partners (for now). As we try to plan for the future and find a way to afford one of us to move out, we aim to do it without animosity and resentment. And right now, we know that we are safest as things stand right now, in our shared living space and operating as a family to support our children as best we can.”

“I’m closer with my kids, 2 and 5, than I was when I was going into the office full time. My wife and I fight more than we used to and have sex much less often. Every day is like treading water – not enough sleep, always unread emails, house is always a mess. Stress builds throughout the week, then we get along better on the weekend.”

“My boyfriend and I have been getting along super well during quarantine, even when things are difficult. I’ve always known I wanted to marry him someday but now I’m 100% confident that we can get through anything together.”

“In a strange way, this has made me feel closer to some of my family. I’m on a weekly Zoom with family members I haven’t spoken to in years. As far as personal, my fiancée and I have had to cancel our wedding, and there is the creeping fear that accompanies the natural annoyance of having to spend all of your time in a cramped NYC apartment with one other person, that this forced closeness will cause the other party to change their mind about doing it later. We have a very stable relationship, but there’s that little twinge of added (self-imposed) stress that is definitely not needed.”

“Our 21-year-old son was yanked from his final eight weeks of college and he’s been pretty miserable doing school online. He’s angry and cranky and on a horrible sleep schedule. My husband of 25 years is immunocompromised and so we haven’t had sex or even kissed since mid-March! We just thought it best not to take any chances. We’re even sleeping in different rooms because we are also on different and rotten sleep schedules. I miss the sex so much.”

“My relationship with my fiancé is arguably stronger than ever. However, I can feel myself losing touch with other friends and acquaintances. I wonder if my circle will be decidedly smaller if and when things return to normal.”

“I suffer from BPD [borderline personality disorder] and I’m home with my parents. I hadn’t spent so much time with them in a decade. I’m constantly anxious and hyperactive, overcritical, I punish myself for every little mistake. I usually know how to handle most of this, but right now I have to try very hard to be patient and tolerant both with my family and with myself. As much as I try, the reality is my symptoms have spiked. I’m so irritable and labile. I go through every single emotion in the space of hours and I’m trying to mask my symptoms so my parents don’t worry too much. But sometimes I snap and react horribly towards them. I hate doing this. My usual coping skills aren’t working as they should because I’m lacking my normal home and space, therapy, and psychiatric appointments. Any minor thing can set me off so much so that some days I don’t want to get out of bed just out of fear of having a rollercoaster day, but I’m an English teacher, so I have to. The pressure to keep it together is unreal.”

“Dating in New York was already borderline impossible but now…forget it. It feels like everyone, on every dating app has already resigned themselves to the fact that it’s all for nothing so every ‘match’ fizzles out almost immediately. I don’t even know why I bother trying, maybe hoping for some sort of great quarantine romance to emerge on the other side of this?”

“Our family is all [multiple] generations of NYC-area folks on both sides. The cousins were being raised together as siblings, my parents and in-laws were an essential part of our childcare arrangement. We built our whole life around being close, and now we’re all in these little silos. It hurts like hell.”

“Before the virus, my social life used to feel like another obligation as it involved travel, staying out late on work nights, but now it is such a joy to spend time speaking to my friends.”

“Luckily my family gives me my space, but I was supposed to be studying abroad this semester and had recently experienced a death. I don’t feel like I have anyone to talk to, and when I do look to my family for help they can’t really offer me the emotional support I need. My friends and I, because we are all at home, don’t have much to talk about over the phone.”

“My husband and I are the only ones at home. Sometimes we’re closer, but sometimes we need to give each other space so we don’t get on each other’s nerves. We have communicated much more than we used to with our younger daughter stranded in Brooklyn, who has been extremely stressed out. We miss being able to hang out with our older daughter and her family, especially our three grandchildren. We missed hugging when they dropped off groceries and birthday cards for my husband. My husband calls his elderly mother in assisted living who doesn’t understand the pandemic or why no one can visit her. My relationship with myself has gotten better – I used to run around so much I didn’t have time to reflect on anything. With more time, I can hear myself think and I think about people I care about but didn’t have time to remember before – extended family and old friends. I am also getting the opportunity to envision how I want to prioritize the rest of my life.”

Note: Not every respondent answered every question.

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1,281 Readers on Personal Relationships During the Pandemic