My boyfriend (26M) invited me (25F) on a couples cabin trip that will be this Thursday-Sunday. Since I’m very paranoid about catching COVID, I am declining. (Side story: We went on a couples cabin trip with two other couples last month, and a guy from the trip ended up testing positive a day after the trip. Luckily though, we did not catch it.) However, since my boyfriend hasn’t gotten to see his frat brothers in over a year, I told him that he can still go if he’d like, even without me (he really wants to see them and I didn’t want to seem like a fun sucker), so he is choosing to go. Including him, it will be 11 guys and 8 of them are bringing their girlfriends, so 19 people total (yikes). I am now having some worries. Should I have asked him to not go? Should I make him get COVID tested when he gets back? Is there any way that we can compromise? I am scared for both his and my health.Sweetheart V, Reddit.
Dear Sweetheart V,
I am really sorry to hear that you and your partner are struggling with the COVID risk management. The pandemic has put to test the strength and durability of each of our social connections. Many of us have faltered in maintaining our human connections with the people outside of our safety bubbles. And so many of us have had to develop a conscious and effective COVID risk management strategy to balance our social sanity against the risk of contracting COVID. Many of my extroverted friends have had to opt for a more lenient approach to assessing transmission risks because the overall cost to their sanity from losing social connections outweighed the cost of increased transmission risk.
Like many couples, it appears you and your boyfriend each have different comfort level when it comes to COVID transmission risks. It is time for you to take a step back and assess just how different your respective levels are, then brainstorm on what you and your boyfriend can do to amend that gap. Much like any other compromise, the process to amend the gap will not reflect what you or your boyfriend truly desire. Instead, it’ll be a close approximation of the level in between that both of you are comfortable settling for.
First things first, I don’t believe that you were being paranoid when you declined the invitation for this upcoming cabin trip. There is a slew of unknown variables, unsubstantiated risks, and a relative lack of payoff from your perspective.
At the time you declined, it wasn’t apparent how many people will be in attendance, if any of them had any recent COVID exposure risks, or if anyone lives with someone who is at a high risk group. We currently live in a country where the officials mostly do not do contract tracing for COVID transmission.
In addition, you did not have any information on any of their respective COVID risk profiles. Incubation time and the transmissible window (14 days after exposure according to the CDC) for COVID does overlap with Thanksgiving holidays. This means that if any of them traveled to attend a Thanksgiving dinner (against the CDC recommendations and guidelines), then they are at risk of transmitting COVID without showing the primary symptoms of COVID during this very upcoming trip.
Not only that, there were also very few benefits that you could personally stand to gain from this trip. The obvious benefit to socializing in close proximity to other people and the ability to spend this weekend together with your boyfriend are the only parts that truly stand out to me. Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that these were more his connections from his previous frat days rather than mutual friends that you two share. So the close proximity socialization isn’t as big of a pay off should you have instead connected with the friends you are close to.
We have really only been dealing with COVID for the past eightish months. But COVID is already known to cause adverse long-term health effects. Seriousness of this disease cannot be overstated enough. With that in consideration, we should really reflect on not just the moment-to-moment risk analysis for COVID transmission, but also weigh the intense negative consequences of contracting COVID (should you survive it). We take marriage, financial enmeshment, and childrearing so seriously for the same reason that they can have such sever and lasting impact in your personal life. Unlike marriage and financial enmeshment which only affect you, COVID transmission affects everyone around you as well.
Now let’s talk about what you can do to mitigate the risk of transmission for yourself.
However you look at it, your boyfriend has the ultimate agency over his actions. He is permitted to make his own decision on what is worth the risks assessed. And it appears that even with a first-hand experience with COVID exposure, his risk assessment of this cabin trip is inadequate to balance out the benefits he personally stands to gain from it. You cannot control whether or not he goes. That is on him.
With that being all said, you can still establish your own boundaries to ensure that your own risk level remains at the level you are comfortable with. You can ask for him to take proper safety precautions after he returns from the trip. He will have to self-quarantine for five to seven days after the trip, then immediately get tested following the incubation period before he can share the same physical space with you again.
But I think there are deeper, more fundamental issues that you two need to talk about. Even when COVID goes away, it might be beneficial for you and your boyfriend to have a deeper discussion around risk tolerance, relationship agreements, and intention setting. Today is as good a day as any other to have the foundation-establishing type of discussion so that you two can better avoid any similar communication disconnects like this one in the future.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
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