Sex + Dating

The Couple That's Sick Together, Sticks Together

man and woman sick together on couch
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Relationships take time. They require gradual, incremental intimacy that builds into that long-term love everyone is seeking so desperately in romantic comedies.

Sometimes, though, life has other plans -- and unforeseen illness turns your dating life into a minefield of germy everything, missed dates, and avoidance of one another until the sickness passes. Or does it? Here are six very good reasons to ride your viruses and colds out together, thereby accelerating your relationship by a decade (give or take).

man blowing his nose sick
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1. Appearances are out the window immediately (+ two years)

You don’t have to be a relationship expert to know that as a relationship matures, the pretense of personal appearance and grooming go out the window. Being sick doesn't allow either of you to touch up your makeup or wear restrictive clothes. Instead, you’ll be on an equal footing of sweatpants and charity T-shirts. A hearty cold or flu levels the playing field; and the worse the illness, the more accurate read you’ll have on exactly what you’ll both look like in two years on a Tuesday night when you’re wolfing down General Tso’s chicken during a six-hour Netflix binge.

woman coughing in bed sick
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2. You'll be intimately familiar with the sound of every single one of their upper-respiratory sounds (+ one year)

It takes about 12 months for the human brain to catalog and memorize the sound of a partner’s every cough, snort, sneeze, and snore. Skip that calendar year by pulling on some PJs and hunkering down with your sick sweetie. If you can listen to five to seven days of incessant throat-clearing and sniffling and still want to kiss the lips from whence the phlegm came, go ahead and get married as soon as the snot runs clear.

irritated man and woman in bed trying to wake up
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3. You'll find out exactly how they react to being uncomfortable (+ one year)

There’s nothing you can really do about the cold or flu except manage symptoms and sleep them off. Adversity and periods of stress throughout life are pretty much exactly the same -- so this is an opportunity to see how your new partner handles a set of circumstances that have to simply play out, which Columbia psychologist George Bonanno found is a glimpse into their overall happiness and mental health structure. So if your new bae is still whining about how crappy he or she feels on the fifth day instead of talking about how much better it feels than the first, this might not be the person you want as a life partner.

couple in bed sick
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4. You'll quickly learn the nonverbal language of your relationship (+ two years)

About 55% of our communication with other humans is non-verbal. Being sick or caring for someone who is, is like a nonverbal communication immersion program. You might have entire conversations with your beloved stooped over the toilet bowl, in which case the slightest movement of the back of the head says volumes. You'll learn their body language; recognize the look that tells you to shut up, and see what utter gratitude looks like on them when you arrive with a big bottle of Gatorade.

sick woman in bed and man brining her tea
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5. You'll learn your partner's language of helping (+ one year)

By now, pretty much everyone has heard of The 5 Love Languages. I’d argue that the language of helping is equally as varied as the languages of love. Some people help by giving stuff (“Can I get you some juice or a pillow?”), while others help by doing stuff (“Do you need someone to walk your dog?”) Maybe your partner doesn’t have the time to get sick and miss work; but if you get some flowers or soup delivered to your door, recognize it for what it is: a sign they care.

So be grateful for your partner’s way of offering an act of kindness, because the survival of your relationship literally depends on it. And if you’ve spent your week making soup and doing Pedialyte runs without so much as a simple thank you, all signs point to Ungrateful Jerk. Dump ‘em.

woman sick with stomach ache
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

6. You will have to confront the reality of your partner's every bodily elimination (+ three to 80 years)

On the continuum of extreme personal intimacy, watching someone orgasm is on one end and watching someone violently vomit or poop is on the other. If you can watch the latter and still more or less look forward to the former, your brain and heart have formed a bond that no misfiring sphincter can shake. Though this is a moment of extreme physical vulnerability, it will most certainly blow the door wide open to more honest conversations, which lead to lasting relationships.

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Sarah Murrell is a Thrillist contributor and the owner and writer of Indy food and sex blog, The Sensualist. She will happily watch every episode of House of Cards with you as long as you follow her on Twitter: @likesquirrel317.