The pandemic has strained everything it possibly could: our economies, jobs, mental health and of course, our relationships.
It’s a relief that now we’re gradually becoming more able to see our loved ones, family and friends, some of whom we haven’t seen for months on end as a result of lockdowns worldwide. But are some of us more relieved with the fact that we can now finally escape the confines of our homes, or more importantly, those we’ve been confined with, like our significant others?
Being stuck in lockdown with a partner has proven to be a test for some, having to share workspaces, spending 100% of your time together and in some cases juggling additional childcare commitments. It’s therefore unsurprising to believe that this may have led to more opportunities for couples to ‘butt heads,’ but equally, lockdown may have been an opportunity like no other for couples to strengthen their relationships.
Now that we’re slowly (but surely) returning to normality, it’s time to reflect on our recent experiences to see whether the pandemic was a make or break for relationships worldwide, and treat it as a learning experience. Keep reading to see what tips there are to ensure you maintain and strengthen your bond with your significant other to form the healthiest and happiest post-lockdown partnerships.
Over the course of the pandemic, the amount of enquiries to legal firms regarding divorce had increased by a whopping 95%, and legal templates found a sale increase of 34% for their divorce agreement in 2020 compared to 2019. Interestingly, a majority of the individuals who ended their relationships or got divorced stated they had no intentions of doing so before the start of the pandemic.
A UK based charity called Citizens Advice reported they had a rapid increase in people searching for advice on ending their relationships, and according to a survey conducted in April of 2020 by My Ex Back Coach 31% of respondents stated lockdown had actually harmed their relationships. Lockdown measures also appeared to hit newlyweds the hardest, with 58% of those married within the past 5 years pursuing a divorce during the pandemic.
Research has shown that reasons for these relationship breakdowns and increasing divorces over the course of the pandemic include:
- Spending too much time together: Stowe Family Law found that 75% of couple who were divorced or separated during the pandemic felt it was because spending too much time together led to too many arguments, and the law firm Stewarts found that separate routines may have masked many problems that sparked relationships to break down when locked down together.
- Unfair share of childcare and housework: Stewarts law-firm also revealed that more women are calling for divorces, with cases rising by 16% over the pandemic, and they believe this is a result of unfair shares of childcare and work around the house that is failing on women, even more so during the lockdown period.
- Increased mental health problems: Regardless of whether relationships had mental health problems or not, experts believe the pandemic’s huge spike in mental health problems has placed significant strain on couples, as they cannot seek support elsewhere outside of their relationships.
- Financial and employment problems: A research paper by Pietromonaco & Overall published in 2020 found that the pandemic has only made couples facing financial and employment struggles more strained in their relationships, which has been shown to affect couples emotionally and cause symptoms of anxiety and stress and also increase the likelihood of domestic abuse.
It seems apparent that being with a partner 24/7 took its toll on some during the course of the pandemic, and rightly so. COVID-19 related stressors, including those touched upon above, means partners have been faced with an increased amount of stress, which has inevitably impacted their relationships negatively.
However, there are a number of ways in which you can help save your relationship, if you feel that you and your partner are stressed and suffering, before it goes downhill:
Seek help from policy interventions
Like Pietromonaco and Overall revealed, those who are facing financial, economic or job-related hardships are at risk of facing a relationship crisis. But fear not, policies may be an effective way to help eliminate these stressors and alleviate the strain on couples’ relationships. By providing support via an intervention to help couples who are struggling, i.e., by providing them with financial support, employment related training, or even things such as health and child care, this may help relieve the strain on relationships that the COVID-19 pandemic may have significantly contributed to.
Governments provide support to those who have been affected by the various detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so it may be worth contacting your local government or council if you still need help and support.
Learn to communicate
Pietromonaco and Overall also suggest that it may be effective to learn techniques such as communicating effectively with your significant other, as this can help make feelings and worries openly known to your partner and will help you resolve issues and give responsive support.
Have some time to yourself and have a change of scenery
Experts have stated that both being outside and having the opportunity to talk about things in a different environment can alleviate pressure and help couples clear their heads.
Ask your partner for help
If you need it, communicate to your partner that you are stressed and what help and support they can give you to make you feel better. Equally, it is important that you ask your partner if they need help. This opens up a two-way communicative opportunity for you to both help and support each other equally and eliminates any unnecessary stressors to lessen the strain on your relationship.
Seek relationship counselling
If you feel like nothing seems to be working between you and your partner, no matter how much effort you make to communicate, help one another and give yourselves some time to yourselves, it may be wise to seek professional relationship advice from a relationship counsellor. You can either seek in person sessions or have online counselling and you’ll be able to find your local and most appropriate relationship counselling services online.
Interestingly, the same survey conducted by My Ex Back Coach, discussed earlier, found that 46% of respondents felt that lockdown was beneficial for their relationship. Similarly, research by Very Well Mind found that 27% of individuals found that the pandemic actually improved their relationships, and that couples have found that the pandemic has brought them closer together. Reasons for this may include spending more time with one another and so getting to know each other a lot better and being able to learn things about one another that they may not have learnt before.
If your relationship is still thriving through the midst of the pandemic, or if you’ve recently got into a relationship, there are a number of ways you can ensure you maintain your healthy and happy relationship:
Trust has been shown to be an important aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship. It can help you feel reassured, to forgive, help you overcome obstacles in your relationship and can give you partner space if they need it. Maintaining trust can be achieved in ways like having conversations openly with your significant other, listening to them to demonstrate you love and respect them and also by keeping each other as your top priorities to show how much you care.
Research has shown that romantic relationships are a source of emotional support, and are becoming increasingly so. Research has highlighted that this is also more so important in sexual minorities, as they may only feel safe and able to share their feelings about their sexuality with their partner.
Alone time is important
For mental health and for when you just feel like you need a break, alone time is important for relationships. There may be things that you can’t do with your significant other, such as hobbies that you enjoy but that you don’t share with your partner, and so having your designated alone time will help you feel fulfilled doing things that you enjoy on your own.
So, it’s pretty apparent that different couples’ experiences of the pandemic and its impacts have been very varied, with some relationships being broken, whilst others have been strengthened. Nevertheless, now that we’re heading back to normality, there are a number of different ways you can maintain and strengthen your bond with your significant other to ensure a long, healthy and happy relationship.
If you were in a relationship during the pandemic, how did it fare for you and your partner?