More than a quarter of people said their relationship became more challenging as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s look at why that might be.
Much research has been conducted into how Covid-19 has affected our romantic relationships.
The enormous societal and lifestyle changes enforced as a result of the pandemics has affected everybody – everywhere.
One thing I have noticed is that couples have found certain relationship dynamics altering – sometimes for the better, and sometimes uncomfortably.
While the latest pandemic is settling and couples have learned to adjust to these new times, many couples are still feeling the aftershocks.
Let’s look at some of these issues together.
There’s no doubt about it. Money is a common struggle in relationships. Covid-19 caused immense economic disruption, saw small businesses closing and many people made redundant or put on reduced income. A study spanning 10,000 households across 6 of the largest European countries showed a 7% reduction in household spending in 2020 when compared to 2019, and an increase in concerns about reduced income and future finances.
Money worries can cause arguments, secret spending, blame and pressure in a relationship. Even as the pandemic settles, the financial implications can be long-term. Couples therapy can help both parties talk openly about these money problems and find a way forward.
Covid-19 can be riskier to those with underlying health problems. When one person (or both) is physically vulnerable, they may want to take extra precautionary measures to avoid the virus. In some cases, couples slept in separate rooms and didn’t physically go near one another during the pandemic. In other cases, the less vulnerable person stayed home to shield the more vulnerable one, causing social isolation and – in some cases – resentment. Even as lockdowns lift and life normalises, anxiety about Covid and its health implications can be felt in homes everywhere.
Disagreements about Covid
During the pandemic, the rules of the household may have changed. Common areas of dispute in therapy have been:
- Are we going to wear masks indoors?
- Should we shower after having gone outside?
- How often should we be testing?
- Should we see your Mum / our friends?
Arguments could have become more frequent – and the differing opinions might reveal some fundamental problems in the groundwork of the relationship.
Dates become difficult
Whether you are in a cohabitation relationship or are in the dating phase, going out for a regular date-night can be challenging during the pandemic. Many restaurants and bars closed for long periods, and continue to periodically shut down depending on government guidelines. Others might have entry rules that you can’t adhere to (for example, if one of you is not vaccinated). In the absence of date-nights, I have noticed that couples can struggle to keep the fire lit within the relationship.
Working from home is causing tensions
Working from home became the norm during the pandemic. Many couples had to adjust from only seeing each other in the evenings, to being on top of each other 24/7. In some cases, this strengthened the relationship because they got to spend more time together. In other cases, this increased time together caused tensions and arguments. I believe it’s important to look at why that is, and what pre-existing issues might be sitting beneath the surface.
Pornography consumption has increased
I have noticed that pornography can be a common area of contention within relationships, especially when two people have different views on its appropriateness and place within the dynamic. During the pandemic, boredom, working from home, sexual frustrations and relationship problems caused an increase in pornography use. This potentially has adverse effects on a relationship, especially if it has affected the longer term intimacy levels between partners.
Gender roles changed
Lastly, but very importantly, the shift in household dynamics and routines has led many couples to swapping up roles. More men were home from work, and with children off school, they took on more childcare responsibilities than they normally would. The household status quo was shaken up, and in some cases, the role of breadwinner was swapped to the other party. The new roles, responsibilities and relationship expectations can be explored in couples therapy.
Affairs can be devastating. Studies have shown an increase in infidelity during the pandemic. Increased hostility at home as well as the pressures and stress associated with Covid is thought to be the leading cause of this. Online and emotional affairs were also common due to travel restrictions, isolation rules and working from home. If your relationship has been affected by infidelity, there is hope with couples therapy
No matter how the pandemic affected your relationship, a way forward is possible. Couples therapy can help unpack the presenting issues and support both parties in coming to a resolution.
Getting the support you need
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