At the beginning of lockdown, new couples were given very little time to make a big decision – accelerate the relationship and move in together or face months of no physical contact.
For those who chose to move in together, many have enjoyed building their relationship with few distractions from the outside world. But as lockdown measures are eased, they may find it difficult to balance the wish to be with friends and family with the special closeness they shared during lockdown.
Other new couples who decided to put their relationship on hold, but stayed in touch via Zoom or Facetime, now have the chance to start a physical relationship. And there will also be many people who went into lockdown single and are now able to start dating again.
But the world is not the same. With many people still having little contact with friends, workmates, sports teams, etc, but feeling an acute desire to escape the loneliness of lockdown, they may be placing too much pressure on new relationships.
And there’s still a lot of fear and anxiety around. People are worried about their own health and that of their friends and family. Relationships are hard at the best of times, but relationships during the pandemic are being tested in new ways with, for example, arguments and anxiety about different ways to stay safe and risk tolerance. And many people are also experiencing financial worries as the economy shrinks and the reality hits that many jobs will be lost.
A recent report from the ONS reveals that 39% of people married or in a civil partnership are reporting high levels of anxiety, and divorce enquiries are up, as well as cases of domestic violence.
While some couples have become closer during lockdown, others have felt an increasing sense of resentment and entrapment. They have realised they are stuck at home with someone they can’t talk to and don’t want to spend much time with, so there may be a lot of repair work to do to fill this void. Or help may be needed to split amicably, especially if there are children involved.
The overlap between depression and troubled relationships is high; people living in troubled relationships are twice as likely to suffer from depression as people whose relationships aren’t troubled. And arguments can have long term damaging mental health consequences for children.
It’s vital that people who are concerned about stress in their relationships should seek professional support to help understand the feelings they are experiencing and take steps to ease their anxieties.
At Tavistock Relationships, our highly skilled psychotherapists and psychosexual therapists are able to support couples with online therapy during this time of national crisis. And to help people take their first steps into therapy at this incredibly difficult time, we are currently offering a limited number of subsidised places at a reduced rate.
Marian O’Connor is a relationship therapist and Head of Training, Psychosexual Therapy, at Tavistock Relationships.