Whether you’ve been in lockdown with your partner or forced to go ‘long distance’ (even though you only live down the road), the Coronavirus pandemic has been as revealing about our relationships as it has about our health, the economy and our communities.
There have been highs, lows and lols for many of us. Sure, living either under each other's feet or being barred from touching isn’t exactly the stuff of Disney films, but the following learnings reveal that understanding, intimacy and chemistry can blossom in even the most challenging of circumstances.
Love isn’t all diamond rings and fancy things, as these couples told us…
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1. Being Vulnerable Is Always Worth It
Particularly if you’re in a ‘young’ relationship, baring all can be difficult and daunting, but lockdown has allowed relationships to accelerate and mature more than they might have otherwise. Jessica told us that ripping off the emotional band aid during the pandemic has brought her closer to her partner and stopped tensions from escalating:
“Explaining how I really feel to my partner has felt scary at times but I think that showing my vulnerability has taken our intimacy, and the relationship itself, to a new (better) level. Previously we’d have played the blame game when we were feeling threatened or touchy, which got us nowhere. Exposing our vulnerabilities, on the other hand, has made us kinder and less callous about one another’s feelings.”
2. Sarcasm Chips Away at a Relationship
In the same vein as being vulnerable, Annie has found honesty to be the best policy when it comes to riding out lockdown as a couple:
“Sarcasm at best achieves nothing and, at worst, can cause pretty major damage to relationships. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly and as considerately as you can.”
3. We’re More Independent Than We Thought
For Nick the professional became the personal, in a good way.
“It’s been great to see how my partner structures her day – what she needs on a daily basis and how she works. It’s the kind of stuff I rarely get to see and it’s made me understand her more as an independent person rather than just seeing who she is in the context of being my partner.
“Going forward I’ll have a much better sense of what she wants and needs in life. We’re looking to buy our first house and seeing how she gets things done makes me consider what works for her in a professional context as well as for us as a couple. Sure, it’s been a bit stifling in our one bed flat at times but our lockdown experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
4. We Want More Freedom in the Future
We’re likely all wanting to spread our wings post-lockdown, but for Katherine and her partner, lockdown has emphasised the importance of prioritising free-time together:
“My husband, Bill, and I had only been married nine months when lockdown began. I'd say the most important thing we learned was how much we love spending time together and that we'd like to have more freedom to do that in the future.”
5. We’re Completely Different People
Which is a good thing, according to Katherine. “We learned how completely different we are and we understood the importance of respecting each other's differences as well as appreciating each other's strengths and forgiving each other's weaknesses. We also saw how much we could learn from one another.
“For example I am a highly driven over-achiever. I'm very good at working and not very good at sitting still. My work tends to come first, before cooking, gardening and resting.
“Bill, on the other hand, is extremely good at relaxing. He can while away hours doing very little and, because he was furloughed for the first three months of lockdown, he did just that. This can, if I allow it, drive me completely crazy.
"But lockdown taught us the importance of allowing each other to be who we are, rather than trying to change the other person into someone else. It also showed us that if we could meet in the middle – if he could be a bit more proactive and I could do less – we'd be an even better match than we already are.”
6. Our Previous Lifestyle Wasn't Sustainable
For travel blogger Chloe and her fiancé, lockdown changed the pace of their relationship for the better:
“As full-time travel bloggers we're used to being away almost as much as we're at home. As soon as lockdown hit, all of our travel plans were put on hold. The hardest thing for us was slowing down. We're used to living quite a fast-paced life, packed full of experiences. To strip our days back to eating, sleeping and staring at a laptop for hours hit our energy levels and motivation hard.
“However, I think there have been a few benefits. The speedy pace of our work life combined with travel and jet lag wasn't sustainable, and the break has done us good as a couple. We've been eating a healthier diet, running more and have a synced-up routine for the first time in about five years!”
7. Some of Our Happiest Times Are in the Kitchen
Speaking of new routines, Chloe and her fiancé have been travelling by way of the kitchen and it’s been more of an adventure than she anticipated.
“Our happiest times have been in the kitchen. We've really missed travelling, so have been cooking up some seriously tasty foods from around the world, including Vietnamese salads, ramen and tacos.
“The most memorable was our South American themed date night at the start of lockdown. We made ceviche followed by steak, accompanied with Latin American tunes and a bottle of Malbec!”
8. ‘Cook-offs’ Aren't For Us
For some couples, however, lockdown has revealed that relationship bliss is not cooked up in the kitchen. Ali discovered that she needs alone time if she’s to be prepping three meals a day at home:
“One significant relationship revelation has been that my fiancé enjoys ‘team’ cook-offs while I need total calm and solitude when preparing dinner. I can’t bear the ‘hovering’.”
9. Staying Curious Is Essential
Asking questions has been a key coping mechanism for Charlie and his partner, if nothing else to stimulate conversation (ANY CONVERSATION) that has nothing to do with Coronavirus.
“Asking each other questions, whether lighthearted or deep and meaningful, has helped to keep things interesting and stopped us from taking each other for granted. It’s also been a relief to discover that we don’t need to be zipping around town all the time to have things to talk about when we’re at home - if anything our conversations have been more interesting, despite the lack of fresh anecdotes.”
10. We Have Very Different Attitudes to the News
Exposure to the outside world became a point of contention between Anna and her partner.
“One of us keeps up with the news on an almost hourly basis while the other doesn’t at all and to be honest I’m not sure which is worse at this point.”
11. We Are Considering Eloping
Lockdown brought about a wedding planning change of heart for Rosie and her fiancé:
“We got engaged in September and would have been looking at venues ready to get married in March 2021 but lockdown has made us realise that we want to be married much more than we want a wedding. We’re now considering eloping, or at least stripping it back to a very simple wedding.”
12. We Need Things to Look Forward to as a Couple
Whether it’s an elopement or a big wedding, uncertainty about the future can be tricky to navigate as a couple. Chloe has been through the many stages of lockdown doubt and disappointment with her fiancé.
“We're due to get married in September, but we don't know what will happen yet as we've been waiting on government advice and updates from our venue.
"At the start of lockdown it took over our lives. It felt like every conversation came back to the topic of weddings and we went through a range of emotions, from excitement at the idea that it might be late enough in the year to go ahead safely, to sadness as it felt like we'd probably have to delay by a year. The limbo has been really tough at times, as we'd both like to look forward to our big day.”
13. Making Plans Is Important
Whether it’s a future wedding or just popping out for a flat white, putting dates in the diary is key to preventing monotony. Dressing up for takeaways every Saturday has kept Katie and her partner on the straight and narrow:
“Beforehand we’d have ordered a takeaway and then slobbed out on the sofa in our joggers. We’ll still definitely do that in future, but in lockdown we treated Saturday night takeaways as if we were going to a swanky restaurant. It’s the only time I shaved my legs and put on makeup and I think it was a pleasure for both of us!”
Without plans to demarcate weekends and evenings, work and home life can drift into one another in a lockdown situation, leaving you both disillusioned and lethargic. Basically, make plans, even if they’re not plans with a capital P.
14. We Don't Need to Be 'Close' to Be Close
Georgie is a key worker who ended up being separated from her partner at the beginning of lockdown. She told us that her partner’s support was crucial to “staying afloat” during an incredibly stressful time.
“From seeing her funny memes on a rare tea break or FaceTiming at the end of an exhausting shift, having her there from afar at all hours strengthened our bond and made me appreciate what we have. She would drop everything as soon as I had a moment to talk and I’m not sure how I would have stayed on an even keel without her.”
15. Arguments Rarely Get Resolved Over WhatsApp
On the flipside, if you’re apart from one another it can be difficult to get to the root of problems. Sarah doesn’t recommend WhatsApp as a forum for sorting out significant relationship issues.
“I think that WhatsApp can sometimes be the technological equivalent of a passive aggressive post-it left on the fridge.
"I certainly learned that there’s a lot to be said for ironing things out face to face if there’s been conflict. Even if it’s just on FaceTime, you need to see your partner’s expression and hear their tone of voice to figure out what’s really going on beneath the surface.”
16. We Can Laugh in the Face of Adversity
Because, let’s face it, much of what we’ve been facing is adversity.
Rosie was reassured by regular lols: “In spite of being crammed into a very small one bedroom flat and both working from home, we’ve probably never laughed so much.”
17. There Will Be Dark Patches
Where there is light, there is shade, in Chloe’s experience:
“There have been some dark patches. We've watched our businesses fall to pieces as tourism around the world disappeared overnight. It's been a lot to come to terms with but we lift each other through it. If I'm down my fiancé picks me up and vice-versa. We've learned that in general we're a really good fit.”
18. A Gratitude Journal Is a Game Changer
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Not only is a lockdown diary likely to be fascinating to look back on, but writing down everything you’re grateful for (including your partner) can put a stop to simmering resentments before they bubble up into something more heated, according to Anna.
“Writing down ‘the little things’ helped to distinguish one day in lockdown from the next and the amount that my partner featured in my gratitude diary made me appreciative of the effort that he makes and encouraged me to repay that effort.
“If he was notably absent for a few days, however, it also encouraged me to have a conversation about what I needed from him to redress the balance in our relationship. I’m not sure if that’s really how you’re ‘meant’ to use a gratitude journal but it worked for us.”
19. Less Sex Doesn't Mean We're 'Lacking'
Sex went out of the window for Jessica and her partner when the lockdown tedium set in. Given that it was certainly not ‘business as usual’ in any sense, it didn’t end up being an additional stress or something to add to the ‘do list’ in between doing the washing up and trying to chair a Zoom meeting.
It happened when it happened, and when it didn’t happen it was something they laughed about more than stressed about. She reckons it’s made for a more open attitude around sex – something they probably wouldn’t have broached with each other had the lockdown not come into force.
READ MORE: The 18 Best Sex Toy Shops Online
20. We Could Probably Be Daytime TV Hosts
Anyone else feel like they could give Holly and Phil a run for their money after performing endless double acts on Houseparty during lockdown? Nick’s considering applying.
“Squashed together on the sofa and taking it in turns to tell anecdotes or present our latest pub quiz PowerPoint made me realise that we’re a pretty slick ‘act’ really.”
How to Come Out of Lockdown with a Stronger Relationship
“Self-awareness and communication are absolutely vital to surviving a situation like lockdown as a couple. It's so easy to fly off the handle, to get exasperated with your partner or to find fault with him or her after many weeks or months in close confinement," she says.
“If your blood is beginning (or continuing) to boil, my first suggestion is to ask yourself what's going on for you inside? What do you need? And how can you meet your own needs? Do you need more space? Do you need to speak to a friend? Do you need to go out on your own for some exercise?
“Secondly, what do you need from your partner and how can you communicate this in a mature way, rather than blaming your partner or picking a fight? When you communicate your wants and needs, do so as clearly as you can and with gentleness and compassion.”
Easier said than done but definitely worth putting the legwork in.
Still WFH together and finding it a struggle? Read our tips on how to take care of your relationship while home-working.