Love & Sex 13th February 2023 by Jade Hayden
Lockdown Love Lost: More & More Relationships Are Ending After Covid
Did your relationship change after Covid?
Remember Zoom drinks? Setting up the laptop, lamenting your internet connection, getting steadily drunk with your pals who you haven’t seen for months and gravely miss? Well, imagine a Zoom date. All of the above with the added anxiety of potentially never having met the person before and the dreaded concern that they’re finding this just as painful as you are.
Such was the reality for many singletons wanting to date amidst lockdown. Sure, there was the option to go for a socially distant walk, but for many, meeting potential partners for the first time on the same video platform you had your work meetings was a harsh reality.
But for many, it worked. A 2020 study by the British Psychological Society showed that 87 percent of people enjoyed the time they spent with their partner during lockdown, stating that they felt more emotionally connected and supported.
Many of these ‘Covid relationships’ are ongoing, untainted by the return to club nights, travel, and things being, well, normal. Others, however, have since ended – in some cases, in tandem with lockdowns ending too.
Anna* belonged to one of them. She met her partner at university in September 2020 a few weeks before the second lockdown. She and him soon began a relationship, which worked out well for them both, as they were also living together at the time.
“Because of the pandemic we got a lot closer a lot faster,” she says. “After the second lockdown hit we both chose to stay at university and became each other’s ‘bubble’ instead of our families. We spent practically every day together for a year and half.”
Almost two years later, and still together, Anna’s boyfriend spent the summer in America, intending to work the next academic year elsewhere in Europe. While in the States, Anna says that he met someone else and ended their relationship.
“I think that once the lockdowns were lifted and normality began, he realised that there was a whole other world outside just me and he could actually explore it now,” she says.
Sexpert and podcaster Dr Caroline West says that although many couples enjoyed spending extra time together during lockdowns, it’s not natural for people in relationships to be together every moment of every day. “Sex educators have always encouraged people to have their own independence,” she tells STELLAR. “When you’re stuck together it gets really hard. People are dealing with their own mental health and fears and then they’ve got someone else to worry about too. It can really take its toll.
“On the positive side, there are couples who locked down together and stayed together and it actually brought them closer. People are looking to the future so they can be prepared. What are their boundaries, what do they want? It’s the best homework we could have done during lockdown, to be more conscious.”
One couple who benefited from such ‘relationship homework’ was Ciara* and Darragh*. During lockdown they would meet in Phoenix Park every week for a walk, a getting-to-know-each-other routine that Ciara says was untouched by the pressures of alcohol, over-priced dinners, and general life. It was when things opened up, however, that they were faced with a sudden bout of new expectations.
“There were a lot of firsts,” she says. “First time going to the cinema, going to the pub, going for dinner. It was all very exciting, but it went from being just me and him to meeting all our friend groups and families and juggling different commitments. It became difficult to find time where it was just us, we were always doing something or meeting someone. We have to now actively set weekends aside where we do things just the two of us. While the lockdown was hard, I am so thankful that it gave me the time to meet Darragh and let our relationship move at its own pace.”
The ‘couple bubble’ was a consistent presence for most people who got together during the pandemic. Where most relationships begin quite steadily – you spend a normal amount of time together, you meet each other’s friends over a long period, you do things at a regular pace – Covid relationships escalated in some respects and were stunted in others.
Some Covid couples spent all of their time together, oftentimes not seeing another soul for weeks, or even months, on end. Others didn’t live together, but their only form of respite from work was one another, leading to a heightened sense of dependency and expectation.
For Tina*, it was the official ending of lockdown that put the final nail in her relationship’s coffin. “It all changed so suddenly,” she says. “One month we were perfect and the next my partner was struggling to make time to see me. I tried really hard to adapt to things being ‘normal’ again, but suddenly meeting all of her friends and only seeing her in big groups of people was hard to get used to. It had just been us for so long, and I really started missing that time we’d spent together, getting to know each other. ”
Tina says she expressed her fears, but that ultimately, her partner wasn’t willing to work on their relationship. “She was just like ‘This is who I am, I go out a lot, I’m sociable. If you can’t get used to that then we might as well break up.’ And we did.”
The so-called ‘couple bubble’ may have been a saving grace for some relationships, but once that bubble burst, life came fast. For some, it involved finding new ways to make their relationship work. For others, it was ending them entirely. According to new research from Bumble, 39 percent of people using the dating app have ended a marriage or serious relationship over the past two years. That’s a lot of people who are newly single, and a lot of people who might be wondering what to do next.
Dr Caroline says that the first step is to be “compassionate, to know that it’s okay to have anxiety or to be overwhelmed, to not know where you’re going or to feel lost.” She goes on: “There’s a lot of grief involved in the pandemic, around losing people, but also the grief of losing opportunities or relationships that might have stood a chance otherwise.
“You’re not alone. If you haven’t been single for a while this can feel like a whole new world, it can provoke anxiety. Some people are diving in and they’re making up for lost time, but you can take a moment. It might be time to listen to yourself and figure out what you want to bring into a new relationship.”
*Some names have been changed
Images via Pexels
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