What is going on with couples in Covid, a year and a half later?
We begin to glimpse what some would call “normalcy” as offices and businesses reopen and pandemic restrictions are lifted in the US. What has been going on with couples after spending over a year in varying degrees of quarantine and social isolation? Are couples doing better or worse than they were a year ago? What are some of the challenges couples are facing now as they return to a life filled with obligations and busyness?
According to the American Family Survey, 58% of couples reported an increased appreciation for their partners and a deeper commitment to their relationship. According to recent Census data, divorce rates are lower as well, which may be surprising to some.
Love Language: Quality Time
All this is incredibly good news and shows that the love language of quality time is more important than ever and strengthens bonds in relationships. Quite a few people I have spoken to feel that the stress of being home all the time while juggling multiple responsibilities, taught them to truly work as a team with their partner, keeping their ship afloat. This required willing, open, communication of needs and intentionally working together to make sure both partners’ needs are met to the degree they can.
Even though there is a lot of good news with couples right now, below are some important things to pay attention to and some of the struggles couples may face as they look to return to post-pandemic life.
Introverts and extroverts
People who identify as introverts (and even some extroverts!) are grappling with socializing in ways they are not ready to yet. If one partner is introverted and the other is extroverted, re-entry into normalcy might prove to be a challenge. If one partner wants to continue to stay home and the other is itching to go out, they may argue. In this situation, empathy and compromise go a long way. The extrovert may need to find some friends to go out with. Perhaps quiet date nights, just the two of you, are the way to go so that the introverted partner can dip their toe in the water again.
This might sound crazy, especially for folks who are very independent in relationships. Some people became so used to being together all the time, it may be hard to separate. Others may have more work travel, professional obligations, and return to in-person work again. This will be hard for those who really enjoyed their quality time together, especially if they did not get much of it before the pandemic. For these couples, realizing that their quality time strengthened their relationship could be a reminder to always prioritize the relationship.
Perhaps there is a way to negotiate less work travel and more work from home days. Work/life balance and keeping that strong bond with your partner going make a difference. Try to continue that quality time by avoiding overscheduling and keeping the focus on your partner and family.
Built up resentment because of stress and/or value differences.
Although many couples really stepped up to the plate during an incredibly stressful time. Even so, people stretched to their maximum capacity leads to burnout. Burnout can create resentment. There was little time for self-care. Working parents with young children and virtual schooling experienced increasing stress. There were fewer opportunities for having babysitters and the complications of unvaccinated family members/caregivers. Social distancing made it hard for many people to find outlets for their frustrations.
Schools are reopening, and there are more opportunities for caregivers due to vaccinations. Resentment couples may have felt because of the burnout (that they may or may not have taken out on each other) is still present. It is a good time for these couples to find ways to make time for self-care and reconnection. Therapy may be a good way to work through any bottled-up resentment getting in the way of connection.
Communication and compassion
Resentment can also be a result of value differences that arose during the pandemic. Things that may not have been apparent before became starkly exacerbated during lockdown. Some couples argued over how Covid cautious they should be. One partner may be overly cautious and the other might throw all caution to the wind. Any fighting or resentment due to different ways of handling covid could also be helped with a therapist to work through these issues.
The return to some sense of normalcy may be more than welcome for some couples and a challenge for others. Either way, navigating some of these new transitions with clear communication and compassion will be the key to staying connected or reconnecting after a year and a half of adversity.
At the Imago Center, we offer a variety of services to help individuals and couples to live in communication and connection:
Getting the Love You Want Workshop On Zoom June 19/20 and 26/27 9am-1:00pm
A New Way to Love On Zoom Mini-Workshop June 25-26
Getting the Love You Want Workshop LIVE in Metro DC July 10-11 9 am- 6pm ET
Keeping the Love You Find workshop On zoom Aug 28-29