The pandemic has forced people to slow down, introspect and understand their surroundings and partners better. The lockdown was a testing time for relationships and couples; locked together at home 24×7 or living miles apart. For most couples—whether married, in a live-in or a long-distance relationship—it was a time of rise and decline. “If there was a steep rise in relationship conflicts, divorce cases, separations and break-ups, there were also many who found their true loves due to the sheer absence of outside, worldly disruptions,” says Arouba Kabir, mental health counselor, wellness coach and founder of Enso Wellness.
The impact of the virus on romantic relationships has been profound. A recent international study by YouGov, a market research company, in its global survey on relationships, found that three in 10 urban Indians felt a positive impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on their romantic relationships. Around a fourth (24 per cent), felt that their bond with their partner became stronger. On the flip side, one in six (15 per cent) found their romantic lives coming under the scanner and getting strained.
Ties that bind
Statistics show an increased registration on dating apps. Findings from Weforum.com suggest that traffic on Indian dating platforms increased by 26 per cent, and matches by 12 per cent. Many statistics have also pointed to live-in and long-distance relationships becoming stronger. Geeta Ramakrishnan, ontological coach and author, says, “People have accepted the pandemic and lockdown situation and are finding ways to keep the relationship going. Humans are social beings, and while there are challenges, we find ways to overcome them and make the best of the situation.”
The lockdown forced many couples to “slow-down” and begin talking and sharing more, something that was getting lost in the fray pre-pandemic. Now they are rediscovering bonding with conversations returning to their lives. Couples are making more of an effort to connect, to chat, to play and to have e-dates. They are learning the value of having an emotional connection sometimes even before a physical one.
Giving an example of a couple in a long-distance relationship, Ramakrishnan talks about how they were distressed and couldn’t imagine working it out with the pandemic and lockdown in place. “Being career-oriented and busy professionals, their relationship existed in the background pre-pandemic, giving them the blanket comfort. A reality check, slowing down and fear of uncertainty due to the pandemic served as a wake-up call. They took the opportunity to reinvent the relationship and consciously find time, despite their extended WFH schedule, to meet virtually for game and date nights.”
Give and take
While couples have learnt to be around each other and spend quality time together, they have also learnt to negotiate their spaces and reach a mutual understanding on how to work collaboratively on running the home together.
According to Kamna Chhibber, consultant clinical psychologist and head, mental health at Fortis Healthcare’s department of mental health and behavioural sciences, “Conflicts did emerge and adapting to the new normal was as difficult for couples as it was for individuals. Both communication enhancement and breakdowns occurred and people found new, unique ways of associating and spending time with each other.”
There was greater understanding of the importance of and need for support systems and couples recognised the necessity of having systems in place that allow for smooth functioning of their households along with properly defined roles each one plays in managing things—an aspect that would previously often get ignored.
The way ahead
Striking a balance is key. “Relationships need the fuel of time and energy. Take this time to set couple goals and prioritise ‘me’ time and ‘couple time’,” says Ramakrishnan. “You have to learn to articulate your feelings, express your needs, annoyances and especially so in long-distance relationships.”
Communicating with openness and honesty, being receptive to feedback from your partner, being willing to consider novel suggestions of spending time and doing things together, and taking out time for fun activities together at home or outside are a few things couples can do. Chhibber’s advice? Be willing to let go of and forgive transgressions that occur during moods that culminate in anger. But if these happen consistently, then speak about them and find ways to address what might be causing this distress.
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