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Love in a Time of Coronavirus

The necessary restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic are likely to put pressure on our relationships and family life

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Love in a Time of Coronavirus

Dr. Jacqui Gabb

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All around the world, the pandemic continues to affect people in many different ways, and present couples with a variety of unique challenges.

It’s widely accepted that we’re all experiencing low-level stress at present, and this is harder for some people to manage than others.

For some, job insecurity is creating emotional and financial pressures. For others, living and working in the same place as your partner is a new experience. The removal of routines and being constantly surrounded by the four walls of your home, can make it feel like you’re living on top of each other. Add children to the mix and it may be feeling very crowded.

So how are things for you? Has this week felt tough? Or perhaps the pandemic has forced you to look again at your priorities and you now appreciate your partner more than ever?

It’s widely accepted that we’re all experiencing low-level stress at present, and this is harder for some people to manage than others. Arguments are likely to flare up because we’re feeling ill-at-ease with ourselves. What’s important, then, is to work out what the arguments are really about. Is this a niggle or a big deal? Try and think about what’s behind these resentments.

For example, it might be that because you’re spending more time at home, you’re struggling to physically take time out and walk away from a disagreement. Or perhaps you – or your partner – is occupying the prime working position in the home. This can all too easily mean that one of you begins to feel that your job is being undervalued or dismissed.

In order to sustain your relationship during these times, get creative with the space available to you. If you’re both working from home and you can work comfortably and productively next to each other, then great. If not, then take it in turns to use the ‘best’ spot. Aim for equity and be sure to check in that this feels okay with your partner. Remember, whatever the status of your jobs, they are both important.

It may be that you’ve been juggling home schooling and a full-time job. This is tough going, and often especially so for mothers. Research has shown that during the pandemic the burden of childcare has fallen disproportionately onto women. This can feel extremely unfair.

Over summer, it’s been great to see mums, dads and children spending quality time together as a family. But the constant presence of children in the household puts tremendous demands on parents.

Do you feel that everyday childcare responsibilities are being equally shared in your relationship? Now that children are heading back into school, are you managing to fairly sort the logistics? Do you feel that something needs to change to rebalance the work-life scales in your household?

This may sound familiar and the best of intentions are often hard to sustain. When we’re feeling stressed, it can be hard to keep perspective on things. We tend to focus on the enormity of the tasks in front of us, rather than look up at the horizon or to think about the other person.

Challenge

This week, try to focus on your relationship and leave other stresses and strains outside of the household. Take stock of how things are working, for both of you. When you have some free time, write down three positive things that you’ve recently learnt about your partner and your relationship. Share these things with them. The outside world may feel threatening right now, so hold on to what’s important and remember to treat each other with kindness and respect.

About the writer

Dr. Jacqui Gabb

Jacqui is Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University in the UK and Chief Relationships Officer at Paired.

Her 'Enduring Love?' study on long-term couple relationships has received widespread critical acclaim, with findings being reported in national and international media, including: BBC World News, CNN, the New York Post, and more.

Her research and impact activities have been recognised by three prestigious awards: the BSA Philip Abrams Memorial prize (2009, the Open University Engaging Research Award (2014), the Evelyn Gillian Research Impact Award (2016).

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