Has Romance Survived The Pandemic? A New Report Offers A Scientific Answer

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A new study commissioned by a team of researchers at Relish, a relationship coaching company, suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has put a significant strain on our intimate relationships.

Surveying over 1,700 U.S. adults who are or have been in long-term romantic relationships, the researchers found:

  • 68% of people who broke up this year believe it might have been due to Covid-19
  • People reported having 15% less sex since the pandemic began
  • 54% of people say their partner’s use of their mobile phone, which has increased with the pandemic, has negatively affected their relationship
  • Significantly more people are thinking about divorce or breaking up now as compared to pre-Covid-19

“2020 has been a monumental year and the impact of it on our closest relationships will be felt for a long time,” says Lesley Eccles, founder and CEO of Relish. “I’ve been saddened, dismayed, relieved, and even inspired by the stories I’ve heard over the course of conducting this research. While Covid-19 has been devastating in so many ways, there are certainly glimmers of hope for the future.”

One of the bright spots has to do with the number of couples who believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened their partnership. Specifically, 41% of people report that their relationship is better now than before Covid-19 while only 30% of couples believe that their relationship has worsened.

“Our results tell the story of two types of couples — those who are struggling and growing further apart, and those who are adapting and growing closer together,” says Eccles. “Couples who have survived 2020 intact report relationships that are happier than ever.”

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These results square with another recent study published in Psychological Science, which found that couples with better coping skills going into the pandemic — such as being able to help each other relax by engaging in pleasant activities and dividing household chores equally — experienced increases in relationship satisfaction over the course of the pandemic. Couples with negative coping habits, on the other hand, were more likely to show decreases in relationship satisfaction.

What else seems to be working for couples that have grown closer during the pandemic? Relish’s research suggests that successful couples have been more likely to:

  1. Spend quality time together
  2. Plan for the future
  3. Focus on goals
  4. Take up new hobbies
  5. Exercise

However, challenges are still grave. According to Relish’s report, 41% of working mothers have either quit their jobs, considered quitting, or asked for less responsibility at work. Furthermore, nearly 20% of working parents reported not having access to adequate childcare, twice as many as before the pandemic.

The researchers also urge people to stay away from what they identified as toxic relationship behaviors, such as (1) doing nothing, (2) over-focusing on the kids, (3) spending inordinate amounts of time alone, and (4) connecting with old friends to the point that it interferes with family responsibilities.

“If this research has taught us one thing, it’s that having additional resources during times of uncertainty is critical,” says Eccles. “Many people are struggling with their own mental health due to the stress of the pandemic, which is making it harder to sustain their role as an encouraging and supportive partner. We hope our research inspires people to seek out the support they need to keep their relationships afloat during this difficult time.”

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