The pandemic happened and came in like a wrecking ball to both intimacy and relationships. The proof was the increase in the rate of divorce throughout the year of the global epidemic. Divorce applications and break-ups skyrocketed across the UK and around the world. Leading British law firm Stewarts logged a 122% increase in inquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Talk about couples goals, huh... It may seem like old news that the Covid-19 quarantine has affected plenty of our core relationships, but we are just now getting a better understanding of the multiple factors that fed into this break-up boom and why it looks set to continue this year.
The pandemic was the perfect storm for monogamous couples, with lockdowns and social distancing causing partners to spend increased amounts of time together and push for more intimacy in the relationship. This has, in many cases, acting as a catalyst for break-ups that may already have been on the cards, especially if previously separate routines had served to mask problems. The surge in divorce applications after England’s first national lockdown ended was not surprising, since break-ups usually spike after families spend longer periods of time together, like during school holidays or over Christmas. The lockdown was essentially one of those prolonged periods, but with enormous added pressures. What was different though was the significant increase in the number of women initiating divorces, with 76% of new cases coming from female clients, compared with 60% a year ago. This trend ties in with the findings of numerous studies of working parents' lives during Covid-19, which suggest that a disproportionate share of housework and childcare is still falling on women, even in heterosexual couples where the male partner also works from home.
Another contributing factor to these relationship woes was the increase in mental health problems linked to the pandemic. The pandemic took away well-established routines that offered comfort, stability, and rhythm. Without these, partners elevated the need for codependency into unhealthy toxic relationships. More people are finding themselves trapped in a situation where they are struggling to cope with their own personal emotions as well as unchartered relationship territory. Like a malfunctioning pressure cooker, the lid will eventually pop and the relationship breaks down. By giving up our social life and our releases, our main focus becomes our partner’s differences.
Caught in a COVID Romance
What can be harder than going through a pandemic breakup you may ask? Well, how about trying to find love in the time of Coronavirus. Covid-19 has offered a less-than-ideal setting for romance and raised the stakes of dating in an unusual way. Social distancing measures have forced socializing with people outside of one’s household to be a calculated, often stressful, event, making dating leagues harder than it was before. If there were one word to describe how most singles felt, being barricaded alone in their quarantine sanctuaries, it would be lonely. It’s actually why many people turned to porn for temporary relief and gain of sexual wellness from the feelings of anxiety and depression during the pandemic. The world’s largest pornography website, Pornhub, has reported large increases in traffic – for instance, seeing an 18% jump over normal numbers after making its premium content free for 30 days for people who agree to stay home and wash their hands frequently.
It was that same stir crazy that motivated plenty to meet new potential partners, which was made easier with the likes of dating apps. Match Group, the parent company of Tinder, Hinge, and OKCupid, reported an uptick in users in 2020 while its competitor Bumble said that it had more than 12 million active users around the world in September 2020. But while people are exploring their options on dating apps, few are finding success in person. People swipe in the app, they match, they text, but then it’s hard to take that next step because the number of things to do is actually quite limited. You have to have a lot of trust in the person early on, which can be difficult to build just from online dating. There’s talk about doing dates or FaceTime dates with people and not being able to get a full sense of who they are as a person. Whether that’s because of physical barriers – they’re wearing a mask and you can’t see their smile – or digital barriers, it’s very hard to FaceTime someone you don’t really know. The issue is the lack or total absence of intimacy in the relationship that you are trying to pursue. It feels like a long-distance relationship... Yet amidst the bleakness, there is a bright spot in the act of courting during the pandemic, which is its ability to give people perspective: which relationships matters to them most. Ask yourself, is this the kind of person that I want to have around in my life if we have another lockdown? We should try to anchor ourselves to this idea of being very purposeful about our relationships. We should be emerging out of this pandemic with a sense of purpose. Covid-19 hasn’t completely killed romance, it just reimagined it.