The Distressing Impact of Lockdown on Couple Relationships

Jun 14, 2021

As a therapist, I am seeing first-hand the distressing impact of lockdown on couple relationships. Many were greatly impacted by the first 2-week stint, however, the recent extension of restrictions and the increasing infection cases has created greater anxiety and even depression. This is all made worse as there is no certainty to an end. Many couples suffer behind closed doors and relationships are becoming the often-unseen victims of the pandemic.

Partners are describing living in “a pressure cooker” with increased work and home life demands, and for many, there is greater financial strain. Many are distressed at how they will manage their own work responsibilities as well as overseeing their children’s homeschooling. On top of this, some couples have much younger children around who would normally be in daycare or with nannies. The domestic workload is huge, and partners describe feeling very overwhelmed and anxious.

For many couples, if there were any cracks in the relationship before the pandemic, the pressure of lockdowns rips these cracks wide open. This is being seen across the world, as greater numbers of people are looking for advice online on how to help their couple relationship.

My clinic in Sydney is receiving more and more requests for couples therapy. Partners are desperate to improve their communication, and many just want to stop the fights. Some contact my clinic concerned about their partner’s increasing alcohol intake, whilst others are withdrawing from their partner. Some are worried that they are losing interest in being intimate and don’t feel much of a couple anymore. A recent research study from the University of Indiana echoes what I am seeing. They found that since the pandemic, 34% of participants reported increased conflict in their relationship and decreased intimacy.

For many people in relationships, lockdown and the pandemic, in general, has left them watching so much more Netflix, wearing their tracksuits all the time, not making an effort with each other, not going out and being a couple in the world, and having less hugs, kisses, or sex. As this lockdown continues, permanent damage can occur in relationships when partners feel less desire for their partner and less desirable to their partner. All of this opens the door to less satisfaction in the relationship and can cause mental health to deteriorate.

What I do know is that these conditions are dangerous for couples over time, as partners become increasingly lonely and unhappy. If this goes on much longer it can move couples closer to separation and divorce. Many family lawyers are reporting 33% more enquiries for separation advice in the last year, than previously.

As you can see, the fallout from the pandemic, and even more so with lockdowns, is concerning and we need to take our couple relationships seriously and protect them. Many couples wish they had prevented this damage from occurring much earlier in the pandemic.

Here are 3 tips to make sure you keep your eyes on your relationship – 

  • Put intimacy on the agenda – It is vital you keep being intimate with your partner. Make the effort to connect emotionally, physically and sexually. Create opportunities to be playful and connected. You will need to turn off Netflix and digital devices. Be attentive to your partner.

  • Turn up the fun – Being regimented and routine is seriously dull for partners. The human brain likes new experiences and creativity and so do couple relationships. Create fun opportunities together. You could cook a new meal together, create a date night at home, catch up with another couple online together. You could also do a course together either for fun or one to improve your couple relationship.

  • Allow each partner time out and space – During lockdown and the pandemic, partners are couped up together. Allow each other space and time to be alone and also to connect with others. It is important for you both to be individuals whilst also being in your relationship.

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