For many, Valentines this year will have been an unusual one and in the wake of the day of romance, many may be contemplating how their relationships and dating life has fared over the course of the pandemic. Social interaction, in most regards, has faced challenges and changes as precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were put in place across the world. Social distancing and lockdown procedures in many countries has almost eradicated sporadic chats with strangers, and lessened contact time with loved ones near and far.
Those who are in relationships, long-term, new, budding may have found that their interactions faced more pressure, or may have found that the pandemic brought them closer together. Those who are single and looking to date, may have found the dating world completely different than before, fraught with social distancing worries, virtual dates and long waits to meet in person. Wherever you are in your love life, people across the world have felt the weight of the pandemic on their romantic interactions.
2020-2021 became difficult time for those who were single and ready to date and in areas with strict social distancing or lockdowns. Those who had more freedom, may have been cautious and dating during a health crisis, is no easy feat. Dating apps have seen a surge in users during the COVID-19 pandemic, and adverts for highly popular dating sites pushed ‘virtual dating’ ideas, such as virtual coffee or dinner dates, as part of their marketing campaigns. Match Group, the parent company of popular digital dating sites and apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Match and OKCupid, and controlling approximately 60% of the dating app market, saw a 15% increase in new subscribers in their second quarter of 2020, Business Insider reported. This increase saw Match reach a total of 10 million subscribers, 6 million of which belonged to Tinder, who even added a video dating feature in light of the pandemic.
Those who are already in a relationship may find that they are arguing with their significant other more often than usual. Indeed, The New York Times reported: ‘Nearly one in 10 of married or partnered people in the United States say they are very likely to separate from their partner or spouse at least in part because of issues related to the pandemic, according to an Ipsos poll released Aug. 4. The same poll found one in five married or partnered people were fighting more with their significant other during this time, and 30 percent of partnered or married respondents said they’re more annoyed with their partner than usual.’ Those couples who do not live together and who have faced long periods of time apart, may feel disconnected from their partner, lonely, a feeling that they are drifting apart or are unsupported.
Some marriages are sadly coming to an end due to the direct and indirect stressors and pressure placed upon them largely by the COVID-19 pandemic. The BBC recently reported:
‘…divorce applications and break-ups [are] skyrocketing across the UK and around the world. Leading British law firm Stewarts logged a 122% increase in enquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Charity Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for online advice on ending a relationship. In the US, a major legal contract-creation site recently announced a 34% rise in sales of its basic divorce agreement, with newlyweds who’d got married in the previous five months making up 20% of sales. There’s been a similar pattern in China, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the start of the pandemic. The same is true in Sweden, which, until recently, largely relied on voluntary guidelines to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.’
One divorce lawyer, in the BBC report, although noting that divorces regularly occur after couples have spent large amounts of time together, over holiday’s etc, saw an increase in women seeking divorces. She believed that this links with the findings of studies that have shown that during the pandemic, responsibilities such as housework and childcare has disproportionally and unnecessarily fallen on women.
Overall, the pressures of the pandemic have shifted couple dynamics harshly. An increase in mental health problems caused by the pandemic and its restrictions have played a part in the dissolution of many couple’s relationships. Other problems derived from the pandemic fallout, such as financial issues, job losses, even conflicted beliefs on how to handle the crisis and so forth will cause natural pressure in a relationship regardless of a pandemic, yet, here, it is probably amplified. Those who were struggling prior to the pandemic may have had unsolved problems re-surface or worsen. And, even those couples who did not face problems during the pandemic may have found the increased amount of time with the other person, and limited forms of ‘space’, problematic. Even if the relationship is not facing problems, a crisis on such a scale as the COVID-19 pandemic, will cause some people to re-evaluate their priorities and wants, causing a natural parting of the ways between couples.
Ronen Stilman, a psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy, said to the BBC – “more people are finding themselves trapped in a situation where they are struggling to cope with what is going on for them as well as what is going on between them. Like a pressure cooker that does not let any pressure out, the lid can eventually pop and the relationship breaks down.”’