Is the Pandemic Prolonging Your Relationship?

How social distancing is changing our relationships.

Posted Sep 30, 2020

wavebreakmedia/shutterstock
Source: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

There is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted relationships in ways that have surprised many people. When faced with significant life shifts in a short amount of time, many people are reminded of the fleeting nature of life. This can prompt reflection about the relationships that truly matter and are meaningful in their life. Consequently, it may not be unusual for some people to find themselves letting go of friendships or relationships that they no longer find fulfilling. Some couples may find during this time that the pandemic and resulting stressors have brought up realizations about the relationship that they may have otherwise ignored or distracted themselves from, which can lead to the decision to break up.  

What about the opposite side of this equation? What if you were dissatisfied with your relationship before the pandemic and were strongly considering ending it or you’ve come to this realization recently but feel constricted due to the circumstances? Many people are feeling the weight of loneliness due to social isolation and not having access to the usual outlets, hobbies, and social support systems that they typically would. 

Humans have an innate need to connect to others and a crisis, such as this pandemic, can heighten this need. Research has demonstrated that in times of high stress, people’s bonds with one another can be strengthened. The world we once knew has rapidly shifted and in such times of upheaval, people typically crave the stability and comfort of what is familiar rather than the unknown. 

Those who feel lonely and have limited access to their typical social support systems may find themselves tolerating more dissatisfaction than they typically would in a relationship due to not wanting to be alone. If you’re experiencing some concerns about your relationship but aren’t sure whether you want to remain in it, consider reflecting about the following questions: 

  • How will I feel if I remain with this person in a year from now and everything stays the same? 
  • Which of my needs are being met in this relationship?
  • Which of my needs are not being met in this relationship?
  • If the pandemic wasn’t occurring, would I still be with this person? 
  • Is my partner my main source of social support right now? 
  • What are the reasons I am choosing to remain in this relationship? 
  • If I discussed my concerns with my partner and they were receptive to working on the relationship, would I want to remain in the relationship or end it?

You may need time to reflect on these questions and sit with them before getting more clarity, particularly if you are dealing with multiple stressors during this time. Alternatively, you may know the answers to these questions already but not feel ready to face them yet. When you’re ready and open to being honest with yourself about the answers, you can gain more insight about the decision that is best for you.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition or well-being.  

References

Dawans, B. V., Fischbacher, U., Kirschbaum, C., Fehr, E., & Heinrichs, M. (2012). The Social Dimension of Stress Reactivity. Psychological Science, 23(6), 651–660. doi: 10.1177/0956797611431576