In Times of COVID-19, Happy Couples Are Doing These 5 Things

A new study offers tips on how to make your relationship thrive during COVID-19.

Posted Jan 14, 2021 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

 Daniel Naczk/Wikimedia Commons
Source: Daniel Naczk/Wikimedia Commons

A new report 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.

But that doesn’t mean couples aren’t rising to the challenge.

Surveying over 1,700 U.S. adults who are or have been in long-term romantic relationships, the researchers found that 41 percent of people report that their relationship is better now than before COVID-19 while only 30 percent 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 Lesley Eccles, founder and CEO of Relish. “Couples who have survived 2020 intact report relationships that are happier than ever. As one participant in our study put it, ‘you can’t make a diamond without a little pressure.’”

What seems to be working for the 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

Alternatively, couples that have experienced the most difficulty during the pandemic report behaviors such as:

  • Doing nothing
  • Over-focusing on the kids
  • Spending large amounts of time alone
  • Connecting with old friends to the point that interferes with family responsibilities

These results mesh well with another recent study published in the journal 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.

Bright spots notwithstanding, the challenges facing couples as a result of the pandemic are still grave. According to Relish’s data, 68 percent of people who broke up this year believe it might have been due to COVID-19. They also report that:

  • Couples are having 15 percent less sex since the pandemic began
  • 54 percent believe that their partner’s use of his or her mobile phone, which has increased during the pandemic, has negatively affected their relationship
  • Significantly more couples are considering divorce or breaking up now as compared to pre-COVID-19

And this is not to mention the non-relationship strains that couples are dealing with. According to the data, 41 percent of working mothers have either quit their jobs, considered quitting, or asked for less responsibility at work. Furthermore, nearly 20 percent of working parents reported not having access to adequate child care, twice as many as before the pandemic. Financial stress is a continuing concern, with over 45 percent of people reporting a significant loss in income as a result of the pandemic—as is individuals’ own mental health (58 percent of people reported elevated stress, anxiety, and/or depressive symptoms).

“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.”