The pandemic has turned so many things on their head – including our love lives.
But now, 13 months in, some couples have found themselves navigating a change in relationship dynamic – one with a lot less heat and a lot more boredom.
‘Having spent the past year on top of each other with little room for personal space, many couples may have experienced a dip in the passion side of their relationship – which, to some extent, is to be expected,’ explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of My Online Therapy.
‘The focus may have fallen to the more practical or functional aspects of living together.’
And it’s only natural when our human instincts have been in survival mode the past year.
However, this loss of emotion and new focus on practicality means some couples are feeling more like housemates, rather than romantic partners.
The good news is that it’s perfectly normal to be experiencing this feeling and there are some reasonable explanations for it…
24/7 company (and its repetition)
Remember when you’d come home from work and actually be excited to see your partner?
Spending time together was a treat and an escape from mundane life.
But the pandemic has blurred those boundaries and stripped away many romantic rituals, such as date nights, weekends away and meals out.
Instead couples have been forced to spend every waking minute of the day with one another – and this is going to have consequences.
‘Feeling suffocated can easily take the heat, spontaneity and romance out of a relationship.’
Even those couples who have enjoyed spending more time with their other halves have found the monotonous nature of lockdown life hard.
She adds: ‘Being around each other constantly will always take its toll on your relationship. It’s easy to slip into bad habits and start making less effort.’
And without being able to enjoy new experiences together, things can become dull, flat and lacking in passion.
Day-to-day life has changed dramatically – so your dynamic will too
Dr Katherine Hertlein adds: ‘The roles that we play in our everyday lives inevitably impact our relationship dynamic.’
Perhaps you were previously both working full time but have since been furloughed? Or maybe you were the primary source of income in your family and now your partner has that responsibility?
‘These kinds of changes take time to get used to, and can have an impact on how your relationship operates,’ Dr Katherine Hertlein adds.
‘Whatever the scenario, a new relationship dynamic will affect how you both feel – you might start to take your resentment out on each other and start behaving less like partners and more like adversaries or squabbling siblings.’
Mental and physical exhaustion
We’ve been battling through lockdowns for more than a year now and, quite frankly, it’s exhausting.
Between the doomscrolling and the health anxiety, it’s been hard to catch a break – lots of people are feeling anything but sexy right now and are too knackered for romance and sex.
Dr Katherine Hertlein says: ‘With everyone under immense pressure and stress in lockdown, lots of us have been left feeling like life is all work and no play.
‘Research has shown that psychological stressors can sometimes be more draining than physical stressors, leaving your body in a constant “fight or flight” mode.
‘This can leave you feeling exhausted by the end of the day, too tired to do anything else but sit and watch TV – never mind spending quality time with your partner, trying to get intimate with them or doing something special for them.
‘The lack of moments of intimacy, spontaneity and surprise can also contribute to the sense that you’re housemates rather than a unified team.’
What to do to get back on track
Carve out ‘me time’
Yes, it sounds counterproductive, but carving out time for yourself is essential.
Dr Katherine Hertlein says: ‘Find a time and quiet place in the house where you can read, sit and think for a few moments and just be alone.
‘Too much social interaction can leave you feeling drained no matter how well you get on with your family or your partner. Try and encourage your partner to do the same for themselves.’
Work in separate rooms
Physically giving yourself space is likely to help things dramatically.
Not only will you have new things to talk about when you reconnect but you might actually start to miss one another.
Dr Katherine Hertlein says: ‘If you both work from home, then work in separate rooms if at all possible.
Eat dinner at the table
After a long day, it’s only natural to want to collapse on a heap on the sofa and zone out with dinner in front of the TV.
But making the effort to sit up at the table, across from your partner, and talking for a short period might bring you both closer together.
Dr Katherine Hertlein says: ‘Just because you’re in your partner’s presence more often than usual, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re talking or spending quality time together any more often than usual.
‘So carving out time in the evening to sit, talk and share a meal can provide an opportunity for you both to pause and properly check in.’
Get outdoors together
‘We all know by now that exercise is good for us. Fresh air and nature are great for our physical and mental health. So going for a walk with your partner – in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening – can provide another opportunity for you to catch up and connect, away from your desks and the four walls of home,’ adds Dr Katherine.
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