Love is an important driver in any relationship. However, during lockdown even the most sturdy, ‘loved up’ couples have experienced problems in their relationship, some are even beyond repair.
Jean Claude – Chalmet, renowned psychotherapist at The Place Retreats explains that:
“While love is important, the truth is love alone isn’t enough. Love is the bond that keeps people committed and hopeful when things aren’t going as well as they’d like. Although love is an important motivator that helps us to do what is required to repair a relationship, there has to be a willingness to do the work on both sides.”
The truth is, once the “honeymoon” period in a relationship is over, most couples realise that to have a successful and fulfilling relationship, it’s going to take a lot of work on both parts.
Lockdown has added another dimension to the challenges experienced by most couples, whether they are isolated together or not.
Recent studies show that 1 in 5 couples who decided to isolate together have admitted that their relationship is “on the rocks”.
Interestingly, 1 in 10 couples who took part in a relationship survey back in April, broke up during isolation, whereas 47% of couples said that being in lockdown had improved their relationship.
According to reports, the “top 3 worst habits” couples noticed about each other during lockdown were:
- Loud snoring
- One partner using up all the hot water
- A partner refusing to wash the dishes or help out with household chores
Spending habits, a lack of cleanliness and differences of opinion also contributed to relationship breakdowns, while 52% of couples admitted that disagreements led to “serious difficulties in their relationship.”
Google searches during self-isolation illustrated that women were questioning their emotions more than men with an astounding 2,500 searches for ‘do I love my boyfriend’ as opposed to 300 searches for ‘do I love my girlfriend’.
Why has Lockdown posed so many challenges for couples?
Mental health disorders have exacerbated tenfold since the Coronavirus pandemic emerged, and this alone hasn’t helped.
Those living with existing mental health issues have experienced an increase in their symptoms, and even people whose mental health was relatively stable, have experienced anxiety and cabin fever to a degree.
People are worried about their health, unemployment, the economy and of course, the future.
Unemployment alone has put a major strain on relationships across the globe with statistics showing that men, for example, who are unemployed are up to 33% more likely to get divorced in comparison to women in the same situation.
The destruction the virus has left on the wedding industry has been phenomenal with weddings being cancelled left, right and centre.
Psychotherapist Jean – Claude Chalmet, explains that:
“Feeling loved, seen and heard are all vital components of having a successful relationship, and that the absence of these essential qualities can spell serious trouble.”
“Replacing communication and warmth with things like distance, loneliness and pent up anger is likely to be the demise of what was once a healthy relationship.”
Chalmet goes on to say that passion and maintaining warmth in a relationship has proved to be a challenge in lockdown but stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy sex life. Trust issues were also prevalent during lockdown with one-quarter of couples admitting that they went down their partners’ phone without the other knowing.
What are the warning signs of a lockdown relationship in trouble?
Every couple will come up against different challenges. But typically, the major ‘red flags’ of a relationship breakdown often include:
- Constant Criticism
- A lack of excitement or passion for the things you once enjoyed
- Feeling disrespected or unheard by your partner
- Constantly arguing over the same thing and withdrawal from the relationship
Relationships cannot go the distance without mutual respect for one another’s feelings and boundaries and lockdown seems to have drawn an invisible red marker around a whole host of relationship issues – particularly for new couples and even those in long-term relationships.
If you feel as though your relationship has any of the above red flags – perhaps it’s time to look into some form of couples therapy to help resolve any long-standing issues.
Psychotherapists emphasise the importance of closeness and intimacy in relationships (particularly in lockdown) and explain that each person must be willing to do the work, as Jean-Claude puts it:
“Couples must be willing to put in their 50% of the relationship ‘dance’ and commit to doing things differently. It just won’t work as well otherwise.”
How can someone tell if a relationship is’ fixable’ or not?
According to relationship experts, a relationship is’ fixable’ so long as both parties are willing to make a commitment to change and are equally willing to be vulnerable.
Essentially, couples need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable as they go through the process of exploring aspects about themselves and their relationship that may have contributed to the breakdown in the first place.
A willingness to be exposed and vulnerable are key aspects in repairing a broken relationship as is taking a leap of faith.
Signs that your relationship is fixable include:
#1. You still work as part of a team
Working together is everything in a relationship, and a willingness to work as part of a team to make the relationship successful is always a positive sign.
Couples who make room for mistakes will inevitably enjoy a more dynamic and equal relationship – one that doesn’t include walking on eggshells or hiding things from their significant other.
#2. You both want the relationship to work
This shows that you are both willing to put in the time and effort required to make the relationship work. The fact that you are both on the same page means that you are far more likely to go the distance and do whatever it takes to make the relationship a success.
#3. You still love one another
They say love conquers all, and to a degree they were right! Without the foundations of love, it is pointless trying to salvage a broken relationship. Love, after all, is the premise on which a solid relationship is built – without it there is nothing.
#4. You are both willing to take responsibility
The blame game can only go so far before it ends in either separation or divorce. Therefore, it’s important that two people in a relationship are willing to take half of the responsibility by confronting their mistakes and owning them.
It takes two to tango; it also takes two to make something work (or not as the case may be). Both parties must be willing to take ownership of where they went wrong, all of which are vital aspects of healing a broken relationship.
#5. You accept your partner for who they are
Accepting our partner’s flaws is a key element to enjoying a long-term relationship. Being able to accept each other’s limitations and idiosyncrasies without judgement will likely lead to a more harmonious and balanced relationship.
What are the signs that a relationship is irreparable?
It’s an unfortunate reality that not every relationship is going to work out. For many couples, an ‘unfixable’ relationship isn’t necessarily down to a lack of love, but rather a breakdown in communication and hurt pride.
Here are several signs that your relationship is no longer repairable:
- Continuous abuse (verbal, physical, emotional and mental)
- Constant cheating
- Sleeping in separate rooms
- A serious lack of respect for one another
- Constantly arguing with no resolve
- Your feelings and connection to one another have dissipated
What makes a relationship ‘unfixable’ according to experts, is when two people are no longer willing or able to commit to one another and make the relationship work. Add lockdown into the mix, and the challenge becomes just as intense.
The unprecedented lockdown period has resulted in a ‘make’ or ‘break’ scenario for many couples either because of the strain of a long-distance relationship or due to “living in each other’s pockets.”
A Relate poll found that 23% of adults in relationships experienced relationship pressures during lockdown with research suggesting that people aged between 16-34 felt the most strain.
It’s a challenge to keep the cogs of a relationship spinning in the right direction even when times are ‘normal’. Therefore, it’s important for couples to acknowledge the pressures that come with lockdown so that they are prepared for any challenges that are likely to arise in the future.
What you can do if you think your relationship is broken
There are several steps you can take to repair a broken relationship, such as:
- Journaling: Writing our thoughts down on paper often plays a huge role in helping us to compartmentalise our emotions and stay grounded.
- Letting go of resentment and anger: This is not only good for the relationship but also contributes to emotional wellness, a key component to good mental health.
- Apologise: Saying “sorry” when we are in the wrong has never been easy, but it eventually leads to happier, harmonious relationships where both parties feel respected and loved.
- Building happy memories together: Having fun and enjoying one another is part and parcel of a healthy relationship, so why not try out a new activity or go on that short trip you’ve been talking about for a while?
- Seeking the help of a professional: Lockdown hasn’t been easy on anyone, and reaching out to a professional who can help navigate and explore where your relationship went wrong and how to go about fixing it, can only be a good thing. Couples Therapy is extremely beneficial for those willing to heal and move forward with their relationship.
“If both parties are willing and committed, explains Jean – Claude Chalmet, then it’s likely that a relationship will survive.”
Healing involves examining past patterns, including early attachments, how they were formed and the coping mechanisms an individual adopted during childhood.