During the pandemic, I felt like everything had changed for the worse. But one thing has improved: our relationships.
Frankly, no one saw it coming. At the start of the pandemic, as lockdowns limited our movement and left couples spending unprecedented time together, many believed divorce and fighting would skyrocket. The melting pot of closeness seemed destined to destroy relationships.
Certainly, the dramatic change in daily life was stressful, especially for couples who reported suffering from social isolation and financial hardship. In a Monmouth University survey of 556 Americans conducted at the start of the pandemic, 26% of participants felt their relationship increased their daily stress levels. For those whose relationship already had some cracks, the pandemic has made matters worse. But those who already had strong relationships with responsive partners felt more connected to their partner and reported a better quality of relationship.
The share of married people reporting that their marriage is in difficulty has risen from 40% in 2019 to 29% in 2020
According to the American Family Survey 2020, an annual survey of 3,000 adults conducted by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, the share of married people reporting their marriage is in trouble rose from 40 % in 2019 to 29%. in 2020. Among married men and women between the ages of 18 and 55, 58% said the pandemic had made them appreciate their spouse more, and 51% said their engagement in marriage had deepened.
While early reports suggested the pandemic would cause an increase in divorces, initial state data from 2020 suggests divorce rates have fallen, to 21% in Missouri and 36% in New Hampshire. . New marriages also fell in 2020, perhaps because couples waited until they had a wedding until they could celebrate with friends and family.
There is more good news. A January 2021 Monmouth University poll found that among those who are currently in a romantic relationship, 7 in 10 are extremely satisfied, up more than 10 points from previous polls. Only 10% of those polled thought the pandemic caused arguments more often, while 16% said they quarreled less often. Considering what we went through last year, this is remarkable. Experiences that were supposed to destroy relationships made them stronger.
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Tons of social psychology research shows that we like things more when we have to work for them. A 2014 study published in the journal Family Relations examined 795 couples in their first marriage, finding that their relationship satisfaction was higher and that they were less prone to divorce when both partners spent more time and energy and took steps to improve their relationship.
The enormous effort it took for couples to manage over the past year has made their bond stronger. In fact, nearly one in three respondents to the Monmouth poll believed their relationship had improved, and more than half said it had not changed – a great achievement given the circumstances. Only 12% believed their relationship had deteriorated.
As we eagerly await the return to normalcy of life, it is natural to wonder what this means for our relationships. Transitions bring changes, which can be difficult, but they also provide couples with a new challenge that they can overcome together. While struggles may seem less desirable than a smooth and easy return to what they used to be, unfamiliar and trying experiences can help individuals grow, often improving the quality of a relationship.
Confronting challenges together can be frustrating for a couple, but the experience can enhance their feelings of passion, closeness, and commitment. During the pandemic, as couples stood up to take on every new challenge, from finding toilet paper to making masks to vaccination, it made them stronger and better prepared for the next challenge.
This suggests that there is unlikely to be a wave of post-pandemic divorce. Half of the couples surveyed expected their relationship to emerge stronger from the pandemic. We too easily forget that our relationships are surprisingly resilient. Couples who have been married for 50 years have not succeeded in avoiding hardship. Rather, they rose to the challenges and endured in spite of themselves, strengthening their bond along the way.
Couples aren’t eager to return to the status quo of taking their relationship for granted.
Much like employees who don’t want to go back to their long commutes, cramped cubicles, and stuffy meeting rooms, couples aren’t eager to return to the status quo of taking their relationship for granted. Now that they understand the importance of spending quality time together and building on each other, the value of strong relationships has never been more evident.
For those who are still looking for a partner, I think the experience of the pandemic will change their priorities. Rather than approaching dating as a game that emphasizes fun and casual, short-term relationships, people will want a stable, committed, and reliable partner with whom they want to develop a relationship. In the future, the search for a partner will favor quality over quantity, the substantial over the superficial.
According to OkCupid data in April 2020, after the first weeks of lockdown, there was “a 5% increase in OkCupid users looking for long-term relationships and a 20% decrease in users looking for long-term relationships. search for connections “. Likewise, the data of Match.com‘s
A survey of singles in America of 5,000 people, conducted in August 2020, found that the pandemic has led daters to “slow down and turn to actions that have been shown to support longer-term engagement.” with 6 in 10 saying they planned to spend more time getting to know their partner. Other strategies included focusing less on physical attractiveness and more on having meaningful conversations, and being more “intentional” about dating. As the survey reports, “53% of app users now prioritize their search for a relationship more than before the pandemic.”
Too often, relationship predictions cynically focus on catastrophic scenarios. It sets couples up for failure by making them notice what is wrong and ignore what is right. The point is, our relationships are stronger than we think. Love finds a way to meet life’s challenges and help us persevere.
-Dr. Lewandowski is a professor of psychology at Monmouth University and author of “Stronger Than You Think: Ten Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship and How To See Them Beyond”.
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