Covid-19 crisis love: What the experts say
“In moments of fear and panic, we grab onto the safest, most-available-for-intimacy person around us”
The coronavirus crisis is putting all our relationships to the test, from home-working couples juggling emails and childcare to unattached friends trying to offer mutual support remotely, at a time when many without partners feel more single than ever.
But some have really thrown themselves in at the deep end and are navigating the “new normal” with people they’ve never previously lived with or have only just met. Some have called the trend “corona cuffing”, others are dubbing these couples “coronnials”.
While the global Covid-19 pandemic is unique, it’s not unusual for new couples to form or stick together in crisis situations, explains Matt Lundquist, a relationship psychotherapist based in New York. “In moments of fear and panic, we grab onto the safest, most-available-for-intimacy person around us,” he says, adding that he observed a similar phenomenon after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
For those already in flourishing new relationships, cohabitation under these circumstances may heighten emotions and increase their connection, he argues. Others, however, may be “in denial” about their true feelings, having settled for “someone they knew under normal circumstances they shouldn't have gone on a fourth date with”.
But Lundquist believes shacking up with an unsuitable long-term partner isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the current climate.
“I think for many, isolation is pretty terrifying... so everybody needs to do what they need to do to get through this,” he says. “A lot of therapists are needing to contradict what under normal circumstances would be good advice like avoiding getting into a relationship too quickly or dating somebody who perhaps follows an old unhealthy pattern, and instead make concessions to help people find as much safety as they can to survive.”
Creating routines and rituals is the best way to establish a new normal and avoid conflict – Rebecca Morley
Whether you’ve gone into lockdown with a partner or you’re simply sharing your home with a friend or relative you’re not used to spending so much time with, “creating routines and rituals” is the best way to establish “a new normal” and avoid conflict, adds business and life coach Rebecca Morley.
She advises couples who are co-working from home to break up their days and weeks with shared activities, such as always having an afternoon coffee together or starting a weekend hobby. “It means you don’t have to keep making decisions, so it takes away a bit of the emotional load and allows you to take things one step at a time.”
Lundquist says it’s also important for couples to weigh up potential exit strategies in case things go wrong. “From a virology perspective, what we want everybody to be doing is to be as locked down as they can and staying in place. But if a situation with a partner becomes unsafe, if this person is really abusive or manipulative, you’ve got to get out of there.”
When the crisis is over he, like many observers, predicts a boom in separations and divorces. But he hopes that neither those who find themselves newly single nor people who’ve been craving intimacy in solo lockdowns will latch on to the first person they meet.
“Under more ‘normal’ circumstances – whatever that word means – I don't want folks to settle. I want people to do the work to grow and develop and find a path towards a really healthy partner.”