Impact of COVID on Relationships

COVID -19 has affected almost every field of life, and relationships are no different. For some people, pandemics offered more relaxation and family bonding opportunities, improving love relationships, while others faced a hard time keeping relationships alive.

All relationships have their challenges, and no doubt, every type of relationship had shown impacts of COVID-19. However, the most obvious and powerful effects have been noted in love relationships. The pandemic has brought additional stress of different kinds to love relationships. Financial hardships that come with job loss or reduced employment make a person emotionally vulnerable, besides disconnection from friends and family adds further fuel to the fire, hence worsening the situation. These have adversely affected most of the relationships.

What makes COVID-19 different from any other ailment is a storm of unexpected and sudden changes that it brought. Couples at home have suffered from feelings of worry, anxiety, depression, and living in close proximity without having enough space and variety of life. Due to the introduction of social activity restrictions, partners have been one of few people in each other’s social circle. With more focus on relationships, partners may be more critical of each other’s petty issues that they may have ignored in normal circumstances. 

Reduced availability of personal space at home during lockdowns has led to conflicts. Additionally, the partners have to physically distant from each other during the pandemic as a precautionary measure, hence lack of physical and emotional connection has further deteriorated relationships.

Interestingly “chemistry” with someone leads to love. It changes your body’s chemistry too. According to Psychologists, the mental and physical states of love are broken into three independent but overlapping categories.

· Limerence or Infatuation: Love starts with limerence most of the time leading to a step further, the sexual desire.

· Sexual desire: Limerence and sexual desire brings couples together.

· Attachment: Longing or deep bonding for each other keep couples together for ages.

COVID-19, in one way or another, affected all three categories. Lockdowns have reduced dating and meet-up chances; hence, limerence and sexual desires in relationships were not fulfilled. These two had slowly resulted in reducing attachments of couples. 

Love happens less in the heart and more in the brain, contrary to common thinking, or this is how science defines it. Brain chemicals and hormones are triggered in, depending on the category of love, and your body will experience changes in different hormones and neurochemicals. These lead to powerful effects on feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Some of these hormones are,

· Testosterone: It affects sexual desire. 

· Dopamine: It motivates someone to pursue a reward, and some people get so addicted to having a surge of dopamine that leads them to have affairs and serial dating.

· Oxytocin: Also known as ‘love hormone” or “cuddle hormone.” It is associated with empathy, trust, relationship building, and sexual activity. However, it has a role in childbirth and breastfeeding too. Levels of oxytocin increase with physical touch like hugging etc. www.nm.org 

Interestingly dopamine plays a role in mental health, and a drop in its levels can lead to depression and sadness. This is how anything affecting love relationships leads to mental health issues. 

Limerence is a primitive instinct characterized by an increase in dopamine that keeps you motivated. COVID-19, with its uncertainties and stresses, has brought couples and relationships to a monotonous level with a drop in their dopamine levels. Hence relationships are affected at the very first level, keeping new relationships from building and inhibiting the refreshed phase of long-term relationships.

 Many surveys conducted during this pandemic depict its effects on relationships. In many parts of the world, especially China, a surge in the divorce rate was observed last year. The good news is that COVID-19 negatively affected relationships, but positive effects were also reported in many cases. Many couples utilized plenty of time during lockdown positively for refreshing family ties and bonding.

It is understood that relationship issues that have been bubbling could worsen during this time of crisis. However, it’s the need of the hour to realize that crisis time is not suitable for making big decisions, especially family and relationships. We would recommend you reconsider your decision to have a ‘Break up.’ At least try to put off the breakup conversations until your support system with friends, work fellows, and siblings get stronger and revert to normal.

However, if a relationship gets poisoned to the extent beyond recovery, like your partner is physically, verbally, psychologically, or sexually violent, sharing your abuse experience is an important step to get help.

Remember, if you decide to break up in an emotionally vulnerable state, it can bring a range of difficult feelings. However, if break up from a relationship or affair was inevitable, give yourself affair recovery time. You might need some help firstly from your support system. Try to connect to them, if not physically, then virtually through social media. Vent out your feelings in front of them as it will let the storm inside your brain cool and give you some relief.

Take some time out for yourself, do things that you find relaxing or pleasing, like watching a movie, listening to music, meditation, reading, or playing some sport. Keeping yourself busy is another good option that helps to recover from any mental trauma. Plan things, especially on weekends.

If you don’t find anyone in your support system reliable enough, seek some professionals’ help. You can visit Coaching centers or psychologists if depression accompanies you as it helps in affair recovery. Try not to indulge in any recreational drug intake or alcohol to reduce the pain and depression that comes with a breakup. While they might help you temporarily but after-effects leave your feelings much worse.

Consult a professional if the situation is difficult and prolonged. Drug therapy with dopamine would be an option to correct brain imbalances of this neurochemical. However, in most cases, people recover with a support system and psychologist motivational therapy.

COVID-19 might sound hard to cope with; nevertheless, it may highlight the good and not-so-good aspects of your relationship. Reflect on these issues to see if these are the temporary or “tip of an iceberg” unraveled by chance. Work on strategies that can improve you as a person and your relationship before it’s too late.

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