The pseudoscientific formula that explains most human bonds is basically time + affection + togetherness = relationship. So what happens to people and their networking when two of the key elements – time and togetherness – are removed or reinforced? Can digital communication replace person-to-person contact? How do couples deal with stressful events they have never experienced before? This is the focus of a series of studies published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, which has several special issues devoted to relationships in times of COVID-19.
“When COVID arrived, I realized that … it would be really important for us to give relationship science a space to present its work,” says Pamela Lannutti, the dDirector of the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and one of the editors of the series. So the journal called on researchers who had begun to research what relationships were like under these unique circumstances, and the studies poured in.
Some of the results were obvious: health workers needed supportive spouses during this time, digital communication with friends helped with loneliness, and college couples dating broke up when they couldn’t see each other. Others were a little more surprising. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Gender roles in the household were defined more, not less.
A New Zealand study found that each partner in heterosexual relationships had to take on more household responsibilities during home-based and closed-schooling measures. But women took in a lot more. While both men and women realized that the situation was unbalanced, it only led to relationship dissatisfaction among the women unless the men did a lot of childcare. That is, the men could see that the load was being carried unevenly, but they did not mind. “There is definitely a shift back to traditional gender roles in ways that may not have existed before COVID,” says Lannutti. “Here is something that has come and shaken society up in this really unexpected and very quick way. And yet these gender roles were so powerful. “
Contrary to expectations, lonely singles did not settle down.
In a multinational survey of nearly 700 single people, most of them female, a group of researchers from around the world found that single people are more interested in finding a partner when they are more concerned about COVID-19. The researchers expected that single people would lower their standards given the circumstances. They have not. Not even about looks. “THey still interested about physical attractiveness, “says the magazine’s co-editor Jennifer Bevan, professor of communication at Chapman University in Orange, California,” what I found it so interesting Element.”
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People who don’t like video chat just kept meeting in person.
Video gathering began in the early days of lockdown as workplaces and families quickly had to adjust to meetings via Zoom, Google Meetings, blue jeans, or other digital platforms. A University of Utah study found that those who had difficulty adjusting to this form of communication were more likely to violate social distancing protocols and requests to avoid gatherings to see other people. “The need for connection overrides what is happening right now, which is a scary thought,” says Bevan. “How can we somehow override the need for a connection? I know it’s really difficult. “
Same-sex couples who avoid arguments were less happy than those who voiced their complaints.
In a study of LGBTQ couples, those who didn’t complain about their relationships when something was wrong had less satisfying relationships, suffered more anxiety and depression, and relied more on drug use during COVID-19. Their dissatisfaction with their relationships was also worse if they were colored or had more internalized homophobia. The researchers found that because of the pandemic, a fifth of study participants had chosen to move in together – which paradoxically made them less anxious while also making the relationship less stable. “We encourage same-sex couples to actively discuss their move decisions,” suggested the researchers, “instead of rushing to live together without adequate consideration.”
When people can’t meet in person, even fictional characters and celebrities feel like friends.
The lockdown proved to be a rush hour for what researchers call “parasocial relationships,” that is, relationships with people you don’t know but with whom you bond. Isolation and direct access to celebrities through both social media and streaming platforms have made many people much more attentive to their favorite celebrities. The study found that over the course of the social distancing efforts, people had stable relationships with friends but felt much closer to the celebrities they followed. The editors hypothesized that this proximity might be due in part to the fact that people at home were consuming much more content on their personal devices. “Itis not the same as going to one See the arena and the concert. They’re at home, ”says Bevan, recognizing Taylor Swift helped her get through some tough days. “It makes this experience is very different. ”These can be famous people or even fictional characters.
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These 5 more resilient habits seemed to help couples move on.
“One problem that many couples may face in times of need or crisis is relational insecurity – that is, they are not sure how committed they or their partners are or where the relationship is going,” says Helen Lillie, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Utah. According to the School of Relationship Science known as Communication Theory of Resilience, couples who focus on five habits can get through tough times more easily. The five techniques are: maintaining some semblance of normalcy with your routines, speaking to your spouse and compassionate others about your worries, reminding yourself who you are and what you believe, your situation in a more positive or otherwise reshaping and focusing on how good things will be when the crisis is over. Lillie’s study interviewed 561 people to determine whether couples who used these strategies got along better with their partners during the pandemic and found that they did. The study also found that humor helped couples cope with lockdown, although it didn’t always improve couple communication.