‘To not killing each other!’
This was the toast my husband and I made this week when our daughter went back into class following summer holiday ennui, home schooling and pandemic pandemonium.
Our irritating foibles never saw us become a divorce statistic — Citizens Advice reported a rise in views on its divorce web page on the first September weekend up 25% compared with the same date in 2019 — but I knew I annoyed my husband, whose answers to my questions would be one word and terse.
The more he pulled back, the more I foisted superfluous lines of enquiry on him.
‘The pandemic created massive strains on our relationships,’ says Dr Elle Boag, a social psychologist at Birmingham City University who is researching Covid lockdown and its impact on romantic relationships. ‘It was like a war but we were fighting from the inside.
‘The pandemic was like being under a magnifying glass. All your little foibles, things that might once have been cute, suddenly became really irritating. Things we tolerate can become intolerable when you have no escape from them.’
With pandemic rules relaxed and no kids at home, now is the time to take stock.
‘We should all know by now that desire in long-term relationships thrives on being able to keep your sense of individuality alive,’ says Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn.
Mairead Molloy, Global Director at Berkeley International dating agency, adds that ‘too much phone time, lack of sex and feelings of boredom or being fed up’ are also signs your relationship needs some TLC.
So if that’s you, what do you do?
Five ways to pep up long-term relationships post-lockdown
Get dressed up and go on a date.
‘But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave the house,’ says Ruby Payne, relationship expert at Uberkinky.
‘For some people, that’s easier said than done — not every parent is privileged to have childcare on demand.
‘Try a movie night at home, order from a new takeaway, do a “blackout” night where there are no electronic devices, go wild with a brand-new hobby together, or try something fresh and kinky in the bedroom.’
Be mindful of how much you talk about your children to each other
‘Adults need to have their own time,’ says Mairead Molloy, global director at Berkeley International dating agency. ‘If not, you feel you are losing your identity and this has knock-on effects in the marriage.’
Give them space: suggest they go out with friends, have a relaxing treatment, spend time reading…
‘It sounds counter-productive but space is so important in a relationship,’ explains Payne. ‘Not only is it extremely healthy, it also keeps an element of freshness to things.
‘Don’t get lost in your partner and relationship. Space to do your own thing and pursue your own interests will help to maintain your sense of identity, and foster independence instead of neediness and clingy tendencies.
‘Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And it also gives you more to talk about on your date nights.’
Look your best
After a year of sinking into loungewear, comfort eating and DIY haircuts, it’s time to embrace pride in appearances.
‘Most of us judge people by their appearance and your appearance shows if you’ve made an effort,’ says Alex Mellor-Brook, dating expert at Select Services matchmaking. ‘It highlights to the other person how important they are because of the time and effort made.’
Embrace the new
‘Put a note in your diary every week to do something novel, fun and exciting,’ says Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn. ‘Ban the usual topics of conversation (yes, that means the kids) and turn your phones off for at least a few hours.
‘By being more present and getting out of your routine, you may well find that you still actually fancy your other half!’
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