Anyone else hankering after their PC (pre-Covid) love life, when relationships seemed so straightforward?
A time when you could savour a clinch without having to mentally weigh up whether you’ve both antibacc-ed enough after Asda, or revel in a saucy tryst without someone shouting a quadratic equation at you from the next room.
Relationships are complex, and they can be hard to navigate at the best of times. But in this brave new quarantined world we find ourselves in, how do we make sure we’re fanning erotic sparks, and not angry flames.
By 6pm most days many of us (me included) have crumpled into the sofa, blank-staring into a ‘medicinal’ dose of Merlot.
A mix of homeschooling, managing an ever increasing apocalypse-anxiety and keeping work going is tough enough. Add to that being thrown together 24/7, with barely an hour’s escape, it’s no wonder that love in lockdown can be testing.
Cheating sites tell one side of the story, with Illicit Encounters recording an 18% rise in activity from men, and a 12% rise from women since the pandemic hit. These figures may represent a small slice of us, but Covid cabin fever, and its impact on our relationships, is real.
So how do we cope with the pressure-cooker of ‘condensed coupling’? Are you desperate to find the time (and quite frankly energy) for some sauciness? Or are you locked down in a less-than-happy hookup and need to find ways to get through?
Muddy talked to 3 experts in intimacy – a TV doctor, one of the UK’s leading psychotherapists and a certified New York Sexologist (err, cool job alert) for the lowdown on spicing up, or just surviving, love in lockdown.
ONE/ Dr Dawn Harper, an author and medic, is the TV doctor expert for Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, Born Naughty and This Morning.
Missing the intimacy
She says: “If you and your partner used to snatch secret moments together when the kids were out and are now finding that there is just no privacy, it’s important to remember this won’t go on forever.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s good for young people to see their parents being affectionate, so whilst you may not want them to watch you swinging from the chandelier, a cuddle on the sofa is a good thing.
“Be prepared to get some mocking if your kids are teenagers though! It is important to remember that as parents there are two intricately entwined relationships that go on in your family – your relationship with your partner and your relationship with your family.
“Families that stay together somehow find the right balance of nurturing both relationships. If your children are old enough, think about spending some of your one piece of exercise a day together as a couple. Perhaps take up a new hobby together – the list of online offerings is endless.
“And talking to each other is key. Explain to your partner about how you feel and explore new ways of showing each other that you care. A little note on the pillow to be found as a surprise can mean the world.
“Libido is complex and it is normal to notice a drop in your sex drive in times of emotional stress like this. The good news is that we won’t be in this situation forever and a reduced libido related to financial pressure or the stress of lockdown will bounce back as restrictions are lifted.
“It can be a problem for couples who find their sex drive is affected differently. If one partner has maintained a higher libido, they can end up feeling rejected if the other half has simply lost interest. Sadly you can’t flip a switch, but if you are the one most affected, try to talk to your other half about how you feel and that of course you still love him or her. It is vital for your relationship that both parties feel loved and never more so than through this crisis.
“For a relationship to work, both parties need to feel loved, valued and respected – something we all need more of right now with the stresses of Covid. If you can, try to do something to make your partner smile everyday and you will come out of this time with a stronger relationship.”
Dealing with an unhappy relationship
“Some people were living in less than perfect relationships before lockdown and having to spend weeks in each other’s undiluted company may be causing frictions.
“It is well known in the divorce world that January can be a busy time when couples who usually live relatively separate lives are forced into days of long hours spent with each other, and sadly, it is inevitable that we may see a spike in divorces as we come out of this crisis.
“If you find yourself in this sort of scenario, please try to talk to each other. If you have space perhaps allocate a bedroom, or dining room where an individual can go if they want some time on their own. Perhaps explore the option of exercising at different times of the day. Make a list of the things that irritate you about each other and try to work out small steps that you could both take to make life easier for you.
“Try planning who will watch the TV and when, avoiding flashpoints. If you know your other half will be glued to a particular show at a given time, then plan ahead on doing something different at that time.
“Try to break up each part of the day up so that you both have some space and make sure you keep in touch with people you would normally rely on for your emotional support.”
TWO /Nick Davies is a leading UK Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist www.ndhypnotherapy.com
Finding the space to be intimate
He says: “During lockdown it can feel like your whole world is closing in, and maybe you feel you can’t find the space away from your children or others you cohabit with to get some quality ‘alone time’ with your partner. But there are ways we can change the way we think about quarantine.
“Remember going on holiday where you managed to find enough time to steal those intimate moments despite living on top of each other in one room?
“Well, that was because you associate holidays with fun and your expectations were that you’d be living in a small space and had to spend lots of time by the pool or on the beach. But you don’t need either!
“Take some time out for yourself, close your eyes and imagine you’re on an imaginary holiday in lockdown. Make some changes to your bedroom to make it different and more romantic or holiday-like. Have fun with it.
“When you change the things you see, hear, feel, smell and taste your brain can change what is familiar into something exciting.
“Change the bed covers, play some romantic music that reminds you of a holiday and light some scented candles, ramp things up a bit by dimming the lights and starting with a holiday-type meal with candles and vacation-style talks.
“The more creative you both can be the richer and better experiences you’ll have. Playing a bit of make-believe can be vital at the moment for relationships.
Don’t want to be intimate?
“During these testing times, your partner’s small habits and mannerisms can really take their toll and wind up even the most patient among us. So what can you do?
“Communication is key. Make sure your partner is relaxed before you talk to them so the messages can be received as you intended. Explain to them how you are feeling, and even that you love them and want things to work (if that is the case) but for that to happen you need some space in order to allow the relationship to ‘breathe’.
“Pick one room that you can both use separately to relax in, whoever uses the room is allowed to relax there for 20, 30 or 60 minutes undisturbed. Just taking this time out once every day can give you both the breathing space you need to get through.”
THREE/ Megwyn White, a Certified Clinical Sexologist and Director of Education at Satisfyer in New York gives us her tips.
Lusting after lockdown love
“Intimacy during this time can feel like it’s difficult to maintain, but there are lots of ways to have a healthy sex life still. If it’s a realistic scenario (ie, without children around!), think about utilising spaces in your house where you wouldn’t normally. Different rooms, like the shower or bathroom, can be very sensual spaces.
“Send your partner sexy voice memos during the day, when they least expect it, so that they can feel the closeness of being with you. Good sex stems from a sense of togetherness. Voice memos are exciting to receive and get the juices flowing for later while also helping to build the energy of desire between you and your partner.
“If you do have kids at home work around the family’s natural sleep patterns to connect physically with each other. But take the pressure off ‘having to’ be intimate, instead take time to touch or stroke each other when you are watching TV or having dinner for example.
“See lockdown not as having to have sex all the time (as this may be impossible right now), but as a great chance to nurture your connection and sexual appetites. If you do, it’s likely your sex life will be stronger when we come out of this period.”
For lockdowners in a love-lite relationship
“Intimacy often begins with feeling emotionally connected with your partner. If you find that you don’t have the desire to be intimate it could be that you are feeling resentful of seeing your partner all the time, or perhaps cracks were appearing pre-lockdown. When we experience overwhelm we often contract inwards, and are unable to share.
“Try spending the moment before you go to sleep as a
way of appreciating small wins, and highlight moments that you can share with your partner. Take turns, and choose three each to talk about.
“This type of activity will help you experience the day in a different way, and help to repattern your mind to see the positive. It can also allow you a window into your lover that you wouldn’t have seen before.
“If you do want to try and revive your relationship, try playing a board game together – a bit of friendly competition with play in the mix can ease tension sometimes, get you out of your head, and allow you to see your partner at a distance.
“Focusing problem-solving skills on something we can alter, rather than something as overwhelmingly out of our control like the pandemic, can be a good way to defuse a difficult situation.”
And finally, our six-step Muddy checklist to relationship resilience in lockdown…
- Accept these circumstances are going to be testing
- Try to put big arguments on hold
- Don’t make assumptions about how your partner feels
- Ensure it’s not all homeschool or WFH – set aside time for each other every day
- Keep communicating
- Don’t be afraid to seek advice or get professional help (lots available online)