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New guidance published to support intimate relationships during lockdowns

22 December 2020

The BPS has published new guidance to help those in relationships, and single people looking for new connections, to cope with the effects of lockdowns and restrictions on personal, intimate and sexual relationships.

This guidance, written by the Division of Clinical Psychology's Faculty for HIV and Sexual Health, includes tips and advice for people who are in a relationship, or actively seeking new connections. 

A survey commissioned by the BPS into relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic, surprisingly showed that 87% of people in a relationship said they have enjoyed the time they’ve spent with their partner since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK (March 2020), with 84% saying they have felt supported by their partner, and 79% saying they have felt emotionally connected.

86% of people said they are looking forward to spending the Christmas period with their partner.

The YouGov survey of 2,100 adults in the UK, undertaken prior to Saturday’s announcement on new Covid-19 restrictions over the festive period, revealed a surprisingly positive snapshot into relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic, and indicates that despite the unique challenges relationships have faced, many couples have been able to weather the storm together.

Perhaps less surprisingly, the results show that single people looking for a relationship during the pandemic have struggled, with 79% saying they hadn’t found it easy to meet new people since lockdown started, and 90% saying they had experienced loneliness. 

The survey also found that, among those in a relationship, more than one quarter (27%) said they have experienced feelings of loneliness in their relationship with their partner since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK, and just over half (53%) said they had felt sexually connected with their partner.

Dr Sarah Rutter, BPS chartered clinical psychologist and lead author of the guidance said,

“It’s genuinely heart-warming to see how connected and supported by their partners people have felt as they’ve faced the challenges of the pandemic together.

During times of difficulty, it’s not uncommon to learn new things about ourselves or a partner, or see hidden strengths come to the fore.

The pandemic may have presented us with an opportunity to slow down and take the time to think about the relationships that are most important to us.

At this time of year it’s common for us to see advice about how to ‘survive’ the festive period as a couple and navigate the occasional tensions of family get-togethers.

This year the difference couldn’t be more stark, with intimate relationships really coming to the forefront of our personal support networks. 

Equally, there’s no doubt that it’s also been a very challenging time for people who are single and looking for new connections, whose love life may have felt ‘on hold’ since March.

The new restrictions introduced yesterday will undoubtedly hit single people who are looking for a new relationship very hard

It’s hugely important to recognise that these survey results don’t give us the full picture and there is no doubt that some will have struggled with their relationships, particularly during a time of such change and stress.

The festive period can be a strain on relationships in any year, and Christmas 2020 could be particularly challenging, with restrictions placing unique demands upon us.”

The findings of this survey offer a small snapshot of the UK’s relationship experiences since the start of the UK lockdown and victims of domestic abuse may have been suffering in silence.

It’s vital that people experiencing domestic abuse urgently receive the support they need.   

If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

Alternatively, contact the helplines below. 

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