Cohabiting couples now fear separation anxiety as restrictions ease

Couples have become used to be spending all day everyday together (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

You can never have too much of a good thing… or can you?

Though some couples will be pleased to have some space from their significant other, a study has found that a quarter are worried they will experience separation anxiety as life gets back to normal.

While lockdown provided the perfect set-up for arguments and increased irritation, it also gave couples time to form deeper bonds and get more used to each other’s company.

68% of cohabiting adults were found to have ‘adored’ spending more time with their other half over the last year, according to research by wearable technology brand Bond Touch.

As a result, 24% of people are now concerned they may go through some degree of separation anxiety, which is a disorder characterised by feeling distress when away from loved ones.

Pets can experience this, as can babies.

Going from being able to touch and spend quality time together throughout the day to suddenly ‘losing’ that has an impact on the feel-good hormones a person is experiencing, so it makes sense psychologically that this difference will be felt.

The study found that men and women are equally worried about their partners in this way.

More than a fifth are dreading time spent apart from their partners while 23% admitted to feelings of jealousy around seeing their partner spend more time with friends, rather than alone together.

Essentially, cohabiting couples have grown used to receiving their partner’s attention in a far less divided way when compared to pre-pandemic life – and now that’s about to shift again.

Change is always at least a little daunting, especially when the change involves feeling less close.

In the last year, couples have seemingly become more open and loving – 21% have told their partner they love them more over the past year and almost half still want to spend all of their spare time together.

And 60% believe living in each other’s company throughout lockdown confirmed how perfect they are for each other.

As well as doing literal things together, like taking walks, couples have given each other more emotionally too, as 23% say they share their problems more openly now.

For those in happy circumstances, lockdown was an unexpected relationship strengthener.

Top 10 things couples have been doing more of together

  • Walks – 46%
  • Talking – 40%
  • Eating lunch together – 37%
  • Watching box sets – 37%
  • Gardening – 32%
  • Being able to help each other – 30%
  • Lie-ins together – 24%
  • Waking up together each morning – 24%
  • Doing DIY – 23%
  • Sharing problems – 23%

If this feeling resonates, Bond Touch ambassador and relationship coach, Sam Owen has tips for ‘uncoupling’ after post-lockdown.

Just as people adjusted to all the time spent together, it’s possible to happily adjust to more separation.

Schedule daily time in together

Make plans so that during the times apart you’re in the safe knowledge of there being something ahead to do together.

‘Reconnecting and reassuring are key phrases to help you transition from so much togetherness to a distance that makes the heart grow fonder,’ Sam says.

‘Knowing you will reconnect each day gives you something to look forward to and can ease anxiety if you’re feeling adrift from one another.’

Spontaneously let your partner know that you’re thinking of them

We all love to know we’re being thought of, especially when there’s anxiety at play.

Sam says: ‘To go from working at home to suddenly no coffee breaks together and no touching and kissing throughout the day, may feel like a shock to the system.

‘Suddenly there are less feel-good chemicals being released such as oxytocin and serotonin due to the reduced physical contact. So instead, reinforce the bond from afar by randomly phoning, or sending a loving gif or emoji.’

Do fun, new stuff together, not just with others

In the rush to make plans with friends, don’t forget your partner.

‘Take advantage of restrictions being lifted and also ensure your partner feels that you are having fun with them too, not just with those you haven’t seen much,’ Sam advises.

‘Research finds that when long-term couples engage in self-expanding, new activities together that they haven’t experienced before, they increase desire for one another and also experience general relationship satisfaction, which is sustained over time.’

Eat dinner together if you can, to break up the time spent apart

Find a new routine in day-to-day activities to establish a sense of togetherness.

Sam says: ‘Having dinner together is a great way of reconnecting. It gives you a good amount of time to catch up with each other to build emotional intimacy.

‘It also means you are apart in shorter chunks of time rather than only reconnecting at bedtime.

‘Reassured and relaxed, you can then go off and do your own thing such as having me-time and socialising with friends.’

Go to bed together if you can

Research shows that physical intimacy among married and cohabiting couples results in more relationship satisfaction, better couple communication and less couple conflict.

‘Bed time together provides another way to make up for the sudden loss of daytime connection,’ Sam explains.

‘Couples are more likely to engage in physical intimacy at bedtime, and whilst you probably realise it makes you feel more bonded as a result, studies also find this to be true.

Share the love

While you don’t need to declare your love on the daily for the world to see, it can make your partner feel important if they feature on your feed just as much as your friends do.

‘If social media sharing is something you do, and you have a partner who needs reassurance, include them too,’ recommends Sam.

‘When you’re feeling giddy and want to share all the fun you’re having with your friends after such a long separation, just remember to give your lover a shout out as well. That way they feel like you’re having fun with them as well, as we get back to normality.’

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