The couples that are fearing post-lockdown life

A study found a quarter of cohabiting couples are worried about separation anxiety (Picture: Getty Images)

The pandemic affected the dynamic of our relationships, especially our romantic ones.

Some would have been separated physically, others will have taken a leap of faith and hurriedly moved in together, while those already doing just that would have felt their personal space shrink.

The outcome of this could have gone one of two ways: strains intensified, or bonds tightened.

Either way, new habits formed for better or worse and many people became more used to, or dependent on, those immediately around them.

A study found that a quarter of those who loved the effect lockdown had on their relationship are worried about experiencing separation anxiety now that, post-lockdown, time together will be more limited.

Emma Hull, a PR specialist at Foundation, tells the findings of this study resonate with her.

Having started dating her boyfriend in January 2020, the couple decided to move in together sooner than they otherwise would have, and now post-lockdown they’re about to move back to their separate homes as they both have mortgages.

‘I think lockdown has definitely made us closer and I would never have moved in with someone so quickly if it wasn’t for everything that went on this year – we’ve only been together a year and a half which in my head doesn’t seem like long enough personally.

‘We’ll still spend quite a few nights together I think. The only sort of difference is that I’ll have to go back to cooking and eating by myself some days.

‘Right now I feel as I’ve got so used to having someone around that it’s going to feel completely weird when I am on my own – a break up that’s literally not a breakup,’ she says.


‘[It’s like] a break up that’s literally not a breakup’ (Picture: Emma Hull)

For some couples the shift in dynamic will be huge – it may well feel like a low-key breakup or step backwards.

The moments apart feel harder, Emma adds, due to having ‘worked together and lived together so we literally didn’t leave each other’s side.’

Emma also says she’s concerned about becoming acquainted with her alone time again after having none of it for months on end.

‘I’m excited [to see friends], but I definitely have the “do I leave early to go home to him?” feeling, which is nice because I’ve never had that.

‘On days that we’re not spent together, for example, when he’s in the office and I’m not, I do find myself counting down the hours until he’s back.

‘I guess I’ve just got so used to him being around that when he’s not there, time moves so slowly and it sort of doesn’t seem too natural when he’s not with me.

‘Hopefully with things starting to open up a bit more though and both of us spending more time with friends, things will start to feel a bit more natural about being separated,’ she says.

To deal with the separation, she says they’ve agreed to split their time between both their homes, while in lockdown they stayed at Emma’s place.

Lucy Beresford, a psychotherapist who works with couples, tells us she’s noticed more evidence of this pandemic-born phenomena in her clients.

‘Several clients have begun discussing this in my work with them. I believe there are two reasons why we are seeing this often.

‘When two people come together to form a couple, they quickly create grooves (or ruts) that lay down unspoken rules about the couple functions. This includes things like how much time they spend together and who else they see. 

‘Additionally, we enter a relationship with our own preferred (yet often unconscious) attachment style. Some people are very clingy and some people are very independent. 

‘So for both these reasons, the idea of change can upset the balance of a couple,’ she explains.

To move forward, the key is to find a balance between activities you continue to do together while still fostering your own independence.

To deal with this experience, Lucy advises:

  • Work out what your own attachment style is – are you secure, anxious, or avoidant? Many websites explain the differences and knowing your starting point can help to explain where post-pandemic worries might be coming from.
  • Talk to your partner about what their style is, as this might explain why they are feeling differently to you about post-lockdown life, if there’s an imbalance here.
  • Talk to each other about how much time you want to spend together in this new normal and establish a new routine without being rigid. Try not to future-trip. Instead, try to stay as much in the moment as you can. 
  • Recognise that trying to be controlling of your partner or the situation is a sure-fire way to cause problems in your relationship. 
  • Identify activities that the two of you can do together so that you have things to look forward to, but also focus on resuming your own hobbies and passions or exploring new ones so that your relationship is not the only thing that defines you. 

A blissful lockdown romance has the potential to turn into a post-lockdown anxiety riddled relationship.

How the dynamic looks will vary couple to couple, but it’s important to discuss your expectations and concerns to find a happy medium.

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