If you are struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with your romantic partner during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. Being locked down with a partner (and possibly kids) for months during a global health crisis would put stress on any relationship. Add in the possibility that you lost income due to being laid off or furloughed and you may have found yourself addressing new financial challenges.
We spoke with couples to find out how the coronavirus pandemic affected their romantic relationships, and what they learned about love in the time of COVID. Here’s what they said:
It’s okay to have an “off” day
During the pandemic, Daniella Flores learned that not everything is what it seems. How your partner acts isn’t always because of something you’re doing, especially during a traumatic situation where people are terrified. That trauma can bring up mental, emotional and psychological stuff, said Flores, creator and author at I Like to Dabble.
While Flores was able to work remotely full-time during the pandemic, their wife still had to go into work. “I know that was very stressful on her seeing people coming to work and getting sick,” said Flores. The exhaustion and stress that work caused could have caused arguments at home, but they got good at keeping open communication.
If your partner seems off or is struggling emotionally, Flores said to give them that safe space to talk about their feelings and let them feel it. “Don’t try to rush to be a ‘fixer,’ let them process what they need to process.”
Love (and your bank account) can flourish without frills
Extravagant date nights and baecations were no longer in the cards for many couples thanks to furloughs, layoffs and travel restrictions, but they found ways to keep the spark alive.
Spencer Yeomans and his girlfriend had to cut back on spending after being furloughed. “Money was tight, and we had to make a lot of tough decisions about what we could continue to afford, and what we had to do without,” said Yeomans, founder of the outdoors blog Untamed Space.
They enjoy biking and hiking for recreation instead of going to the movie theatre or spending money. “We found out that we prefer the minimalist approach and that once our basic necessities are met, we don’t need much else,” said Yeomans. Both their relationship and bank accounts have flourished since making a switch to minimalism.
Brittany Herzberg, a massage therapist and copywriter, found creative ways to spend time with her boyfriend of ten years while also cutting back on spending because of a COVID-related reduction in income. They found happiness in iced tea and cookie dates and enjoyed watching TV shows together about food, travel and homes. “We’ve talked about it and agree the pandemic brought us closer,” said Herzberg.
A state of emergency can strengthen new relationships
Even though the pandemic was a source of anxiety and relationship stress for many couples, it also helped create strong relationships in others. For some new couples, the pandemic sped up the dating process. Athena Valentine, the founder of Money Smart Latina and a columnist at Slate, started dating her boyfriend last July and the relationship progressed quickly.
“Because everything was literally shut down for the longest time, we literally had nothing to do but sit and talk to each other. As a result, we became serious pretty fast but at the same time, it just felt right,” said Valentine. They experienced two deaths and a layoff within two months, but the bond they built during lockdown helped them get through tough times.
Before the pandemic, Tatiana Gavrilina had just started dating her boyfriend, and they moved in together right away. Gavrilina, a content marketing writer at DDI Development, had also just recently started a new job and couldn’t contribute financially for a few months. The couple solved money issues by having mutual respect and a desire to understand each other.
“We had to work out all the complicated issues as we went along, trying not to hurt each other’s feelings,” said Gavrilina. For them, the challenges they faced during the pandemic had a positive effect on their relationship.
Job loss can impact more than just your budget
If you or a partner gets laid off from a job, your first worry may be how you’ll make ends meet. But your budget isn’t the only thing that can be affected by job loss—it can also affect you emotionally. Valentine learned how much a person’s identity is wrapped up in their income when her boyfriend got laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year was one of Valentine’s highest income-earning years, but her partner grappled with depression after losing his job. “It was so hard to watch this fun-loving guy I had [known] for three months to be hit hard with this so early on into our relationship, especially since this was supposed to be the fun early dating time.”
Valentine had to get used to a new dynamic where she was flourishing in her career while her partner struggled during the coronavirus outbreak. In previous relationships, it was usually the opposite.
Planning for tomorrow is as important as planning for today
Pavel Ladziak, a photographer, fitness advocate and founder of TheBeardStruggle, realized with his wife how important transparency was in their relationship, especially in spending. They’ve been together for ten years and married for five years. “Before, we didn’t talk much about money because we manage a joint account for household expenses. As long as the important expenses were covered, we never discussed investments and retirement plans,” said Ladziak.
Now, they’re putting a greater focus on long-term planning so they can meet future goals, such as growing their online business and saving for their son’s future. They’re also spending more of their money on experiences together. They recently redid their backyard to make it a space where they can enjoy the outdoors with their son.
Spending time apart doesn’t mean something’s wrong
Nicole Evert is a blogger at Creating Butterflies, wife, and mother of four who had to leave her teaching job during the pandemic to stay home with the kids while they did school remotely.
Before COVID, the couple wished they had more time together. During the pandemic, they valued time together—but also treasured time apart. “We learned that spending some time apart is healthy for our relationship and doesn’t mean you love each other any less,” said Evert.
Going from two incomes to one also forced a shift in some of their financial priorities. “We had to learn what we really needed versus things we merely wanted,” said Evert.
Always have gratitude
Dominique Brown already worked from home pre-pandemic, so lockdowns didn’t change the amount of time he spent with his family. But it did bring the family closer at a time when they were welcoming a new family member. Their daughter, Kinsley, was born a year ago.
“The reality of the situation makes you realize how grateful you are, so you appreciate things a whole lot more because you never know when things can be taken away from you, whether it’s food, a hug, [or] a touch,” said Brown, a financial expert and owner of Your Finances Simplified, a company that teaches people how to simplify their finances one cent at a time.
He’s also grateful for the financial situation they’re in after hearing stories of how COVID-19 affected people’s livelihoods and finances. Brown runs several online businesses that saw growth during the COVID-19 lockdown when more people were spending time at home. Watching other businesses scramble to set up online systems validated the effort he put into building companies that can be managed remotely.
Given how stressful the last several months have been, you may have guessed that it took a negative toll on relationships. From speaking with couples, we learned that the pandemic brought some new relationship challenges, but many relationships thrived because of them.