Five people share their relationship wins while in lockdown with their partners, and open up about their hopes for the future
It’s no overstatement to say that our relationships have truly been put to the test during lockdown. As our way of life changed overnight and the future was filled with uncertainty, we faced immense levels of stress and – as is so often the case when we’re struggling with our mental health – our nearest and dearest went through each dip and rise with us.
Challenges such as these can make or break our relationships, and researchers from The Office for National Statistics found that 28% of UK adults were considering making big changes to their lives post-lockdown – while, in a survey, the charity Relate found that two-thirds of couples reported that their relationship feels stronger, and over half now know they want to be with their partner forever.
But what are the stories behind the numbers? Here, we speak to five people about what they’ve learned about their relationship during lockdown.
1. You never stop learning about each other
When you’ve been together for a long time, it can start to feel like you’ve learned everything there is to know about your partner. But as we evolve and grow, and face challenges together, sometimes people have a habit of surprising you – in the best ways.
We’ve been together for 19 years – childhood sweethearts! He was my first boyfriend at 17. We’ve always been very close and I consider him my best friend as well as my husband – we laugh every day! But pre-lockdown, we were like ships passing in the night. I own three businesses, Pete works in corporate, and we have two young girls, so life is busy.
Lockdown was a very difficult experience for both of us. Two weeks prior, I had a miscarriage with our third child. Then once we were in lockdown, I got very ill with Covid-19. These two things in quick succession took a huge toll on us. We hadn’t really had the time to cope with our grief before the country shut down. Losing a child, fearing for my health, the threat of financial difficulties and job losses, and trying to keep things as normal and stress-free for our daughters was physically and mentally draining on both of us.
But by being with each other 24/7 with nothing to distract us, we were forced to take stock of the grief and the stress we were going through. We talked, cried, and hugged through it, and we become so much closer. After 19 years together, I thought we were as close as we would ever be – but I was wrong. Pete has been so caring and supportive, despite his own grief. I have seen deeper sides to him these past few months, and I am sure there is more to find in the next 19 years, and beyond!
2. It’s important to have each other’s back
When you’re going through a tough time, knowing that your partner is there to listen to your worries and to support you as you work your way through – and doing the same for them – is one of the most uplifting forces there is.
We’ve always been head-over-heels for each other, but the way life was meant that we had fairly separate lives. For three years, we lived in separate cities, hundreds of miles apart, because of our studies. When we finished our degrees, we both lived with our parents because we needed to save money. We spent as much time with each other as possible, but we always wanted more of each other!
Lockdown was hard. My parents both got extremely sick with Covid-19 in March. In order to keep myself safe and well enough to be able to look after them, I moved in with Sam, my partner, into his family home. We were both very anxious about our sick family members, and I had also started a new job the month before lockdown. I was adjusting to a new role and trying to keep up with the workload. All working out of my boyfriend’s mum’s kitchen.
But despite being one of the hardest times of my life, Sam and I had never been closer. Both physically and emotionally. We were finally with each other for substantial amounts of time. Even though it was out of the worst circumstances, we brought each other joy every day. I wasn’t telling Sam about my stressful day at work down the phone, or telling him about my panic attack I’d had that night the morning after, he was there with me, living it and helping me through it. We became this awesome team who did everything together, tackling all of lockdowns hardships. We wouldn’t have coped if we didn’t have each other.
I have always known we had something special, but lockdown put our relationship to the test and we thrived. After 5 years of saving, we’re finally able to afford our own house. We have had an offer accepted on a beautiful home and we are so proud and excited to be able to have a place of our own. It really feels like, out of all the horrible negativity of lockdown, our relationship just grew stronger and our first house is a symbol of this positivity.
3. Sometimes, relationships need work. And it’s worth doing
We all go through difficult patches in our lives, and our relationships can struggle as a result. But when we take the time to truly understand each other, and to work on our differences, we can come out the other side even stronger.
Before lockdown, our relationship was up and down. We both had our own issues in past relationships, which had a knock-on effect on our own relationship. At times it felt like we were very different, and we didn’t always understand where the other one was coming from, which made it even harder.
At the start of lockdown, I really thought things would be tough. However, we were working on our ourselves and our relationship, trying to understand why we were triggering each other. So spending the level of time together really helped. We were taking a daily long walk together which gave us time to talk – and we were getting exercise. We were taking time out to really work on things, because we felt there wasn’t another option. Being in such close quarters all the time, we knew we had to work things out.
I’d also started training in rapid transformational therapy just before and during lockdown, which really helped me understand the reasons for people’s behaviour. I learnt more about how we’re very different, but we also complement each other. It’s now far easier to communicate without triggering each other, and our tolerance levels have grown.
We are far more understanding of each other, and we are finding that it’s easier to relate to the other how we feel. We are also more tolerant of each other. Also, we are taking more time to spend on our relationship and to truly understand each other’s point of view and personality.
4. Respecting each other’s boundaries allows everyone to flourish
There are moments when all we want to do is spend time with our loved one, and others where we need some space to get on with work, hobbies, and some dedicated 'me-time'. When we respect each other’s boundaries, we’re creating an environment with the space to flourish.
Before lockdown, we were living separately and would see each other about three to four times a week. We both work from home – I run my own business with my sister, a healthy snacking company called Squirrel Sisters.
My flat is small, so we were concerned about how we would make being together and working together 24/7 work. Pre-lockdown, it’s what stopped us moving in together as we weren’t sure how we would deal with the work set up. Lockdown forced us to make some quick decisions and we decided to try it out… Aaron built a desk so we could both have our own work areas and we treated each other with respect and understanding. We realised quite quickly that we communicate incredibly well, we really respect each other and want to make each other feel relaxed and happy.
I already knew Aaron was special but being put in a testing situation like lockdown made me realise it even more. He is the kindest man I have met and we both really care about each other, support each other, and most importantly we love being together.
Lockdown was a fantastic test for our relationship because it made us realise how happy we were together and how secure we both felt with each other. We became an even stronger team and our love for each other became even deeper – so we made the decision to officially move in together, which we are both so excited about!
5. It’s all about balance
Couples with children will be able to attest to how valuable sharing chores and finding balance is. Not only does it make things run that bit smoother, but it also means that you’re able to prioritise things that are really important to you, like quality time together.
Our relationship was wonderful from the beginning. I fell pregnant after only three weeks. It was a planned pregnancy, I just knew that he was 'The One' from the first moment we got together. We have had our ups and downs of course but generally, we were happy.
In lockdown, it was challenging to be together all the time, especially as we both had to work as well as look after our 4-year old twin boys. I tend to feel anxious when it was too much and did not want to take it out on my loved ones, so was forced to find a way that would make it work for all of us.
I work as a motherhood coach, and I stopped multitasking and focused on one thing at the time which proved brilliant. It made me calmer and more relaxed. My husband has also been very supportive and helpful which made things much easier for all of us. I think it was about finding the right balance and understand each other's perspectives that helped us to get through the challenging times. It certainly confirmed how strong we are as a unit, and how very important it is in a relationship to communicate and listen to each other. I mean really listen, not just hear what the other person says.
It has reinforced that when I am going through something my husband will always support me and when the other way I am for him. We're a unit, a loving unit that is there for each other.