The Effects of the Pandemic on Relationships

alex atkins bookshelf cultureImagine if you could isolate couples for an entire year, or even 18 months, and study their behavior? What types of relationships could weather an extended storm? How would isolation impact a couple’s level of communication, emotional support, and outlook? Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, psychologists and sociologists got the once-in-a-lifetime experiment they always wanted — along with all the valuable data to analyze and discern lessons about how human relationships are impacted by extended isolation from friends, co-workers, and extended families. Here are a few studies:

The need for human connect is more important than health
A Utah State University found that people who didn’t like virtual meetings or felt they were inadequate ways to connect were willing to ignore the health risks and violate mandated social-distancing protocols and shelter-in-place orders to meet with friends and family. “Hey, I might be a Covid-19 spreader or I might get infected and die — but don’t separate me from my peeps!”

Celebrities became substitutes for real friends and families
A study conducted by the University of San Diego found that although people in social isolation did maintain stable relationships through phone and video calls and text, they felt much closer to celebrities they liked — including fictional characters (which might explain the popularity of those endless comic superhero movies). Researchers believed that this kinship with celebrities is largely a function of how much social media individuals consume on their digital devices. During the pandemic, celebrities, having not much to do like the rest of us, spent a lot more time posting about their daily lives and sharing their thoughts about the pandemic. “Hey, I love my friends and family, but I feel so much closer to my new, cooler pals Ariana Grande and Dwayne Johnson!”

Single people looking for partners did not lower their standards
A multinational survey by Cassandra Alexopoulus (University of Massachusetts) and her colleagues found that single people were more interested in finding a partner if they were more worried about Covid-19. The researchers expected single people living during a pandemic would perceive an increase in the significance of stability, family commitment, and social/physical attractiveness, as well as the fear of being single — and thus be less selective. Surprise! Despite greater concern for Covid-19 and fear of being single during the pandemic, most individuals were more selective about potential partners. “Hey, there is no sugarcoating this: it sucks to be single — but that doesn’t mean I am lowering my standards for some loser or getting catfished. I will wait this pandemic out single and without settling!”

Couples who mastered five habits faced the hardships of the pandemic more easily
A study by the University of Utah found that couples who focus on five resilience-building habits helped couples weather the pandemic storm with greater ease. The five habits are: (1) maintaining some semblance of normal routines; (2) talking to their spouse and sympathetic others about their concerns; (3) reinforcing their beliefs and sense of self; (4) reframing their situation in a positive light; and (5) focusing on the good that will occur when the crisis is over. The researchers also found that a sense of humor was also helpful. “Hey, these are tough and uncertain times, but just focusing on who and what is front of me, and taking each day at a time, and hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel is better than slipping into a funk and obsessing over gloom and doom!”

What other recent studies should we include with these?

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