Has the pandemic wrecked your relationships? Here's how to mend them

·4-min read

Watch this: Majority say quarantining with their partner has been the ultimate relationship test

Have you fallen out with a partner, friend or family member so spectacularly during the pandemic that you think the relationship is over forever? If so, take solace from the knowledge that you're not alone. 

In fact, the latest research produced by University College London's Covid-19 Social Study suggests that one in five UK adults have seen a relationship totally break down over the last year-and-a-half or so. 

Nevertheless, it's not all bad news - around half of young adults (aged between 18 and 29) surveyed actually felt that their relationship with their spouse or partner had been better than usual over the same period. 

Couple. Back to back.
These 'unprecedented times' have put a big strain on all kinds of relationships (Getty Images)

Older couples, however, had less positive feedback. Among those aged between 30 to 59 about a quarter of respondents felt that their relationship with their partner had improved - but for those aged 60 and over it was only about 20 per cent.

So why has the pandemic affected some relationships so badly, especially among older generations? And what can we do to heal rifts - if that's what we really want? 

Psychologist and relationship consultant Mairead Molloy explains that there has been a huge storm of different, potentially stressful issues for most couples, relatives or people otherwise living in close proximity during the pandemic. 

"There’s a lot more anxiety, and then there are family dynamics that create difficulty and added stress - on top of that, there’s economic stress," she told Yahoo. 

"People had a lot more time to think and reflect. For many people, with everyone at home all the time there were serious issues around the division of labour. Some people were left craving the chance to be alone." 

Some couples aged around 60 and above, meanwhile, were perhaps more likely to find existing and long-standing relationship rifts exacerbated by a total lack of social life or the ability to see friends and family.

Read more: 'Turbo relationships' are on the rise during the pandemic

Nevertheless, she can see why some relationships seem to have been given a boost - especially among the younger generations, who often haven't had to deal with the intensely stressful pressures of working from home together while homeschooling children. 

"Other people have had time to talk and think in a positive way," she said. "They've been able to spend more time together playing games and talking and to work on their relationship under pressure- with a sense of, ‘if we get through this we get through anything.'"

Gay couple sitting on couch in home watching television together smiling
Many younger couples actually found that lockdowns improved their relationship (Getty Images)

So if you're desperate to salvage a relationship destroyed by lockdown, where should you start? 

If you're feeling fed up with someone, and want them to change certain behaviours, Molloy suggests reframing what you say so it's all about you - rather than criticising or blaming them. 

"Use 'I' statements in your communication," she said. "Instead of 'You make me feel unhappy when you do this,' try 'I feel unhappy when I sense I'm not being listened to...'". 

Be wary, also, of assuming that you're connecting well because you're spending more - if not all - of your time together. It may be that very little of that is 'quality' time - and remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Everyone needs some space to breathe, so it's important for both of you to have time alone. 

Unhappy husband and father with his family at home
Lockdown parenting and pandemic anxiety brought some families to breaking point (Getty Images)

"It is important to consciously make time to be together as a couple, but also to make sure you spend some time apart as individuals, even in the same house," suggested Molloy. 

Above all else, the most important thing is to communicate - either with each other, or together in the presence of a counsellor who can help you try to stay fair and objective. 

"Having a conversation is pivotal," said Molloy. "Open up about your feelings. No one can understand your feelings if you never talk about them, even if they are your best friend or your partner. 

"Do apologise, because we all make mistakes. Give them some time, and listen to their opinions. But in order to avoid cycling through and re-experiencing the concerns in the future, be mindful of your boundaries." 

Watch this: Relationships put to the test by the pandemic

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