'I moved in with my boyfriend during lockdown, now what?'

Red Online
Photo credit: Petri Oeschger - Getty Images

From Red Online

The coronavirus pandemic has intensified many areas of our lives, including our relationships which have undergone a major transformation in the past three months.

Some couples are coming out of lockdown stronger than ever, while others have found this imposed period of closeness has exposed underlying issues they can no longer ignore. And then there's those who decided to go their separate ways before lockdown and were forced to move back in together or partners locked down with in-laws who were breaking the rules.

In fact, a new study by relationship counselling service Relate and dating site eHarmony has revealed just how much of an impact lockdown has had, even coining a new term: 'turbo relationships' to describe couples moving at a faster pace due to the pandemic.

After polling more than 2000 over-18s across the UK, they found that almost two-thirds of respondents said their relationship has strengthened during lockdown, while 58% felt more committed to their partner than back in March. More than a third of those asked also said two months together had felt more like two years of commitment.

I know this feeling only too well. I moved in with my boyfriend of a year just as the lockdown began at the end of March. We figured it made more sense to isolate in his one-bedroom flat, and be able to see and comfort each other, rather than be living 10 miles apart at opposite ends of the city.

Since then, we've learned a lot about each other: he can't stand me eating eggs on toast for breakfast while his inability to put his dirty socks in the washing basket irritates me (you can tell we've been together 24/7 for months, can't you?). Our circumstances have also changed because he's been furloughed and could now be facing redundancy. But both of us have admitted that we couldn't have navigated the lockdown period without each other.

Now, 13 weeks on, I'm planning to move back to the flat I share with a housemate. Her boyfriend, who she's been living with since Boris' announcement back in March, is heading home, too.

But it's left me wondering what's next for our relationship. Can we go back to living apart? Should we just move in together long term?

Integrative psychotherapist and counsellor, Lucy Fuller, says it's very normal to be asking these sorts out questions right now.

'Lockdown will inevitably have had an impact on your relationship, bringing you closer together or further apart,' she says. 'Even where you might feel that lockdown has made no difference to how you relate to each other, it is very likely that it will have made you reflect on your togetherness in some way simple because we are out of our "normal" which is unsettling at some level and will trigger different ways of thinking and perceiving. In terms of the journey or story of your relationship, you will have undoubtedly have been on fast forward.'

She explains that 'swift decisions' such as moving in due to lockdown puts you 'in an unusual and unforeseen circumstance'.

Fuller says: 'You are suddenly thrown together in a way that either one, or both of you, might have agonised about for quite some time before deciding on living together, thus placing your relationship into an inevitable "make or break" situation. As we are released from lockdown, as with lockdown itself, you may find yourself either desperate to get back to "normal" as soon as possible or feeling a sadness that lockdown is ending.

'Where both of you in the relationship have enjoyed living together and don’t want it to end, then your decision to move in together has been made. Alternatively, where you are both desperate to get away from each other, this may be an indication that it is time for the relationship to end. The difficulty lies where one of you is "in" and the other "out" and this is where complications arise. This then becomes a real test of the strength of your relationship.'

So, how do you navigate these conversations? Fuller says it's important to give yourself some space in the first instance.

'If you come out of lockdown with different ideas about how you want your relationship to be in the future, here is where communication and honesty need to come into play. It can be incredibly difficult to have these discussions and to realise that your partner either wants different things from a relationship or is not ready to live together yet.

'These are the things that, without the disruption of COVID-19, might have been pushed aside for quite some time, so try to accept the acceleration of the story of your relationship rather than try to ignore the reality of what is going for you and your partner.

'Give yourself some space, however you might be able to do that, to reflect honestly on your own needs and those of your partner and try to be realistic about the future of your relationship. If you both accept that the relationship is not working but you really want it to come together, think about couples counselling as a way to help you communicate with each other and understand what is really going on in the relationship.'

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