The pandemic proved to be trying times for all of us. But, with lockdowns no longer in effect, as we struggle to find new and effective ways to face this crisis, there’s much to be said about the sequelae that couples are now beginning to feel. Truth is, relationships after lockdown are taking a hit.

What can we do after this dystopian bubble burst?

March 2020.

Early pandemic period. “It’s not so bad… Being here,” you think to yourself.

“I could really get used to this.”

And so we did. Those were the days of lounging, of absentmindedly listening to around-the-clock news coverage, of masking, and disinfecting. You probably learned some TikTok dance, you attempted (and likely failed) to make sourdough bread, and you surely binge-watched some of your favorite shows.

For anyone in a relationship living together, the first lockdown might have felt like a honeymoon - days totally “wasted” in each other’s company. Is it strange that we miss some of it?

Not at all.

In fact, this phenomenon called early-pandemic nostalgia has been hitting the headlines, as Internet users take to social media to showcase elements of lockdown aesthetic, like songs, trends, and relatable habits. Despite the abhorrent thought of actually missing what was, after all, a public health crisis, there is a reason why people are now looking back to those ignorant, blissful days.

We’re longing for a period of time when everybody seemed united. For lack of a better metaphor, we were all in the same boat, and it felt… Strangely comforting.

Almost two years have gone by, and with nearly 40% of the world’s population totally vaccinated, the pre-pandemic reality is slowly, but surely, creeping in, pulling us back to routines we had almost entirely forgotten.

We’ve grown used to this half-living -- some of us actually prefer it. But what about couples? Specifically, the ones that have been confined in the same home since the beginning of it all. Are they still basking in their pandemic honeymoon bliss?

Far from it.

Tha pandemic’s almost over, but some troubles have just begun

Something like the nearing end of a pandemic, with lockdowns being lifted, and social gatherings allowed once again should make us all feel happy, relieved, even carefree.

So why are our relationships convalescing?

You might ask yourself: “Is it me? Am I the drama?”

The pandemic put many of us under extraordinary stress: we worried about our job security, our health, our friends’ and family’s health... And we endured challenges that seemed to be pulled from a grimacing B-rated sci-fi movie. It comes as no surprise that this scenario would impact any couple’s relationship.

We were spending more time together, but not necessarily quality time. Our opportunities for intimacy were heightened, but there was also more room for conflict. Many relationships perished in this difficult period, and many couples had to go long-distance overnight.

The lack of social and professional distractions meant that we suddenly had time on our hands, and I, for one, felt that we were being forced to grasp and come to terms with ourselves and our relationships in a way we never envisaged we would. This can not only be challenging for a couple, it can be painful - but it can also prove to be an opportunity for growth.

Whether you’re in a committed partnership, of two people living together, or you’re in a long-distance relationship, or a polyamorous one, I think it’s safe to say we all emerged from the pandemic slightly... Different.

But have we changed our wiring beyond repair?

Why are relationships after lockdown under stress?

Many of us have learned, rather hastily, that living under the same roof 24/7, sharing a kitchen turned into a workplace, and fighting over who gets to work in the space with a good Wi-Fi connection, have contributed greatly to creating tension and even division.

It doesn’t help that while all this is happening in your relationship the entire world is sunk in a pool of anxiety, uncertainty, and a slight sense of mortality.

Suddenly, those idyllic days spent at home with your partner have turned into a nightmare. You can say you miss your pre-pandemic relationship.

We did.

It’s hard to create shared and meaningful experiences when you’re spending most of your day, every day, with your partner.

And it's true that relationships after lockdown have less tools to work with: many previous dating rituals are no longer an option. So you have to get creative, but also grounded.

Luckily, we steadily walk towards what many are calling a “new normal”... whatever that means. When you accept that your definition of “normal” has been turned and twisted, you lower the pressure you’re putting on yourself and on your partner.

The point is: the bubble has burst, and with that, we’re finding that some of the lingering issues that surfaced during lockdown remain, and that intimacy and romance may be giving way to tension and conflict. How does a couple navigate these despondent feelings, should they wish to remain together?

1. Keep communicating

How are you communicating with your partner?

Being open and honest about how you’re feeling, and what your expectations and fears are can do a lot of good for your relationship. Not only that, it sets a healthy precedent, a constant narrative.

Be aware that your tone of voice and also non-verbal communication can trigger conflict. Be assertive, but keep an open heart and an open mind to what your partner is trying to tell you.

And remember that, sometimes, words simply don’t carry the weight you believe they do.

2. The importance of having fun for relationships after lockdown

It’s important and sometimes tempting to indulge in escapism, but try to allow your partner in some of it. Talk and discover ways in which you can both have some fun and connect.

Go outside the box and get creative. But don’t feel discouraged if your relationship feels boring - that’s bound to happen and it’s not a death sentence.

3. Minding space & distance

Needing space or distance from your partner is never a necessarily bad thing.

We’re all pretty singular, and our individuality is a major part of what we bring into our relationships: we must cherish and nurture it as well. You can and you should enjoy hobbies and pleasures that your partner doesn’t relate to.

As should they.

4. Planning and looking forward to experiences

The pandemic blocked out pretty much every plan we had and I’m constantly reminded that relationships are always a work in progress.

Fetch your pre-Corona goals, work together to make your plans come to life, whether they’re a trip, a business, or buying 23 houseplants.

And if you can’t enjoy those experiences right away, at least have fun planning them.

5. Working on troubling aspects of your relationships after lockdown

Last, but surely not least, identify whatever it is that’s been driving you apart. It may be unresolved issues, overdue discussions, or maybe even insecurities and traumas.

All are valid, as long as you set the intention to work on those issues. We’re imperfect complicated creatures and you should remember that all couples deal with troubled discussions. Learn from them and grow from them.

There is no guidebook to what’s coming. It can be incredibly stressful and energy-consuming not knowing how things are gonna go for us and our relationships.

During adverse times, like the ones we have just emerged from, a solid healthy relationship resonates a certain 'in it together' mindset. It’s human nature: we fear the unknown, but for some reason, we also crave and get excited by it.

João Santos Costa