Saturday, June 6, 2020

Love in the time of COVID-19

Thousands of Batswana are currently cooped up at home with their partners, spending more time than they have ever spent together in years or ever. This should be any romantic spouse’s dream come true – an opportunity to spend quality time and bond with you bay. But alas! That is not always the case. Cabin fever can drive a wedge even in the most loving relationship.

Life under lockdown has altered the dynamics of many romantic relationships. Some couples in long-distance relationships have chosen to quickly move in together, while others have been forced to isolate separately from their partner. And these new living arrangements are putting relationships through a stress test.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says “A lot of people around the world right now are reflecting on their relationships, as they’re dealing with changes to daily life and work. Maybe you’re stuck at home together in home quarantine, or maybe you’re separated for several weeks at least. In either case, a global pandemic can put a lot of stress on a couple, especially if both of you react to it differently. Any issues that already existed before the virus panic can become magnified. For example, if you’re already feeling irritated by the division of labour in the home, or who earns more money, these issues can become heightened. Times like these are the ultimate stress tests for relationships, and they may even lead to more arguments and, later, divorces. Crisis often brings out the best in people, but it can bring out the worst in people too.”

All the coronavirus bad news and the lockdown can be an emotional amplifier and many romantic relationships will be weakened or strained.

A couple’s collective anxieties, worries and stresses in addition to being cooped up with their partners triggers a negative impact on some relationships while others will thrive and become stronger. A love-lockdown experience, particularly where there are underlying issues of resentment and poor communication, could be devastating for most relationships. Relationships usually dependent on quality time and physical touch have now been reduced to relationships through digital screens – a change sans choice, and barely any warning. 

Young couples who don’t live together are finding this enforced and sudden long-distance relationship difficult and the singles are finding it difficult to meet new people.

Some couples forced to stay in isolation have since realised that they’re not right for each other. A realisation which, doesn’t make those days in lockdown fly by any faster. In fact, isolating together brings its own stresses. In the current situation we are losing our boundaries. People isolating with their partners are probably not used to the amount of time they are now spending together. As people’s romantic lives, work lives, and domestic lives begin to pile on top of each other, the extreme close quarters makes some people feel trapped in a situation, which can trigger anxiety and defensive responses. Individuals automatically react emotionally when they experience anxiety, which can transfer to their partner(s) feeding into their own anxiety. To a degree, rising tensions within relationships aren’t necessarily surprising. 

Global pandemics are inevitably high-stress times. But for those couples who are more resilient, or at least are better in communicating about their concerns and anxieties, there may be a silver lining to COVID-19. Even at the darkest moments of 

Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone says, “There are families for whom the quarantine will be a bonding experience, while for others it will increase tension and make the atmosphere to be more explosive. It’s even more upsetting when you bear in mind that home quarantine is part of a situation at present that for some of us can be threatening – both financially and in terms of health. We’re very used to transactional relationships with our significant others, between careers and family life, we’re used to the comings and goings, but now things are different. Those in a single life are used to having a choice between aloneness and togetherness. Physical proximity increases the risk of contagion – not only in the case of the coronavirus but also when it comes to reactions to stress.”

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