Since governments around the world declared lock-downs to check the spread of the pandemic, Coronavirus or COVID-19, pictures and videos of couples singing, dancing, exercising, cooking, playing games and caring for their children together have surfaced online.
Except for partners who offer essential services such as health, food and media, couples are currently experiencing one of the most intimate moments of their lives. This is probably one of the blessings the pandemic has brought to couples across the world.
Regarded as the biggest crisis facing the world today, coronavirus started in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China in late December 2019, and as of recent, it had since spread to over 210 countries and territories across the world, as well as two international conveyances.
While the race to get a total cure for COVID-19 is on, governments across the world have been forced to restrict human movement, shut schools, religious houses, airports, and other public facilities, except markets selling essential commodities such as food and medicine.
The situation is the same in Nigeria which recorded its first case on February 27. To curb the virus spread, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, on March 29 ordered the lock down of the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states.
For many reasons, experts have said the stay-at-home order can help to restore ailing marriages, as couples now have more time to connect with their spouses.
In an interview with PUNCH, a psychologist and marriage counsellor in Lagos, Dr Jane Olorunfemi, said:
“The truth is, even if you are working from home, this period of lockdown is a blessing in disguise for many couples. For partners who always long to be together, they can’t but enjoy this moment.
But for unfriendly partners, they can use this lockdown to review their marriage and make necessary amends. They should look at where they’ve erred and change. They have all the time now to discuss with each other before things normalise again, which everyone hopes it will be soon.”
A therapist based in the US, Erika Boissiere, said love might be the last thing most couples would think about in a time of crisis like this when there were unprecedented stress, anxiety, fear and financial worries. Despite this, she said couples could use this period to connect together and heal their marriages.
One of the suggestions by Boissiere for couples is to strike a balance between the time they spend together and apart while at home. The therapist wrote in Forbes:
“Couples thrive when there’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, creating separate spaces is now more difficult than ever. Still, it’s important to physically remove yourself from your partner for an hour or two each day.
Go into your backyard, your child’s bedroom, your home office – anywhere where you can carve out some alone time. No matter your living situation, the essential ingredient is communicating when you need time alone, as this is likely to be different every day. And when your partner requests a similar break, honour it.”
Additionally, Boissiere said now was not the time to be yelling or snapping at one’s partner if one desired an improved relationship, as this would not only intensify the crisis in the short term but would also erode the relationship in the long term. She said:
“Hold yourself in check. When you feel like shouting or criticising, take a deep breath and a step back. Count your blessings and practise gratitude.
“Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best amid the chaos, just as you are. Make it a point to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to each other, even for the littlest things. Tell jokes, laugh when you can. Weather this storm together, and above all, be kind to each other.”
Also, the Director of Behavioural Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, US, Dr David Cates, said although fear and anxiety levels could rise among couples during this period, they should try as much as possible to communicate and appreciate themselves more.
“To survive and thrive during a lockdown, couples should look for opportunities to show interest, find areas of agreement, express affection and appreciation and demonstrate empathy.
“And they need to do this during times of conflict. They should also recognise that worry, fear, stress and guilt are expected and normal reactions during quarantine and not criticise one another for expressing these feelings,” Cates told Newsweek.
Similarly, Hong Kong-based sex coach and writer, Sara Tang, advised couples willing to improve their marriage to introduce a sense of novelty and adventure to their sex lives.
“Have sex in an unusual part of the apartment, not just in the bedroom. You can Google ‘creative sex positions’, and try a new position you haven’t tried before. And maybe role-play; dressing up and assuming a character creates a sense of fantasy and escapism from reality,” she told the South China Morning Post.
With this, Tang believed that couples could rekindle their love lives during the lockdown.
“Take this as a time to be more present, build intimacy and deepen your connection with each other. Do this by improving your sexual communication,” she said.
For couples who have children, Tang suggested scheduling “adult time” after kids have gone to bed, saying it was important for couples to make an effort to stay connected physically and intimately, even when they might feel too tired to engage in sex.
But she also advised couples against using sex to shift the focus away from inherent problems within their relationships. She added:
“I don’t think sex is a solution for couples in constant conflict. If anything, lockdown can intensify the stress and uncertainty as well as increase conflict and further reduce the desire for sex.
“It’s better to put effort into figuring out what is causing stress in the relationship and resolving those problems without using sex.
“You can communicate openly about the sources of conflict; be honest and transparent about the problems, desires, fears and vulnerabilities you experience. Always be open to listening to your partner’s perspectives too, and respect differences in opinion.”
Likewise, a US-based relationship coach, Vanessa Marin, said couples could still boost their relationships during these tough times by checking in with each other daily and being intentional about time spent together. Marin wrote in The New York Times:
“Planning for the next day is one thing, but it is also important to remember that your partner is not a robot and probably experiencing the same range of emotions that you are.
It can be useful to stop and ask each other questions like: What was your day like today? What sorts of feelings are coming up for you right now? Are there any ways I can support you or be a better partner to you?.
None of us are going to be perfect partners. Do your best and thank each other for being willing to make an effort. Tell your partner: ‘I see all the work you’ve been doing. Thank you.’”
Meanwhile, a marriage counsellor based in Abuja, Pastor Elijah David, advised disagreeing couples to not use the lockdown to fuel their disagreement in the wake of the report that domestic abuse cases were rising up due to COVID-19 lockdown worldwide. The cleric said:
“Crisis should be a time for togetherness, not for more fights. Fighting couples should use this lockdown to review their relationships and make adjustments where necessary.”
A Beijing, China-based non-governmental organisation fighting against violence against women, Equality, recently stated that it had seen a surge in calls to its helpline since early February when the government locked down cities in Hubei Province.
In Spain, authorities also said the emergency number for domestic violence received 18 per cent more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period a month earlier.
The French police had also reported a nationwide spike of about 30 per cent in domestic violence – a development that necessitated the country’s Minister of Interior, Christophe Castaner, to ask policemen to be on the lookout for abuse.
Based on these developments, the United Nations earlier this month called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence.
“I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” the UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.