What Common Issue Are Many Couples Dealing With During Covid?
No writer can make a statement such as I do that I will discuss any subject if asked and then not follow up on that claim. Those of you old enough to remember the Shell Oil commercials where they state, "Ask the Shell answer man," well, I am far from the Shell answer man. However, with that said, I have experienced a great deal in life throughout my medical career and personal life. That, along with my education and willingness to spend hours researching a topic, is what allows me to make that claim.
I have been asked many times through emails to discuss the effects that Covid has on intimacy in relationships. Yes, these folks have asked to remain anonymous, so I will not mention or give credit to those who have asked me to discuss this topic since, in the past, I have acknowledged those who submitted the topic for discussion. These individuals were particularly interested in the area of partnership intimacy. As a man who has been in a relationship through Covid, I certainly have some experience in that area. An area that few choose to admit. Therefore, this may or may not apply to you. If it does not, please keep in mind that things affect each of us differently. Therefore, it is not a matter of right or wrong.
Although Covid has affected people in many ways, and it has been documented through data and studies, anxiety, depression, suicide, alcoholism, and substance abuse have been on the rise through the pandemic. Other factors are also untold or not spoken of. Intimacy is one of them. So let's take a look at that.
CAUSE AND EFFECT:
You have seen me use that phrase many times. Mostly because it is spot on. Every effect has a cause, and every cause is due to some form of an effect. In most cases, if we can identify one or the other, we can solve the problem. Sounds easy. Well, not so much. Some issues between people are difficult to talk about and equally difficult to identify. Also, is it not the nature of the human species to be locked up for extended periods of time. People may choose not to go out often, or even at all. However, when they are told they shouldn't or cannot, it goes against the human condition and causes many problems. One of the problems happens to be a topic that is a passion of mine and an issue I am totally against. Domestic Violence. According to an article in the GLOBAL CITIZEN, analysis from the NCCCJ, which stands for, National Commission on Covid -19 and Crinal Justice, domestic violence across the nation increased by 8.1 percent during the pandemic. This is attributed to people being locked down, as I stated earlier, something which is NOT part of the normal human condition.
For years now, people have been using the terminology, "Stay out of my space." Generally, there are four distinct zones of personal space that people relate to. Intimate Space (0-2 ft.) Personal Space (2-4 ft.). Social Space (4-12 ft.), and Public Space (more than 12 ft.). Any violation of those spaces makes us feel threatened or uncomfortable. For this blog post, we will be discussing Intimate Space. We all have experienced all of these through the pandemic. One example I could think of was one day when I was taking a walk. As people approached me, going in the opposite direction, and mind you, this was outside. They crossed the street long before they came close to me.
The pandemic had a great impact on all people. Unfortunately, much of this impact was mentally unhealthy, and many people, children, and families suffered from it emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Getting down to the knitting gritty, I said earlier I have received many emails regarding intimate problems between couples. The emails were NOT limited to opposite-gender partnerships. It also affected same-sex partnerships. Intimacy is intimacy, regardless of gender.
I will say that most of the questions revolved around the situation where one person was working from home while the other was still leaving the house daily and going to work. But, before I continue, let's put the word "GENERAL" into perspective. Whenever a poll or survey is taken, obviously, not the entire population is polled or surveyed. Only a percentage is. Therefore, depending on those who contributed their opinions, it is assumed that is society's 'General' opinion. MEaning, people in general.
How many times have you said to someone, or been told by someone, "DON'T COMPARE ME TO ANYONE ELSE, I'M DIFFERENT AND MY OWN PERSON." The fact is, that is totally true, and personally, I don't particularly appreciate when anyone lumps me in a basket with others.
However, people judge others by their past experiences with others. It's a hard habit to break because no one wants to be hurt or treated the same way again by another. Therefore, their guard goes up. Understand now how the word "GENERAL" is referred to. Understand I am not saying every person is like that if I say "Generally Speaking." Therefore, do not take anything you are about to read personally.
There is a degree of reality we must accept. First, people, in general, were very frightened by this pandemic. Second, people, in general, were placed in positions well out of their comfort zone. For the most part, many relationships succeed at first and sometimes because people get to exercise their own space. Do their own thing. Basically, have time apart. That is their comfort zone. Now let's put the same people in the same house for months on end. A situation they are not used to and are NOT in their comfort zone, and what is the result? In many cases, increased arguments, disagreements, and lack of intimacy are primarily due to frustration.
Now let's add a bit of fuel to this fire. Take the situation I referred to earlier. When working from home, they feel safe because their interaction with others is minimal and easier to control. The other person in the relationship leaves the house each day, goes to work and comes home as usual. However, the difference is, who knows who they came in contact with throughout the day. Think about that. Maybe you were one of these people. Do you think when it came time to go to sleep where intimacy would normally occur, the other person wanted no part of it. In one email I received, the individual stated they actually slept in separate rooms.
Is this normal or a normal reaction? Let me fill you in on a secret about normal. Normal is what a particular person or couple does that is normal for them. Not to be compared to others. For example, IF they normally slept in separate bedrooms, I know couples that do because one or the other snores too loud. Then one might say that is normal for them. However, when they didn't and started to during the pandemic, if that were the case, that would not be considered normal and put a strain on their relationship. Therefore again, generally speaking, most people will say the intimacy in a relationship is important, but not the most important part of the relationship. However, that thought process will vary from couple to couple. I like the way my father used to put it because it makes perfect sense.
"Sex is the one thing you will do in your day that will take the least amount of time but holds a great deal of importance."
Just think about that for a moment. Because in many relationships, people will spend more time arguing about having sex than it would actually take to perform the act.
Intimacy means different things to different people. For some, it is just physical pleasure. For some, it's a form of stress relief. For others, it could be a combination of both. Certainly, there are other reasons as well. You can decide for yourself what yours are. My point is, during the pandemic, it is documented that much of this drastically decreased or even stopped. Fear is a powerful emotion, and many do not know cope to cope with it. Therefore, they stay away from what would cause them fear. In these cases, they will stay physically away from the person that may offer them a higher risk of catching the virus. Thus, invoking their intimate space. In most of the email exchanges I had with people, I found that one of the biggest common denominators that were the cause of their problem was "A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE." Meaning they took action without talking about it with their partner first. But then, isn't most relationship problems due to a lack of communication between the two people?
What makes any clock keep perfect time is one that is properly maintained. For anything to work properly is requires regular maintenance. Relationships or no different. They require maintenance—maintenance in the form of communications. In general, most people will understand what is going on if that person explains it. In this case, their fear of catching a virus from the other because that person's exposure risk is exponentially higher. I know one couple that shared this same situation. They were not willing to stop their intimacy together. Therefore, they went for weekly covid rapid testing, and life went on perfectly normal for them. The moral being, when there are proper communications, many problems can be resolved.
Everyone knows the strain this pandemic has caused us as a society. Mentally, physically, as well as financially. Many may have experienced some or all of these, and others may not have. However, I believe everyone suffered in one respect or another. Suffering is an interesting word because people cope with it differently as individuals, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not. No matter how well two people know one another, making the mistake of thinking the other person can read your mind is a disaster waiting to happen. No one can read your mind. They may be aware of your concerns, but not exactly how you feel about them regarding how you will react to them. This is why I support the concept that communications are critical in all situations. Therefore, if any of this pertains to anyone reading this, I hope it has helped you and let you know you are not alone.
Stay Safe and be well.
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