Despite the gloom, romantic relationships are surviving the pandemic
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Washington - Can't stop fighting with your partner about whose turn it is to do the dishes? Looking at China's uptick in divorces that followed their coronavirus-related lockdown and wondering if a similar trend might follow?
Well, here's encouraging news. A recent Monmouth University poll found that most people in relationships are satisfied with them, despite the expected stresses that might come from, say, working from home together, losing a job, managing kids at home or preventing your family from getting the virus.
"Relationships aren't perfect - there are always some underlying issues," said Gary Lewandowski, a psychology professor at Monmouth University who helped craft the survey questions. "But on average, the relationships we're in are pretty good."
When asked if their relationship had gotten better or worse since the pandemic began, 74 percent said it was about the same. Ten percent said it was a lot better and seven percent said it was a little better. Only four percent said a little worse and one percent said a lot worse.
Weathering a pandemic adds stress, but Lewandwoski noted that when we're stressed, "we turn to our partners," who are generally ready, willing and able to be our support during difficult times. "A lot of people want more closeness in their relationship," Lewandwoski added, highlighting a finding in earlier research. "Those people are getting what they wished for."
Less than two in 10 of those in relationships said they get into fewer arguments with their partner, while one in 10 said they get into more of them - and seven in 10 said there has been no difference. And despite chatter that isolation leads to more opportunities for intimacy, only nine percent said their sex life has improved. Still, even fewer - five percent - said it's gotten worse, with 77 percent saying it is about the same.
Lewandowski noted it's possible poll respondents were being hopelessly optimistic, but he emphasized that if a relationship has at least one partner who's an optimist, the couple generally has higher relationship satisfaction. "Optimists handle life's rough patches better, which is certainly helpful given the current situation," Lewandowski said in a release announcing the poll results.
About three-quarters of married couples said their relationship has not changed for better or worse since the coronavirus outbreak began, while just under two-thirds of unmarried couples said the same.
Among unmarried partners, 22 percent said their relationship has helped decrease their daily stress level, compared with 12 percent of married couples. Similar shares of each said they have increased levels of stress.
Lewandowski posited that the pandemic hasn't changed married couples' relationships drastically because they're likely to have dealt with trying times - such as a job loss, severe illness or death of a loved one - before this moment. "They've traveled a lot of these paths before," Lewandwoski said, "and have endured other stressors in their lives or relationships and have more refined strategies with how to cope with problems and stress."
Younger people in relationships, those 18 to 34 years old, were more likely than older people to say the pandemic has affected their relationship. (Couples in that age group are more likely to be unmarried than those who are older.)