We conducted an exclusive survey of 2,000 Britons to find out how the pandemic affected their love life and marital relationships. What they told us is fascinating…

'Wherever you fall on the relationship spectrum, you’ll have felt the seismic impact of the pandemic – and, for many, connections with others may never be the same again.'

‘Wherever you fall on the relationship spectrum, you’ll have felt the seismic impact of the pandemic – and, for many, connections with others may never be the same again.’ 

This pandemic has impacted every part of your life. The impact of the pandemic has been devastating on every aspect of our lives, from health and finances to careers and social lives. This is particularly true when it concerns romantic relationships.

We conducted an exclusive survey with YOU magazine and spoke to over 2,000 people across Britain about how Covid-19 has impacted their relationships. You would be shocked to know that 25% of lockdown couples argue more than normal. Most likely not. You might be the one to go.

But bet you’d never guess that catching Covid could make you more sexually adventurous? Twenty per cent of people who had fallen ill with the virus told us they’d now consider an open relationship.

These fearful times seem to have encouraged a wider view of relationships. Surveillance revealed that nearly half the respondents to the survey said they are open to considering a nonmonogamous relationship. You readers were five times more likely than before the epidemic, in fact, they feel happier if their partner is with someone other than them.

Despite everything, though, love has endured: 73 per cent described themselves as ‘happy’ in their current relationship status, with parents more likely to be content with their lot, and those in Northern Ireland the happiest in the UK, versus the least happy Londoners. Commitment is on the agenda. One-tenth of respondents are more likely now to contemplate marriage than the other ten percent.

Of those dating who took part in the survey, 83 per cent began doing so in the past 18 months – and neither enforced separation nor an overdose of physical proximity has hindered relationships progressing. In fact, 44 per cent of engaged people we surveyed had become so since early 2020, and 20 per cent of those betrothed said the pandemic has ‘forced a greater level of commitment from them or their partner’.

Given the social distancing and lockdowns, it is not surprising that online dating continues to be a very popular method of meeting a partner. It accounts for 22% of young couples. Without doubt, it has been a time of romantic turmoil for many, but the 18-54 age group – particularly those under 35 – have had it hardest, representing the majority of those who have separated, divorced or called off a wedding during this period.

For those without a partner, it’s been a time of change in terms of emotional attachment, with 20 per cent of singles lonelier than ever, and ten per cent ‘more picky’ about who they’ll choose to be with.

What is clear is that, wherever you fall on the relationship spectrum, you’ll have felt the seismic impact of the pandemic – and, for many, connections with others may never be the same again.

LOVE AT THE TIME of COVID: YOUR STORIES

From a devastating divorce to sex parties, these couples’ love lives have been transformed…

‘I GREW TO HATE THE SIGHT OF MY HUSBAND

Maria*, 50, is an accountant and lives in North London with her two children. We didn’t begin the pandemic a perfect couple. But I never expected that by now we’d be in the midst of a divorce, our marriage irreparably broken.

Nick* and I married in 2000 and over the years, like lots of couples, the spark faded and the issues between us multiplied. He drank too much to relieve the pressures of his job in the City. It was my responsibility to do too many things at home while working full time. This caused rows. Over time our sex lives had fallen apart. We were no longer able to be affectionate and I found him less attractive. But we had two beautiful children in their teens, a lovely home and a ‘good’ life, so we made the best of things. We lived separate lives as our primary coping strategy.

Nick* and I married in 2000 and over the years, like lots of couples, the spark faded and the issues between us multiplied

Nick* and I married in 2000 and over the years, like lots of couples, the spark faded and the issues between us multiplied

My friends were my social circle, his was mine. He golfed, I did yoga. At the weekends, he’d take our sons to football matches, on school breaks I’d take them to see my family in Scotland. Even at home, we’d watch TV in separate rooms in the evening.

It was a way of life we’d fallen into that worked for us. It was more enjoyable to spend less time together and, for the benefit of our children, we would continue this way. The pandemic changed everything. We were both working remotely and felt under immense pressure to do our jobs professionally, while homeschooling. The stress made it difficult for us to argue over who could use our home offices and who should be responsible for the supervision of the children.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, there was no respite from the pressure cooker that our home became – no golf or pub for him, no gym or a meal with friends for me. There was no way to be apart except for a visit to the supermarket.

We had terrible arguments about anything and everything every night, throwing insults and taking out our frustrations and stress on each other. I grew to hate the sight of him – I’m sure he felt the same way about me – and began sleeping in the spare bedroom.

I remember one particular argument, as that first lockdown neared its end, when I thought: ‘I just can’t carry on with this marriage, I despise you so much.’ After a hellish day of working while also supervising the children, cooking a meal, ordering an online shop and worrying about my mother in Scotland who had been diagnosed with Covid, I was completely exhausted. So when Nick strode into the kitchen in his Lycra cycling kit, announcing he was off out on his bike ‘to unwind’, after he’d spent the day ensconced in our home office, I hit the roof.

Weeping with rage, I told him he was a selfish pig who only cared about himself, to which he responded I was ‘a bloody nag’, before leaving me sobbing on the kitchen floor. My realization of how unstable our marriage was made me realize the extent to which we had fallen into so many emotional depths within a few months. We’d been papering over the cracks for years by living separate lives but, thrown together by the pandemic, they were exposed and wider than ever. It was clear to me that I had no choice but to leave. It was difficult to continue sharing my life with someone who could barely see me.

Even though we tried to save our marriage by seeking counselling, the lockdown did not work. There was too much toxicity, too much anger, I couldn’t see a way back and neither could he. The pandemic was a major blow to our already difficult relationship.

It was a mutual decision to divorce, which we’re in the process of at the moment. He’s renting a flat, I’m in the family home with the children, but it will be sold soon so that we can buy separately.

It’s as amicable as it can be – I think we’re too worn out by everything that has happened to fight any more. I never expected to be a 50-year-old divorcée and single mother. Perhaps no marital union is more miserable than the one that was destroyed by the pandemic.

‘I ASKED HIM TO MOVE IN AFTER FIVE DATES’

Shikha and Flaviano’s son Leo was born just over a year after they started dating

Shikha and Flaviano’s son Leo was born just over a year after they started dating

Shikha Rishi is 39 years old and is the beauty clinic’s boss. Flaviano is her partner, who is 40 years old, is a director of the company. Their five-month old son Leo lives with them in Bournemouth.

After Leo’s birth, I realized how profoundly the epidemic had been in my life. Flaviano, Flaviano, and I first met on a dating site in December 2019. From January to March 2020 we had five dates. We also kept in touch by phone most of the time. I really liked him and when the UK went into the first lockdown, I couldn’t imagine not continuing to see him.

Although it was completely against my nature, I was unable to feel normal at the time. One night, Flaviano asked me if we could stay together in my flat until the lockdown was lifted. Although he agreed to move his belongings from his flatshare in April into my house, I must admit that I was nervous. How would living together 24 hours a day be?

My beauty shop is closed. Meanwhile, Flaviano had been furloughed – so all we had was each other. This allowed us to find each other without distractions. We walked, cooked, decorated my flat, drank wine and met each other’s friends through Zoom. Many found it difficult. It was so wonderful to have one another and be secure.

Our most challenging period came as lockdown began to ease and we were adjusting to living our relationship in the real world again – we had gone straight in to being this little bubble of two, so hadn’t had the chance to be a ‘normal’ couple.

Flaviano chose to change his career and launch his own business. My clinic was reopened so I had more time with Flaviano. The simplicity of the months in lockdown was hard. We felt tired and had to juggle our relationships with friends and family.

Were there a few points of disagreement? Absolutely! Yes!

It was November 2020 that I found out I was pregnant at 13 weeks. It was a massive shock – the only symptom I had which led to me taking a test was feeling very tired. It was not what we had planned but it turned out to be a wonderful surprise. Leo was born in July and we are so in love with him – and each other.

My old self wouldn’t have believed that a fast-moving relationship was possible. I’d have been wary of things happening far too quickly. However, the pandemic tore up my rules and made me move quickly. I’ve learnt if something feels right, why wait?

‘WE SPENT LOCKDOWN AT ONLINE SEX PARTIES’

Alice*, 39, is a personal assistant and lives in Hampshire with her husband Rob*, 40, and their three children.

After I had put the children to sleep, I changed into my lingerie quickly and then joined my husband with a laptop in the living area. We were all ready for the pandemic date night.

We’d be taking part in a Zoom sex party, doing everything from playing sexy games to watching other couples have sex, and breaking off into private online groups to swap numbers for sexting.

Some couples may have reacted to the long nights due to the pandemic by consuming endless amounts of takeaways, boxsets and arguments. Rob and I had a chance to discover a different dynamic in our relationship.

We’ve been married for 12 years and have always made an effort in the bedroom. Both of us believe that sex is an essential part of happy marriages. We had regular sex before the pandemic and tried different positions and sex toys.

In the past we’d talked about pushing the boundaries of our relationship, and involving other people. It wasn’t about being dissatisfied with the sex life we had – we’re just naturally adventurous people and have always believed that new experiences are the way to keep our love life alive. However, we’d never actually done anything about it – until the pandemic came along. Both of us were furloughed with no children to chauffeur or socialize so our evenings were entirely ours. We used this time together to play and explore.

Neither of us wanted to grow bored or irritable with one another while locked down – my WhatsApp groups were filled with messages from my friends who were fed up with their husbands, and I didn’t want that to happen to us.

Statistics about Lockdown Love 

 1/4 of couples who called off a wedding did so in the last 2 years 

The last 2 years have seen 12% of the respondents have sex outside their partner. 

83% of people who have been dating for the past 18 month started it. 

1  in 10 singles say the pandemic has made them more picky about a partner 

Since 2020, 44% of all proposals by engaged couples have been made.

20% of Covid-affected people would be open to a new relationship.  

In April last year we signed up to the Killing Kittens app – an online community for the sexually adventurous. I was excited, nervous and turned on by the fact that we, in spite of our many years and seemingly ordinary exteriors, were not boring behind closed doors.

At least one evening a week we’d attend a Zoom party – they became our date night and a way to unwind from the monotony of home schooling and endless walks. It was liberating to meet other couples who felt the same as us when it came to sex – that it’s fine to be curious and kinky, but still be happily monogamous.

As life has become more normal again since the lifting of lockdown, we’ve carried on attending online parties every weekend, and it’s had a ripple effect on our sex life, injecting new excitement into it.

We still keep what we get up to a secret – nobody in our ‘real’ life knows about it. Partly this is because we enjoy the thrill of sharing such a sexy secret, but mainly it’s because I don’t know how our friends or families would react.

There’s still so much taboo around sex and I worry people would judge us and think it reflected badly on us as parents. It would be a nightmare if other parents were to gossip about our kids.

Recently, I went to a real-life, women-only Killing Kittens party in London with Rob’s blessing, though he was gutted that men weren’t allowed. There, I had sex only with a female. Later, Rob was back in my hotel room. I FaceTimed Rob to tell him about the experience, which he absolutely loved. He trusts me implicitly, so I didn’t feel jealousy. I was really proud that I made a dream come true.

We’re planning to attend a real-life sex party together as soon as possible – both of us feel comfortable about the prospect of watching the other sleep with someone else, or having a threesome. Now I’ve been to one, I can’t wait to share the experience with Rob.

While other mothers at school gate moan about the effects of the pandemic on their relationships, I feel quiet smug. If only they knew how we’ve managed to keep our spark not just alive but brighter than ever.

‘WE DIDN’T TOUCH EACH OTHER FOR MONTHS’

Rivkie Baum is 35 and a content creator. She lives in London together with Dan Baum (34), a designer. Dan and me had been together for five months when we entered the lockdown. He lived nearby with his parents and I in a shared flatshare. We both agreed to social isolation as the best way for us to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe.

After dating through lockdown, Rivkie and Dan got married this summer

Rivkie married Dan this summer after they had been in a relationship through lockdown.

We had no contact with each other from March 2020 to August 2020. It was difficult at times. When I felt low, scared by what was happening in the world or stressed about work, more than anything I wanted to feel Dan’s arms around me. Our goal was to make socially-distant dating as fun as possible and be as romantically as possible.

Dan would come to my garden with a cheeseboard and takeaway cocktails from the bar where we had our first date, or I’d prepare an afternoon tea and we’d sit outside for hours talking and laughing. A dinner date was held at Dan’s block of flats at the curb. This turned out to be more romantic than it seems! Without touch, talking was all that we could do. We talked about everything: our hopes and dreams for vaccines, our dinner plans when we could get together, our dream to open a restaurant, our mutual desire to have a successful business, and even the possibility of having a baby.

We’d see each other several times a week and in between we remotely dated, too, watching boxsets at the same time while on Zoom, playing online games and cooking the same meal in our respective kitchens then eating ‘together’ by FaceTime.

Although I wish we could have had a ‘normal’ relationship, we put so much effort in it still felt special and it definitely cemented our bond. I learned that Dan was someone I could talk with for hours and we’d never run out of things to say. It was an encouraging sign, even if it took us months to see each other again.

Our distancing ended when we took a summer vacation. It was amazing to be able just to hold hands and snuggle up. At the end of that trip, Dan proposed and I said yes without hesitation –even though we had been dating for less than a year. Dan moved in my family’s home and it was a great opportunity for me to meet my parents. We married in August this year and because of the pandemic it was the first time my parents had met Dan’s dad, and for Dan and I it was a chance to also meet each other’s family and friends.

Married life – and being together in a proper sense – is wonderful. It wasn’t easy, but pandemic dating has given us a happy ending.

 *Names have been changed