Desire and Attachment; a Post Lockdown look at how your relationship will survive
By Dr. Tammy Nelson
Can you get to know someone so well, so intimately, that you can’t imagine being without them? And at the same time, you’ve learned lately during this experiment we’ve called COVID-19 lockdown, that when you’re with them all the time, you lose interest.
Recent research published in the Frontiers of Psychology Journal tells us that the COVID-19 pandemic did some damage, not only to our mental health but to our sex lives as well. The lockdown’s effect on our relationships and our sexuality varied, but for many couples, the virus killed our libido. As we begin to look at the potential for release from our shut-in lives, what will our intimate lives really look like?
Our post lockdown relationships may improve, or they may return to a pre-Covid state of boring and stale sex lives for some couples. For those who were forced into stay at home orders with an unhappy spouse, we can see from the recent studies of the past year, that how a couple’s sexuality and relationship quality either improved or worsened during the lockdown was an indicator of their relationship quality at the time and gives us hints on how to improve things going forward.
The study found that the variables that influenced the relationship quality and a couple’s sexuality may be important in our understanding of sexuality and desire in all long-term and cohabitating couples. In the US, from January 2019 to January 2020, 12.1% of men and 18.7% of women perceived an increase in sexual desire during the lockdown and 18.2% of men and 26.4% women perceived a decrease in sexual desire[i][ii]
Most couples who responded to the survey said that they did not perceive any differences in their sexuality, yet the female participants reported a decrease in pleasure, satisfaction, desire, and arousal. This means that in heterosexual couples, the men said things were the same at home and the women said things may not have changed but they weren’t enjoying it.
The main reasons behind changes in satisfaction were worry, lack of privacy, and stress. This makes sense when we look at the statistics around women and employment. Women lost over 5.4 million jobs during the pandemic-induced recession5 — nearly 1 million more job losses than men.6 Women were forced back into the home, with no extended family to help with childcare. With most service sector jobs being overly represented by women and minorities, many of these women had no outside help. Grandparents and babysitters were kept out of the home, for health reasons, and the majority of the responsibility for childcare, domestic responsibilities, and homeschooling fell on the women.
We know that with increased domesticity and responsibility for children, desire and arousal decrease. With exhaustion comes a decrease in desire for sex. Sex, therefore is a commodity for those that can afford to take the time, and/or have the energy.
For couples who have been forced into social isolation, over-familiarity can also lead to a decrease in desire. This over-attachment for some couples may have come as a relief because it led to a relaxed at-home nesting relationship, where giving up the commute meant more time together, more attention to the relationship, and more time for affection and sex. For other couples, lack of space, no privacy, and worry about finances and health created too much attachment and not enough room for longing, attraction, or for desire.
If your relationship was going well before Covid, it most likely improved. If there was tension when you were forced into a shared space, your sexual intimacy may have been difficult to create and maintain. This may feel especially troubling when we look toward a post-lockdown world where you might not know how to rebuild a strong connection in order to strengthen your relationship.
Losing desire for your partner or even for self-pleasure can be painful, but it is something that a sex therapist can help with. Seek out a professional if you need additional support with your relationship struggles. Couples counseling can help.
If you are a professional and want to learn more about how to help your clients connect mentally and emotionally, and find the sexual connection they need, I want to invite you to join me for training on Desire and Attachment, April 29, 2021. This four-day course will teach you the interventions you need to help post-lockdown couples with their attachment/intimacy connections and build stronger relationships.
Register now for one day or all four days of the online program as part of the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute’s 4-day series, Attachment, Relationship Styles, Trauma & Affairs.
I look forward to seeing you there, online.
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