The current pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant stress to millions of people worldwide. But for those with positive relationship satisfaction in their love life, the quality of the relationship helps mitigate COVID-19 stress.
The investigation into the role of a romantic relationship in alleviating the stress from a pandemic was led by York University. Their findings showed that partners responsive in their feelings and needs were less likely to be affected by COVID-19 stress. At the same time, the positive responsiveness resulted in a better satisfaction rating. That would mean the stress spillover on the relationship was less severe, which might secure the future of couples. The results were published in the journal PsyArXiv of Cornell University.
Satisfaction in Romantic Relationship Matters During Pandemic
Because of the significant changes caused by COVID-19, millions of people are stressed and irritated. First, many of them either temporarily or permanently lost their primary source of income. With low resources, people are constantly looking for ways to put food on the table. This creates stress that can affect their family and significant other. Second, if they are in a toxic relationship, the stress from the pandemic can worsen the relationship. This may result in a breakup or worse outcome. And third, people who ended up with bad outcomes from their romance during the pandemic can be prone to loneliness, especially if they live alone.
A group of researchers led by York University investigated the association of romantic relationships with COVID-19 stress. They found that the state of the relationship was prone to stress. But depending on the state, the stress could either strengthen the bond among couples or aggravate the negative relationship satisfaction. Those with sensitive partners were less likely to be affected by stress from this pandemic.
"Maintaining a satisfying romantic relationship is vital to overall health and well-being, yet relationship quality might be hampered by stressors brought on by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. In the Love in the Time of COVID study, we examine whether COVID-related stressors (i.e., social isolation, financial strain, and stress) are associated with lower relationship quality and greater conflict in relationships, and test whether perceived partner responsiveness — the extent to which people believe their partner understands, validates, and cares for them — buffers these effects," researchers wrote.
Their research was focused on the perceived partner responsiveness, a metric that determines if partners are actively attending to their feelings and needs. This responsiveness could pinpoint how a romantic relationship would survive during challenges. Emerging evidence suggests that stress could spill over to relationships and decrease its quality over time, which might start discord between couples. However, some evidence also suggests that stress could help relationships grow stronger.
In this study, the link between COVID-19 stress and relationship quality was explored. Researchers drew participants in Wave 1 of the ongoing longitudinal project, which examines the effects of the pandemic on how people cope, connect, and relate. Participants were from the Love in the Time of COVID Study. A total of 3,593 participants were chosen as the study sample, in which 82% were heterosexuals, 13.2% were bisexuals, and 4.3% were homosexuals.
For gender, 77.6% of the study sample were women. For the relationship status, 34.4% were married, 8.1% were engaged, and 57.5% were dating. For living status, 83.7% were living together in social isolation, 9.4% were not living together, and 6.9% were living together but part-time. Since the source of the study sample was worldwide, the survey was translated into 10 languages. The survey measured eight elements to determine the link: social isolation, financial strain, stress, perceived partner responsiveness, relationship satisfaction, commitment, and conflict.
Results revealed that respondents were experiencing intense stress, financial strain, and loneliness because of COVID-19. Researchers analyzed those elements and found that respondents who experienced those three elements, at the same time, reported more relationship difficulties. The most common relationship difficulty they reported was lower relationship satisfaction, followed by reduced feelings of commitment, and increased conflicts in their relationship.
Researchers explained that the relationship could suffer based on its intensity. Strong romantic relationships tend to affect both the mind and body, and if the quality drops, the general well-being of the couples would decline as well. However, in respondents who reported high relationship responsiveness, the stress was ineffective at ruining the relationship. The higher the quality of the relationship, the more protected the couples were from stress.
Dr. Madeleine A. Fugère, a professor of social psychology, posted on the US-based magazine Psychology Today that a single positive element in a romantic relationship can bring multiple benefits to the well-being of couples. As long as both parties are satisfied with the quality of the relationship, their mind and body are likely prepared for the stress. Since they can lean on each other, stress becomes a dynamic factor in romance. Rather than pinning the relationship down, stress causes partners to be closer to each other in overcoming a rare transformative event.
COVID-19 Cases is Almost Surreal for Most People
As of May 19, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, reported 4,731,458 confirmed cases and 316,169 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide. The total confirmed cases would soon reach 5 million globally and that alone could cause anxiety and stress among people, particularly those in severely hit nations. In just 24 hours, 112,637 new cases and 4,322 new deaths were confirmed in WHO regions. For some, the over 100,000 new cases and 4,000 new deaths within a day could be terrifying to know.
Up to this day, no vaccine has been approved for COVID-19, but several vaccine models have shown promise in early clinical trials. The worry of affected populations is how long it will take for a functional vaccine to become available. Their concern is warranted because governments are having difficulty securing food, supplies, and other basic necessities. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of individuals can no longer depend on their governments to provide sustenance. While they are scared to go outside to earn a living, they are far more scared of starvation.
In times like this, partners are recommended to communicate, connect, and cope with each other. Their relationship can be their saving grace from the stress of this pandemic. And if they succeed, they will know that their endurance against crises is greater than future pandemics.