December 31, 2020, by khyx2lyn

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Article by Chelsie Lajutan Elves, Year 3 student for the 2020/2021 academic year

Lessons from a time that our grandkids will never hear the end of.


     The pandemic has been difficult on everybody; from the already disadvantaged and less fortunate to the more privileged classes, all ages and generations of people. It’s normal to feel great mental distress from unpredictable and sudden changes caused by a worldwide pandemic[1], not to mention the fact that



     Most people think that the pandemic affects social relationships negatively overall[2]. In China, divorces were reported to be increasing ever since lockdowns were enforced[3]. There was a similar trend during the SARS pandemic[4], which is not surprising given the many novel challenges people must face and the unique issues faced in relationships being amplified by rising stress. It is uncertain that the situation in Malaysia is alike as court proceedings for divorces are suspended for now. Nevertheless, we’ve made it so far and have learned so much in the past year. We deserve a break to pause and reflect on what the pandemic has taught us about love and relationships.?


     Relationships are difficult and require effort. This doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships but also to familial ones and friends. We should already know this, but many tend to forget when caught up in the rush of everyday modern life. During the lockdown, we find ourselves stuck at home, often with others who are experiencing similar imprisonment. Your mental health might have been comparable to a rollercoaster, a house from a Hoarder’s episode, an abyss, or all three. I know mine certainly was (haha pain, so funny). Hence, it was harder to be keep your feelings in check when communicating with others. You might get into more disagreements because there’s less space for a time-out and you notice your differences more.


     At times like these, love is being tolerant of your loved ones’ faults and staying motivated to go through things together. It’s tempting to advise those you live with on how to do things the ‘right way’ (a.k.a. your way let’s be frank) that is the more efficient or easier way (supposedly). Professor Michele Bedard-Giligan from the University of Washington says that the key to being respectful and understanding is to avoid judging others for the decisions they feel are best for them[5]. Constant fighting is detrimental to couples especially; they have to work it out or they might end up separating (not the most convenient or desirable thing to do during lockdown). As successful long-distance couples know all too well, effective communication is not just a bonus skill that’s nice to have, it’s a requirement. Couples who establish positive coping methods to problems tend to feel more satisfied in relationships while couples who didn’t learn to cope positively continue having ample conflict[6]. Remember that you are trying to solve the problem with them on your team, you are not fighting against them. Gratitude is the key to staying tolerant and giving enough effort in relationships. When we integrate appreciation for our loved ones into our daily lives, commitment, loyalty and satisfaction in our relationships increase[7].


     During lockdown, time seems to stagnate, and your lockdown mates are there 24/7. It’s just uncomfortable even for the most ‘clingy’ of couples and tight-knit families! We learned that space and individuality is important in maintaining healthy relationships. Humans (and even our great ape cousins) are evolved to have wide social networks with flexible boundaries[8]. We are not meant to live in unchanging social settings, it is detrimental to our mental health. Lockdown has highlighted the variety of social batteries and personal space needs of different people. Parents’ Association for the Prevention of Young Suicide (PAPYRUS), among other organizations, offers tips for the people who need more time to recharge and need more space[9]. Daily exercise alone helps with releasing the frustration of being with people at home constantly. Remember that turning your phone off is always an option, as social media use drains your social battery even when you’re physically alone in your room. Mindfulness techniques are easy and help us deal with feelings of having less personal space. On the other hand, social media can be used to make new friends, providing variation in social interactions.


     Many people felt separated by the lockdowns and found themselves alone for more time than they were comfortable with. It was a difficult transition for many of us to wean off the addiction of constantly socializing. Social media blasts us daily with influencers who present an ideal life of being surrounded by fabulous friends, perfectly endearing family members and even adoring fans. Hence, we feel the fear of missing out (FOMO) when we must spend time alone with ourselves. Yet spending time alone is healthy for you and has so many benefits. Findings from a study published in Child Development[11] shows that adolescents who’ve had enough alone time enjoy more stable emotional states and are well-adjusted compared to their peers. When we spend time alone, our brains reset our thoughts and focus, we feel revitalized[11]. We can reflect on things and improve ourselves, which can help increase perceived self-value and consequently increase self-love.


     Constantly being with others is overrated. People tend to partake in more pleasure-seeking activities with companions around, as they tend to overestimate the enjoyment of these activities when there are observers[12]. We also tend to put in less effort in work when in a group; this is called social loafing[13]. Thus, productivity is increased when we have time alone as it is easier to say no to hedonistic activities (that can possibly harm your mental and physical health) and there is reduced social loafing. We have more freedom to do what we want and unleash our creativity. We have more time for self-care which always helps mental health. There is no description of alone time so perfectly described as a ‘strategic retreat that complements social experience’[11]. Adequate alone time helps us become better human beings who can enrich the lives of others around us.


     For some of us, the pandemic was a screeching halt to our busy lives, and we learned to slow down and appreciate the little things as well as the people who really matter. For others, the pandemic was an awakening and made us pay attention to our mental health, be kinder to ourselves and motivate ourselves to do things we never thought we could do. We realized that the relationship we needed to build and maintain the most, is the one with ourselves. 



  1. Rettie, H., & Daniels, J. (2020). Coping and tolerance of uncertainty: Predictors and mediators of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. American Psychologist.
  2. Naser, A. Y., Al-Hadithi, H. T., Dahmash, E. Z., Alwafi, H., Alwan, S. S., & Abdullah, Z. A. (2020). The effect of the 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak on social relationships: A cross-sectional study in Jordan. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 0020764020966631.
  3. Idzam, I. H. A. & Sheen Yee, L. (2020, May 20). COVID-19 and Movement Control Order: Divorce in Times of Crisis. Zul Rafique & Partners.
  4. Lee, A. M., Wong, J. G., McAlonan, G. M., Cheung, V., Cheung, C., Sham, P. C., … & Chua, S. E. (2007). Stress and psychological distress among SARS survivors 1 year after the outbreak. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52(4), 233-240.
  5. Eckart, K. (2020, July 31). Empathy and understanding: UW psychologists offer tips on relationships during the pandemic.
  6. Williamson, H. C. (2020). Early Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Relationship Satisfaction and Attributions. Psychological Science, 0956797620972688.
  7. Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(2), 257.
  8. Shaw, V & Winder, I. C. (2020, May 2). Lockdown challenges – what evolution tells us about our need for personal space.
  9. PAPYRUS UK (n.d.) Finding your own space during lockdown.
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