How’s your love life during these stay-at-home times? Not to get personal, but it is Valentine’s Day — and, besides, getting right in the middle of your home life is what I do.
When the pandemic first hit, relationship experts warned that the pressures of constant togetherness combined with virus anxiety could push some couples to the breaking point. Even if it didn’t, all that familiarity would most certainly destroy whatever mystery you thought was left between you two.
I can’t believe she’s wearing those same yoga pants again. If he wears that Boston Red Sox T-shirt one more day, I’m going to tear it to shreds. How can anyone get any work done with that TV on? His stuff is everywhere. Her phone calls never end. I wish he would shave. I wish she would shave. And — poof! — there goes the magic.
So I’m checking on you and offering some heartening data. Homes.com, an online home-searching service that surveys consumers every February on some aspect of my two favorite subjects ― love and home ― conducted a pandemic-themed survey this year. The company asked more than 1,000 “coupled” consumers of all ages whether spending more time at home together was helping or hurting their love lives, and ― this was my favorite part ― what changes they’d made in their homes to cope.
The results are in, and Cupid would be pleased: 63 percent said that spending more time at home, even under less than great circumstances, had improved their relationships. Only 10 percent said their relationships had suffered.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Gillian Luce, Homes.com director of consumer marketing, who led the survey.
“We went into the survey expecting to find trouble,” she confessed. “We anticipated that living in tight quarters under stressors from the outside world would have had a negative impact on relationships. But, for the most part, we found love is conquering, if not all, an awful lot.”
One way couples have adjusted to the new abnormal is by making home improvements, which is hands down my favorite coping strategy. Indeed, the survey found that one in three couples made a home improvement during the pandemic to minimize conflicts and make their homes work better for them.
“The more we stay home, the more we see the areas of our homes that need improvement,” said Luce, who lives in Chesapeake, Va., with her husband and 3-year-old son. After turning her guest room into a home office, she put in new windows, a fence, a larger pantry and a better backyard drainage system, the latter so her family could spend more time outside even after heavy rain.
“The survey reinforced what we know about our desire to connect,” Luce said. “We are such a social society. If something nice came from this pandemic, it’s that we got back to basics, to having more meals together, to less hustle and bustle and to spending more quality time with our loved ones.”
And isn’t that what being in love is all about?
Here’s what else the love in the time of COVID-19 survey found:
More couples moved in together. Ten percent of couples who lived apart before the pandemic have moved in together. Of those who did, four out of five said their relationship improved as a result. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of those who started the pandemic in a relationship called it quits.
More brought home furry friends. Nine percent saw their extended time at home as the right time to extend their family by getting a dog or cat.
Many found more me time. An indication that most partners can only take so much of the one they love, 57 percent purposely carved out some alone time. Among the top escapes were exercising alone (17 percent), designating a separate workspace (17 percent), watching separate TV shows (15 percent) and starting a new hobby (12 percent). Meanwhile, 56 percent adjusted their routines to create more together time.
We modified our homes to fit the times. Of the 34 percent of couples who reported changing their homes because of the pandemic, 41 percent added a home office, 23 percent put in a home gym, 22 percent created an outdoor living space and 19 percent carved out a dedicated space for hobbies. For instance, my husband and I took up jigsaw puzzles and set up a dedicated table with a light for our new pandemic pastime.
We missed those dear. Though they appreciated increased couple time, 29 percent of those surveyed said the top pandemic-related strain on their relationship was the inability to spend time with other loved ones, namely friends and family. The constraints on travel and entertainment ran a close second at 28 percent.