Love in the time of COVID-19: The pandemic’s impact on romantic relationships

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The COVID-19 Pandemic is changing relationships and romance in ways we have never seen, according to experts. 

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, people took simple signs of affection for granted, but now handshakes and hugs are rare. Lives of intimacy and togetherness have been disrupted by distance and isolation, said Kaben Clauson, a research and opinion expert and the founder of True Public — a polling firm that has surveyed Chicagoans about the pandemic’s impact on relationships.

“When isolation first started – very interesting — relationship happiness actually had a slight bump,” Clauson said. “But over the last few weeks, it’s been deteriorating more and more. In the city of Chicago, 39% of people, are now saying, ‘We’re having significant strains in our relationship.’”

WGN News spoke with Lucas Seiler and Tony Mattar, a couple who met just before the start of the pandemic and ended up living together for the duration of  the Illinois stay-at-home order.

“It is a little bit wild that you know, being together in quarantine is a little different than being together when both people are going to work, because we’re pretty much together 24-7, which has been a little bit of an unusual situation,” Mattar said.

Other dating couples told WGN that increased communication was a necessity to have a healthy relationship while social distancing. As for single people, the dating scene has been greatly reduced.

“People who are single, it’s really interesting,” Clauson said. “In Chicago, 47% of them are breaking isolation, these are 16 to 25 year olds who are breaking isolation to meet a crush, a potential date, a partner, so people are mingling or dating – our data shows that dating app usage is up.”

“It’s nice to go out and meet people,” Michael Tomaras, a single Chicagoan, said. “But you don’t give a hug hello or a hug goodbye.”

For married couples the situation is complicated. While some have become closer, many say the quarantine situations have strained their relationships.

“The story is this: most people are seeing intense strains,” Clauson said. “In fact, as we’ve gone through this, every week on average we’ve seen 2 to 3% more couples in the state of Illinois admit to having strains, so the longer this is going, the more couples are challenged by it.”

Laura Czopek and Tyler Rampey got engaged during the pandemic and say they hope the public health crisis is cleared up by the time they get married, so that large gatherings can once again be held. The couple has been dating for three years.

“We were joking that the state of Illinois should just give us a marriage certificate, if we got all the way through this pandemic and we’re still together,” Czopek said.


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