The past 18 months have had a life-altering affect on many of us. It’s changed the way we see the world and the way in which we behave, whether that’s how we work, how we parent, how we feel mentally, or how we view relationships and friendships.
A study from the end of 2020 found that the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown caused a surge in marital break-ups and divorces, with one law firm sharing that inquiries were up by 122% on the year before. And, it’s hardly surprising given that we’ve been forced to spend more time at home than ever before, meaning that you’re either spending all of your time with your partner, or none of your time with your partner.
In fact, when we ran a poll earlier this summer almost 20% of you said you were either in the midst of a relationship break-up, or at least contemplating it.
We spoke to three women who have been through relationship break-ups since the spring of 2020. These are their stories…
The pandemic dragged my relationship out
“I met S in August 2018 when we were both working in the same city for the summer. We had our first date the day before I flew home, so from the get-go we were in a long distance relationship, and didn’t have our second date until 5 weeks later. Due to the nature of our relationship and respective jobs, we only really saw each other once a month and never spent any milestones like Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries together which put a definite strain on our relationship.”
“We first broke up a few weeks before our first anniversary but ended up getting back together shortly afterwards. Our first holiday together was booked for March 2020, which ended up getting cancelled due to covid (it would have been the longest time we had spent together in our entire relationship). Thanks to various national lockdowns, we didn’t see each other for months and then he was sent away with work for six months. When he finally returned and we saw each other again, there was just far too much emotional distance between us, and because we hadn’t seen each other in so long I felt as if I was single anyway.”
“We muddled through for a while and agreed to spend a fortnight together once lockdown was lifted. It quickly became clear that things weren’t the same and when I found out he hadn’t told me about another upcoming work trip, it was the final nail in the coffin. I ended things a few days later over Facetime.”
“The break-up wasn’t as soul destroying as I had anticipated, and I think that’s due to the fact that we barely saw each other, so I had adjusted to day-to-day life living without him well before we actually broke up. The timing also meant that I was able to go out and see my friends and meet new people. In a way, I think the pandemic meant our relationship lasted longer than it would have otherwise, as normal life was suspended for so long and it was nice to have someone on the other end of the phone when we were WFH and not seeing friends/family.”
“Since then, life has been getting better. I’ve got a new job, I’m happier than I have been for a long time and I have been lucky enough to meet someone new who makes me feel very loved and happy. I’m looking forward to life getting back to normal and making new memories, but I will always be thankful for the time we had and lessons learned!”
My husband and I separated after 20 years
“I met my husband on my first night at university and we then spent 20 pretty happy years doing all the things you’re ‘supposed‘ to do: holidays, moving to the Big Smoke, finding decent paid jobs, a lush DIY wedding, an extra-long backpacking honeymoon and then a move to the countryside to start a family. There were downs too, depression and miscarriages to name a couple, but we were fortunate enough to become a family of five.”
“The relationship got a little stale. All very normal stuff for parents of young children, I thought. Then lockdown came.”
“I thought that now he was at home more we’d be able to reconnect and get some of the spark and fun back, but it just didn’t happen no matter how hard I tried. So it was on one Saturday night after a very frustrating few weeks that I asked him two simple questions. ‘Do you still love me?’ And ‘Do you still want to be married to me?’ His answers? ‘Yes’ and ‘That’s a bigger question’”.
“There was a physical pain as the second answer sunk in. We had a couple of evenings of huge chats, lots of crying and hand holding and we were more honest with each other in those moments than we had been in months, if not years. We’d decided to separate but not rush in to him moving out while we adjusted to the idea and worked out a plan. The timing of the split was cruel – two weeks self-isolating followed by a holiday with family where we pretended we were okay and hadn’t made this huge life changing decision. It was the hardest few weeks of my life. So much crying. In the sea, in the shower, behind my sunglasses in the car while the kids sang to George Ezra at the top of their voices. But my ex and I became closer than we have been in years. We were communicating better than ever. Those weeks and months that followed our decision were filled with tears and sadness but also so much kindness and a sense of calm. We knew it was the right decision and we were a team, we had to be for the children. We’d been best friends for years and were opting for an ‘if Carlsberg did divorces’ vibe. It was six months before we told our family and friends. He moved out a week later.”
“Being in various states of lockdown during the rawest moments of our separation worked for us as we could lean on each other and work out how to move forward in our own way but I hadn’t anticipated how much him
moving out would affect me. We’d got through the heartbreak and physical turmoil of the decision to separate and I was beginning to feel lighter and ready for the next chapter but him moving out and the reality of our ‘new normal’ was another huge blow. We’d been cocooned in this state of huge shared sadness but also of team work and friendship. Once he moved out I quickly realised I needed more emotional space in order to move on and heal. We couldn’t lean on each other in the way we had done in those previous months. So I stepped right back and it helped. I had counselling and read every book and listened to every podcast I could get my hands on, to help me ‘heal’.”
“My heart is still utterly broken by what has happened but I’ve had the time and space to work out things that lift me and fill me up. The pandemic meant that we didn’t have to tell lots of people straight away, we weren’t seeing friends and family so we could sit with our decision and work out how to move forward in our own time without other peoples opinions impacting us. I’m nervous about going into my first winter as a single person – I often struggle with the loneliness – but this last 12 months has shown me how strong a person I am and I feel happier in myself now than I have in a long while.”
Lockdown showed us how different we were
“R and I met at work back in 2017 and although he was 12 years older than me, we hit it off straightaway. We saw each other casually for a while then begun dating, and before we knew it we’d been together for three years.”
“Our relationship was great for the most part, we got on with each other’s families, we both wanted kids in the future and we spent lots of time together. I had always been the more social and outgoing one and I still wanted to go out at weekends, go to bars after meals, have nights out with my friends and go on adventures at weekends, whereas he was more relaxed and laid back. He loved me so much and was always keen to make sure I got home safely and worried when I forgot to call or text.”
“At the start of last year, things were already a little disjointed between us. We’d spent New Year’s Eve with my friends and had had an argument and things had been up and down since. But when Boris Johnson made his announcement in March 2020 about the country going in to lockdown, R immediately jumped on the phone and told me to pack my things and stay with him for the duration. I was reluctant, and told him I’d rather stay at mine but I’d be alone as my two flatmates had gone back to their parents. I thought I could do with a break from life and asked if he’d consider coming to mine but he pointed out that he had a bigger house. In the end, I went but I knew it was a mistake.”
“I felt as though I’d been ripped away from what I knew and uprooted suddenly in unprecedented times. Although living together for those first few weeks was fine and we got on (I enjoyed cooking for us both and being the one to go to the supermarket), I quickly got bored and restless. He lived in a small town and I was used to the buzz of my city centre flat which even in a pandemic would have provided more entertainment because there were so many different parks to walk in. I began to treasure my solo strolls even when they were to the same places. I felt like he was on top of me all the time and he wanted to know who I was messaging, even when it was just friends and family. I felt suffocated and like so much freedom had been taken away from me.”
“Eventually, after complaining about the fact I wasn’t sleeping and needed to go back home, he agreed to drive me back. I relished being on my own again and enjoying the sunny weather and having the flat to myself.”
“One day, after I’d not put in too much effort to see him, I made the decision to end things. He didn’t take it particularly well but I tried to be kind and gentle. I think we would have broken up eventually if lockdown hadn’t happened but it definitely moved things along and showed us how different we were. Maybe I would have compromised more if the world had been more open at the time and I hadn’t had the opportunity to spend so much time alone getting to know myself.”
“I’m still happily single and I feel much more hopeful and content about the next relationship as a result of the relationship I have with myself. “