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(By Kaunda Selisho)

We recently had a chat with a variety of couples to find out what life was like under lockdown and what impact it had on their relationships as well as their work-life balance…

Nothing tests the strength of a relationship quite like a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic placed major pressure on millions of relationships around the world as couples tried to work out their ‘new normal.’

Lockdown forced us all to confront our fears and frustrations while in close confines with our partners. For some, it was an incredible time of bonding. For others, it was the beginning of the end. Lockdown divorces became a ‘thing’ as couples called it quits.

However, it was not all ‘bad’. Families bonded over board games and movies. Parents got to ‘catch up’ with their kids and spend time together like never before. While home schooling made us all realise the true value of teachers!

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Lockdown had a big impact on love. For better and for worse. Here are some stories from South African couples who weathered the storm together…

Lockdown & love: How did your relationship handle the pandemic? Here’s how some SA couples fared
Copyright : Kamil Macniak (123rf.com)

Marie* (Health Writer) and Johan* (Designer):

Marie and Johan are a young couple based in Gauteng. They have been married for just over a year and are expecting their first child. Marie and her husband moved back in with her family for the duration of the lockdown.

What was it like working from home/ working with each other around?

“We had more work than ever before. While a lot of people said they were able to get to all sorts of private projects and hobbies and start lots of interesting things, we were just pummelling our way through several extra projects and had lots of stuff to keep us busy but we’re very thankful for that,” explains Marie.

Both their careers had allowed them to spend a significant amount of time working remotely so they noted that it was not too much of a transition for them. The hardest thing for both of them was the fact that they missed being able to see colleagues.

“This is something that many people struggled with during lockdown,” says relationship counsellor and clinical sexologist, Leandie Buys. “We all need some personal space and time away from our significant others sometimes, and going to work and seeing other people is one of the ways that extroverts in particular, are energised. If they are stuck at home with the same people, in the same space all the time, it can cause cabin fever!”

Additionally, getting a new puppy during the time was their equivalent of having to manage a little one.

Additionally, getting a new puppy during the time was their equivalent of having to manage a little one.

What was it like being together 24/7?

According to the couple, being busy for most of the day made it feel as though they didn’t see that much of each other. This is also because they each had their own designated work station.

“We didn’t really see each other all that much apart from coffee breaks, lunch times and when we were exercising or just meeting up,” said Marie.

“It was a good time to see each other’s dedication to work and the willingness to put in extra effort,” said Johan.

“I don’t think we got too frustrated with each other. Obviously, a lot of communication is required to keep the peace and people’s fears and concerns and frustrations don’t get out of hand, I think that we managed quite well,” reflected Marie.

The couple added that being under the same roof as family that they had not seen in a while was the biggest challenge as they had to adjust to that way of living.

“Communication, kindness and one word that has always been important to us as a family, ‘harmony’ and keeping that in mind helped.”

“They definitely approached it in the right way,” says Buys. “Accepting that it is a difficult situation for all, and accommodating each other’s needs is important. Yes, it can get a bit claustrophobic at times, and frustrating to merge everyone’s routines, but if we are flexible and understanding, it can work.”

How did level 4 and 5 affect your sex life, if you don’t mind sharing?

“The increased workload affects your energy levels and mental state so that had a bit of an effect,” explained Marie.

However, considering the fact that the couple is now expecting their first child, Marie says the effect was not too detrimental.

“For some people, the lockdown was a chance to ‘reset’ and revaluate their life priorities,” says Buys. “Some couples reconnected on a whole new level, while others were overwhelmed by the stress of potential job losses, and fear for the health and safety of their loved ones. Stress is a libido killer, and it is very normal to experience a dip in intimacy when undergoing a major life change.”

“For some people, the lockdown was a chance to ‘reset’ and revaluate their life priorities,”

What has lockdown taught you about yourself as a partner/parent?

Marie said the situation taught her the importance of working as a team and making an equal effort to communicate and listen. “Listening to understand and not listening to respond,” she reflects.

She also says she picked up on a few things about herself that need work.

What has lockdown taught you about your partner?

“You see so many different sides of a person that you thought you knew but there’s also another layer….” continues Marie, explaining that she believes lockdown brings those additional layers to the fore.

She counts getting a front seat to what her husband really does at work as something positive as she is even more impressed with him than she has ever been.

“I’m definitely able to say that we’re stronger now than we were before,” she concludes.

Lockdown & love: How did your relationship handle the pandemic? Here’s how some SA couples fared
Copyright : nakophotography (123rf.com)

Lorraine* (Social Media Manager) and Tony* (Digital content creator):

Lorraine and Tony are a Johannesburg-based couple who have been living together for two years.

What was it like working from home/ working with each other around? (And having kids around if you have any)

“For us, it was bliss,” beams Lorraine.

She says that she and Tony became a couple simply because – after meeting one another – they could no longer bear to be apart. And after years together, that has not changed.

“I had always known I wanted to spend more time with her. Having her leave for work and spend all day at the office has always sucked. Getting to wake up around each other and have a slower start to our mornings, and getting to take midday breaks together has been great, it’s what I’ve always wanted.”

What was it like being together 24/7?

“It’s been awesome!” exclaims Tony.

The couple describes themselves as very close and affectionate and considers each other best friends.

The couple describes themselves as very close and affectionate and considers each other best friends.

“When we were not working, we got to cuddle, watch movies, go for walks, eat, drink, sleep etc,” said Lorraine.

“I don’t even remember us having any fights,” interjects Tony.

He explains that because of the life they had come to build with each other, getting ‘alone time’ came naturally, and wasn’t something they had to ask each other for.

“It’s wonderful to hear such a positive story coming out of lockdown,” says Buys. “This couple seems to really ‘connect’ with each other, and have a deep understanding of what they need, and how to show each other love and affection. Their communication skills will be very valuable throughout their relationship.”

How did level 4 and 5 affect your sex life, if you don’t mind sharing?

After some giggling, Lorraine and Tony say that it’s been great on the days when they have the energy for it. However, due to the fact that they worked throughout the lockdown, there were days where they were far too tired to be intimate.

Tony said he is particularly fond of the fact that they have become more experimental but refused to share anymore than that.

What has lockdown taught you about yourself as a partner/parent?

“It has taught me … that I am very needy,” begins Lorraine before explaining that she loves being able to get hugs from Tony in the middle of her day when things get stressful.

“It has taught me that I love being affectionate,” adds Tony who also enjoys being physically close to his partner.

“It has also taught me how much I love this woman… Wow.”

“It has also taught me how much I love this woman… Wow.”

What has lockdown taught you about your partner?

“Like I said, it has taught me how much I love this woman. I have gotten to see a whole new side to her, and it felt like falling in love with her all over again,” said Tony.

Lorraine says she says she has also enjoyed seeing just how thoughtful and considerate he is through all the little ways he helps her or does things to brighten her day.

Click HERE to read more lockdown relationship stories from South African couples.