Love and lust amid COVID-19

Couple sitting in bed after a shower sharing a bottle of red wine

May is International Masturbation Month, so I’m happy to hear that so many of you singletons are loving yourselves up during the health pandemic.

Or am I… Spare a thought for us “old marrieds” out there who are in lockdown 24/7 with our significant others and small children - for whom it’s a bloody miracle if we get to go to the toilet alone in peace, let alone find the time to self-pleasure or - gasp - get jiggy with it, with our long-term partners.

Did you know there’s both an international sex toy boom and massive spike in the numbers of people hiring divorce lawyers amid COVID-19? That’s the flip side I’m talking about - the great divide on how the pandemic has conversely affected singletons Vs us married-with-kids folk.

Let’s look at the first lusty trend: more sassy Aussies are experimenting with sex toys and across the ditch, our Kiwi mates are buying sex toys faster than toilet paper (OK, maybe not quite). 

But what about those stuck at home in unhappy or dangerous relationships, or those of us just simply struggling with being stuck at home day-after-day with our spouse and kids amid lockdown, like Groundhog Day? It certainly looks like divorce lawyers are making a mint out of the pandemic, too, due to the havoc coronavirus is inflicting on marriages.

Let’s get real - life in lockdown is hard - the fear and uncertainty of a killer pandemic has inevitably caused a spike in anxiety and mental health issues amid the community.

So, it’s no surprise that isolation life has seriously impacted long-term relationships - it can be nigh impossible to get some quality time with your partner when you’re cooped up together without a break and how on earth do you keep the passion alive when the multiple stressors of COVID-19 have all, but killed your libido?

The pandemic is seeing many married couples with kids stressed out of their brains trying to deal with: sudden unemployment; money woes; online learning, where nothing works; trying to hold down a job while working from home and simultaneously home schooling your kids and the list goes on.

This social media post really spoke to me, last week:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Scary Mommy (@scarymommy) on

So, how on earth do couples rise (pardon the pun) above this fraught and ugly situation, to prevent COVID-19 from ruining our sexual relationships?

I don’t know about you, but my spouse’s little behavioural ticks, which we all have, that have never much worried me in the past, are suddenly driving me insane; when you’re with them 24/7, things like chewing, mansplaining and I don’t know, their BREATHING, suddenly become unbearable (jokes, er mostly).

I must confess to having quite the plummeting libido myself at present - I’m a tad stressed, snappy, highly irritable and irritated by my spouse (through no real fault of his own) - how am I meant to want to jump his bones? 

There have been times in the past week, when I’ve been furiously working hard at my day job, with kids home 24/7, when I have momentarily fantasised about stabbing him with a fork when sharing a meal and/or confiscating his laptop, when I’ve seen him watching movies, in between home schooling our kids. My husband, a very handsome and accomplished professional musician - has, like many creatives (myself included), lost a lot of lucrative work of late amid COVID-19, and if that doesn’t leave you feeling er, limp and lacklustre, I don’t know what does.

Our sex life has predictably suffered amid this fairly hellish scenario - twice in the past week alone, we’ve been coitus interruptus, when a small child has unexpectedly barged in on us. Thankfully, both times have been under the doona (yay, autumn!), so said small child was both times unaware and not irrevocably emotionally damaged by the ordeal.

So, what to do? It’s frustrating AF and mentally draining to have your already feeble attempts at lovemaking thwarted by an annoying (but equally adorable) small person.

Relationship psychologists’ top tips on how to maintain love and intimacy amid the pandemic seem to be mostly split into these three key messages:

Practise positivity, kindness and calm

If you can find a sense of zen and be loving and peaceful amid the chaos, then you’ve won the battle to stay married, experts say. Mindfulness, self-love and self-kindness are key here - if you can’t be gentle and loving with yourself, high chances are that you won’t be winning any Spouse of the Year awards either. Try yoga, meditation or a nightly gratitude ritual before you go to bed, whereby you mentally check off all the wonderful things in your life that you have to be thankful for - top of my list, despite my ranting above, is a loving husband and healthy, happy kids! It’s vital we invest in our own sound emotional and mental health, as well as our relationships amid COVID-19. Remember that this time shall pass and try to look for the silver linings, experts say. Isn’t it *cough* nice to be have so much time to spend together with which to reassess what’s truly important?

Weekly scheduling

It doesn’t sound much like fun, or a quick and easy way to maintain harmony within a relationship, but relationship experts say a weekly check-in with your spouse - whereby you both plan out and prioritise agreed goals for that week - can be highly beneficial. Your weekly schedule must ideally cover off the times you want to spend together, time alone to recharge and time spent together as a family. I like the idea of this, because by scheduling time alone - for example, whereby both you and your spouse are respectful of the other’s need to reclaim some sanity, you can then hopefully come back to each other as healthier, happier humans. So, get out your whiteboard and pen - and start scheduling!

Date nights

This marital tip is nothing new, but regular date nights amid COVID-19 have suddenly taken on much more importance; it’s a chance to reclaim some quality time together and reconnect mentally, emotionally and physically. Order some nice take-in, get relaxed, ban all talk of COVID-19, put on some music, wear something cute that makes you feel sexy, light some candles and pour the wine - and hello, hot sex! Pre-installing bedroom door locks is another top tip I’ll leave here - Bunnings is saving marriages, man! 

Of course, when you’re already seeing so much of your spouse and desperately missing catch-ups with your gal pals - indeed, the outside world - the idea of a date night can make you want to vomit in your own mouth a little. But trust me - it’s well worth the effort and investment. Look for the things that made you fall in love with your spouse in the first place. Try to enjoy a laugh together and don’t take it too seriously - after all, true intimacy is about much more than the actual sex acts themselves - it’s also about the sharing of ideas and feelings and closeness and togetherness. When you do finally get to do the deed though, it’ll hopefully kickstart more regular sex - the more juicy orgasms you have, the more you want, I find. Bring on the happy and healthy hormones - the world’s best stress reliever amid a pandemic!

So, what have we learned? It is possible to feel both sexy and turned-on by your long-term partner amid the pandemic, if you are prepared to reassess your behaviours, do a little planning ahead and commit to regular date nights at home, according to relationship experts. We all need to feel safe, secure, loved and needed by our partners amid COVID-19 - some regular hot sex can only help fuel this closeness.

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