Audience Shot #11
Love Lockdown — How the nation is keeping the fire burning.
Lockdown has shaken up the nation’s love lives in a seismic way, with many relationships going the distance or facing some tough decisions around boundaries.
The government announcement regarding ‘support bubbles’ might mean a joyful reunion for a small number of star-crossed lovers out there, however many more must remain separate until further restrictions are lifted.
But what about singletons in all of this? And how about the couples who’ve been trapped together this whole time?
A global pandemic is undoubtedly a vibe killer, so you’d be forgiven for thinking dating was off the cards for most folks. Google search trends however tell a different story, with searches for quarantine dating appearing as a breakout trend over the past few months.
Thanks to the age of digital dating, despite being confined within the four walls of our homes, there are still options for those who want to date.
Dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble are reporting increased usage, with Bumble reporting a 12% increase in messaging and Hinge reporting a 30% increase. Hinge also reports that over 70% of its users have marked themselves as being open to a virtual date — which involves video calling in app or through video calling programmes like Zoom.
With virtual meetups ensuring that the dating scene can bravely soldier on, maintaining a mandatory physical distance poses an obvious challenge to the nation’s sex lives.
Durex are reporting a significantly lower volume of condom sales, which they’ve put down to both the restrictions around human contact, and also increased anxiety levels affecting the sex lives of couples who are currently living together.
It’s not all doom and gloom though — let’s not forget those who are working to spice things up!
Couples are keeping the romance alive and getting experimental with date ideas. From home cinemas complete with all the essential concessions to cardboard crazy golf courses, lockdown is forcing couples to get creative.
Sex toy and lingerie sales have seen a spike as people take matters into their own hands, with Anne Summers reporting that sex toy sales are up 27% on last year. Even Poundland are after a slice of the action, having launched a £1 vibrator in May.
While a significant uplift in the sale of pregnancy tests indicates the potential for a post-lockdown baby boom, experts are sceptical due to this largely being limited to couples who are living together.
For some, lockdown has been the start of a whirlwind romance, with many new flames taking the lockdown plunge together. Ah, sweet.
But hey, let’s spare a thought for those who’ve had tougher times. Constantly being around another human can be testing at the best of times, with an extra emphasis on the ‘all day, every day’ right now.
Couple’s therapist Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari discusses how being in extreme close quarters can cause some people to feel trapped, which in turn leads to anxiety and a defensive emotional response. Couples can end up transferring negative feelings to their partners, which leads to a cycle of negative emotional responses.
With all the additional stress during this period, it can amplify the tension. It’s key that couples and friends are able to navigate these frustrations in a balanced way in order to preserve and even strengthen relationships.
Meanwhile, some of us are using the extra time on our hands to spark up affairs — the UK’s biggest affairs hookup site Illicit Encounters has seen numbers double since lockdown started. Not only that, but the site found that more than 30% of its users are breaking social distancing rules to get physical with pre-pandemic lovers and 10% have broken the rules to get down and dirty with new lockdown amours.
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So, what does all of this spell for the future of dating? Though some argue that we’ll go wild with freedom, it’s possible that increased use of virtual dating will continue into the future, with people becoming more selective over who they choose to meet in person.
Overall, it’s clear that there’s been a shift in what matters to people and a greater understanding of what is personally important. While romance is special and lovely to have, perhaps it means that we’ll be prioritising all the other relationships that give us fulfilment, like the good ol’ trusty friendships that we’ve neglected across the past few months.
Whatever the case, we’ll always have lockdown.