Relationship status aside, many of us have shared similar challenges as a result of the two lockdowns and the restrictions that were in place in the interim. In this blog, we are going to shine the spotlight on the additional challenges that many single people living alone have faced over recent months and provide some tips on how to cope with being single during a pandemic.
To begin with, let’s look at the potential down and upsides of being single pre-COVID-19…
Being Single in the Pre-Covid-19 Era
The Potential Downsides of Being Single
Being single during a pandemic is proving difficult. However, even pre-COVID19, many people say that they get upset about not being in a relationship but they feel they shouldn’t be getting as upset as they do because they have so many other good things going on in their lives. Additionally, if you’ve had a stint of being single and told others of your woes, you may have heard the message from those around you that you need to focus on making yourself happy and not to just try to find happiness in a partner. This has a lot of validity. It is definitely helpful to have other things in your life that make you happy and not to base all of your happiness on establishing a romantic relationship. However, it is important to note that you can do absolutely brilliantly at making yourself happy in all other areas of your life and still be upset at times (or a lot) about not being in a relationship. There are various reasons for this…
Our Innate Drive to Connect:
Being the social creatures we are, we have an innate drive to be socially connected (this creates ‘happy hormones’ which make us feel good), to find a sexual mate (or mates!), and to make little clones of ourselves (i.e. to produce children!). This isn’t to say that this drive is strong in everyone, which is evident in the fact that, for example, there are some people who are asexual and have zero desire to have children. BUT, on the whole, we tend to have an innate drive for the above things. Therefore, if we do not have a romantic relationship we miss out on such ‘happy hormones’. Upset and frustration can also arise where our innate needs are not being met
We are surrounded by societal messages which tell us that we should strive to be happy and successful and the key to this is to be in a relationship and have children (as well as to have a great job, be beautiful, have a banging body and to always be striving for more. Easy right?!). Therefore, if we are not on track in terms of aiming towards these things, we compare ourselves to others who are seemingly on track (made worse by being bombarded by social media posts of seemingly happy couples), then we can be left feeling unfulfilled, upset and possibly frustrated
The Lack of Intimate Support:
Healthy romantic relationships are valuable where we can (hopefully) be our true selves and be accepted for this, and have a ‘cheerleader’. If we are single, we can feel the sense of loss of these things. Friends and family may fulfil some of these needs but perhaps not to the same extent that a romantic relationship can
Therefore, it is NORMAL to feel upset about not being in a relationship, even if all other areas of your life are going great.
The Potential Upsides of Being Single
Now, pre-COVID19, some people found that being single and living alone wasn’t all doom and gloom. There were some good aspects of it that can be helpful to attend to and appreciate, such as the degree of independence you have, not being woken up by small kids and a snoring partner, not having to clean up after someone else, being able to have more precious “me” time and perhaps being able to travel more. For some, holding onto these positive aspects as well as possibly dating and having hope things may change soon, could help to offset difficult thoughts and feelings around being single.
Then Along Comes COVID-19…
Being Single in the Covid-19 Era
When COVID-19 decided to spread like wildfire and the lockdowns and restrictions ensued, this took away some of these potential upsides of being single, particularly the freedom to travel and being able to go out on dates. Additionally, for many people, the potential down sides of being single were made that bit worse by the pandemic. For example, ordinarily, the loss of the strong positive feeling that can arise from having a strong social connection with a romantic partner and sense of loneliness that can come with being single can be somewhat offset by seeing friends and family face-to-face. Without being able to see people face-to-face during lockdown, for many single people this loss and sense of loneliness became greater which was tough and it bloomin’ hurt. COVID-19 led to the rise of a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in many. One of the best tools to cope with this is emotional support, made that bit stronger when that emotional support is provided face-to-face. Many people don’t realised how important the physical and emotional comfort that a simple hug could bring, even from friends and family, until this was taken away.
Re-Evaluating What Is Important in Life
For many people, regardless of relationship status, the pandemic and lockdowns led them to re-evaluate what was important to them and helped them to put things into perspective. Many have decided that they wish to place less emphasis on work and more on their emotional wellbeing and pursuits outside of work (it’s a shame it’s taken a pandemic for this shift in perspective to happen!). In addition to this, for those who are single, the importance of having a romantic relationship and children may have risen to the surface more than usual. This is because pre-pandemic, having the freedom to do lots of nice fun things and leading an active life, as well as this being nice within itself, has the added benefit of offsetting the rubbishness of being single. But take this away and throw into the mix spending long periods of time on your own and being alone with your thoughts because of lockdown, can put a spotlight on feelings of loneliness, the absence of a close loving relationship and not being certain when/if you will have this in the future. Consequently, it can make people who are single place even more importance on establishing a loving relationship (and perhaps having children) to reap the benefits of this, including to be rid of such emotional pain.
It’s Ok Not To Feel Ok about being Single during Covid-19
The above demonstrates it may not be easy being single during a pandemic and lockdown. Yet many people can feel guilty about this. They perhaps think about their friend who is married with three kids and trying to keep their kids entertained during locking whilst working full time, keeping on top of household chores and trying to spend quality time with their partner whilst trying to stay sane. They may be thinking to themselves that in comparison they have it easy and should not be struggling with the situation. It’s important to keep in mind that people struggle for reasons, and as such, there are several reasons to be struggling if you’re single in lockdown (as outlined earlier!). Just because someone else is struggling does not take away anything from your own difficulties.
To Date or Not To Date?
Then there’s the dilemma of dating during lockdown. Do I just put it on hold? Do I attempt some phone call or video call dates or walking dates? Do I break the rules and get cosy with the person I’m dating? If so, do I tell family and friends or will they frown upon me? If I do date and I get hurt, will this be too much to cope with during lockdown? Should I be showing more strength by strictly following the rules and thus not get cosy with the person I’m dating/might date? Will the person I’m dating lose interest if I’m not willing to bend the rules? We are required to follow the Government guidelines which state that if you are single and living alone you may only socialise with those in your social bubble. You might be facing an inner conflict between wanting to establish a loving relationship and improve your emotional wellbeing by being proactive with dating (with someone outside of your social bubble) versus your duty to follow the rules and join the community effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Being single during a Pandemic: some tips to manage!
I hope this blog has helped to normalise the struggles you may be facing with living alone and being single during a pandemic while in lockdown. As can be seen, it can be tough being single and living alone during lockdown. It can be challenging enough without being hard on yourself for the fact you might be struggling which will only serve to make you feel even worse! It can be helpful to accept these difficult feelings; at times allowing yourself to be upset if you’re feeling upset.
Even though it is not possible to completely get rid of the emotional difficulties you may experience associated with being single during lockdown, you do have a degree of control over improving your emotional wellbeing to an extent:
Treat yourself with care and compassion
Go easy on yourself, prioritise your emotional wellbeing particularly during this challenging time.
Keep connecting, not isolating
Connect with others and get talking about your experiences of being single during lockdown with those you feel comfortable sharing this with. You don’t need to struggle with things in your own head on your own.
Remember, this is temporary
Keep in mind that lockdown round 2 will hopefully not be as challenging as lockdown round 1 where support bubbles are allowed (make the most of this if you can!) and fingers crossed it will not last as long
For more practical tips on how to look after your emotional wellbeing during lockdown, take a look at our other blog ‘How to Manage COVID-19 Anxiety in 7 steps’.
If you would like to see one of our therapists to receive professional help for relationship counselling, contact us to get a free 15min consultation and/or an online appointment (e.g., through Skype, Facetime etc). We’re here to help.
Stay safe and be good to yourself!
Author: Dr Amy Smith, Therapy Central Director
Graphics by Therapy Central