According to a new report on turbo relationships conducted by eharmony and Relate, more than 60 percent of respondents said that their relationship feels stronger than it did pre-pandemic and 58 percent said they now know they want to be with their partner forever. (Getty Images)
There’s apparently at least one good thing to come out of the global pandemic: turbo relationships.
Never heard of a turbo relationship before? It’s a new term used to describe couples who are moving at a fast pace – faster than they’d normally move in a relationship – and are largely doing well.
It’s unclear where the term originally came from, but it was used heavily in a new report called Relationships in Lockdown, conducted by dating websites eharmony and Relate. For the report, researchers hosted focus groups with couples’ counselors and combined those findings with a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 adults.
As a whole, the report found that many couples felt like their relationships sped up while they were on lockdown. More than a third of people who recently started living with a partner said they felt like the past two months were the equivalent of having two years of commitment together. They also felt like common relationship milestones happened faster than usual.
More than 60 percent of those polled said that their relationship feels stronger than it did pre-pandemic and 58 percent said they now know they want to be with their partner forever. More than 20 percent of couples said they’re having more sex, while nearly 30 percent say they have better communication than they did before.
Related video: How to strengthen relationships while you’re stuck at home
Some therapists are seeing this, too.
“The pandemic has been working as a sort of pressure cooker. Whatever was there in a relationship or family before is getting pressurized and intensified due to the lack of normal, regular outlets,” marriage and family therapist David Klow, founder of Chicago’s Skylight Counseling Center and author of the book You Are Not Crazy: Letters from Your Therapist, tells Yahoo Life. “With less distractions and more reliance on one another, some couples are enjoying an increased sense of gratitude for one another. As life changes so drastically, they have been coming to realize how much they need one another.”
John Mayer, psychologist and author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Life that he’s seen in “many” of his therapy sessions that the pandemic has taken away distractions that were previously there for couples. “That has brought a closer lens to the things immediately surrounding us, especially people,” he says.
“I am hearing from couples where the connection and harmony already existing in their relationship has been amplified,” Klow says. “With more time to be together and more chance for intimacy, couples who have a deep bond have more of an opportunity to enjoy it.”
Current circumstances also give couples more of a chance to lean on each other. “There’s a sense that, for some couples, a response to external stress results in them seeking out more emotional comfort from one another – driving them closer together,” William Chopik, a social-personality psychologist and assistant professor at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life.
It was easy to take relationships for granted before the pandemic, too, relationship expert Maureen Tara Nelson, tells Yahoo Life. “But once the pandemic hit and so many people around us started seeing and feeling so much pain and loss, it actually forced couples into appreciating each other more and making sure that we didn’t waste time sweating the small stuff in life in our relationships,” she says.
The pandemic can also force couples to have difficult conversations, Chopik says. And, for some, that’s a good thing. “Because the pandemic has so many implications for so many things – how we interact with each other, what the economy or our jobs will look like – couples might finally have the conversations they ultimately need to have about their future, their shared plans and constructing a more harmonious life together, he says.
And finally, a lot of it has to do with how couples handle stress. “Stress does interesting things to couples. It brings some closer together than ever and drives others apart,” Chopik says.
Of course, there is a flip side to this.
The report didn’t uncover all good news: 17 percent of those polled said being in lockdown with their partner made them realize their relationship is over.
Psychologist Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, tells Yahoo Life that she’s seen plenty of couples who have struggled with pandemic life. “Any couple who had any fault lines to begin with – those were going to get exacerbated by the pandemic,” she says. Mayer agrees. “The isolation also has the effect of highlighting irritations and negative aspects of relationships,” he says.
Durvasula says she’s seen couples fight over how to handle the status quo. “One person may think, ‘This is ridiculous. We’re all overreacting. I’m not going to wear a mask,’ and the other partner may say, ‘I’m concerned about this,’” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of this in relationships.” Some couples also just don’t do well being on top of each other on a daily basis, Durvasula says. “There’s no longer a sense of missing someone or wanting to share stories of the day. Some couples have run out of things to talk about and there’s a bit more sniping and grousing,” she says. Finally, Durvasula says that “not everyone is made for this.” While some people are perfectly happy to stay home, others are extroverted and can struggle with life in a post-COVID world. “That can cause tension, too,” she says.
But, Durvasula says, some couples are clearly thriving in the current environment. “Those with already strong systems in place just enjoy each other’s company even more,” she says.
What does this mean for the future?
If you and your partner are thriving in a turbo relationship during the pandemic, it can be a sign that you’re a good match and that things will likely work well in non-pandemic times, too, Mayer says. But Durvasula cautions people against rushing too quickly into anything. “Taking your time and seeing if it generalizes to a non-quarantined world is a worthy endeavor,” she says.
At some point, life will go back to normal and circumstances for relationships will change again. “It’s important for couples to take note of what things work for their relationships and which don’t,” Chopik says. “Sure, some things likely drove them nuts, but other things gave them a newfound appreciation of their relationship partner.” That’s why Chopik recommends that couples work to “cultivate” that appreciation, now and in the future. “If the couple felt stronger after particular types of conversations and activities or spending a relatively quiet day or night together [during lockdown], there’s no reason why some of these activities can’t continue,” he says.
A big aspect of what’s happening right now is the fact that so many people – and couples – have been forced to slow down, Klow says. While it’s unlikely anyone will want to recreate the entire experience in the future, Klow says it can be helpful for couples to remember in the future the benefits for their relationships of taking things easy. “In the future beyond this social isolation, couples might benefit from slowing down again and staying in touch with what they appreciate about one another,” he says.
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