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New research released by Relate, the leading relationships charity, paints a divided picture of relationships in the East of England and the rest of the UK as lockdown is eased.
Across couple, family and social relationships, people have had a range of ‘relationship realisations’ – many wholly positive and some more challenging.
A heart-warming 60% of respondents in the East of England said that lockdown has made them realise relationships are the most important thing in their lives and more than a third (36%) of respondents in the region who have parents feel emotionally closer to them.
Sadly, just under a quarter (23%) of respondents living in the East of England who have a partner have struggled to support them emotionally during this timei and 7% noted that lockdown has made them realise they need to break-up, divorce or separate.
The poll of 2,058 UK adults found that more than half (57%) of respondents in the East of England said their relationships with loved ones have helped them get through lockdownii. As Relate launches its first ever Relationships Week (20-26 July), Relate NEL Essex is asking people to share their #RelationshipRocks via social media – with a picture or video and a short message about how someone has been a ‘rock’ to them lately.
Pam Forsyth, CEO of Relate in Essex said: “Most of us can’t remember a sustained period of pressure on every aspect of life on such a scale. Relationships are central to health and wellbeing and we want to raise awareness of their power to protect and sustain us in the worst of times.
Relationships are now in the spotlight more than ever so we want to grasp this opportunity to encourage everyone to talk about them more openly – the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s why today marks the start of our first-ever Relationships Week and we’re calling on people in Essex to join in the conversation.”
Make or break time for couples
When it came to couple relationships almost a quarter (23%) of people in the East of England who have a partner said they have struggled to support their partner emotionally during lockdown, matching the UK average of 23%.
Just over one-in-seven in the region (15%) were anxious about how their relationship with their partner will change when lockdown ends, compared to 17% across the rest of the UK. Of respondents in a relationship living in the East of England, 6% said lockdown has made them realise they want to propose to their partner, while 7% came to the conclusion during lockdown that they need to end their relationship.
Socially distanced but emotionally closer to family and friends
While we may have been practising social distancing during lockdown, many have realised their emotional bonds with loved ones have strengthened. For example, more than a third (36%) of respondents in the East of England who have parents said they felt ‘emotionally closer’ to them as a result of lockdown. This compared to a UK average of 43%.
Despite this, just over one-in-seven (15%) respondents in the East of England who have parents have argued or had a disagreement with them during lockdown. Looking at other relationships in the East of England, 35% of respondents living in the region who have a sibling felt emotionally closer to their siblings since lockdowniii, 25% of respondents felt closer to their neighbours and 29% felt closer to their friends.
Relationship hopes post-lockdown
Lockdown has made many people experience first-hand the benefits of quality family time. More than half of respondents in the East of England (52%) agreed that the experience has inspired them to make more effort with loved ones in the future.
When asked exactly what lockdown relationship habits people would like to continue in the future, family walks/spending time outdoors together came in top (30%), followed by video calls with family (28%) and spending more quality time with family (25%)
Pam Forsyth, CEO of Relate in Essex concluded: “This Relationships Week, we want to help everyone in Essex celebrate the best of their lockdown relationship realisations and address the more difficult ones. We have a unique opportunity here – the role of relationships is clearly front-of-mind for many.
“I’m encouraging everyone to start a conversation about their relationships this week, whether it’s to thank someone for their support during lockdown or to begin addressing issues that have been swept under the carpet in recent months.”
Relate is offering a free course on communicating more effectively; tips for dealing with social anxiety and a range of other issues as lockdown eases; and online counselling, sex therapy and mediation sessions. Visit relate.org.uk/relationships-week.