Despite more time together, we are having significantly less sex during quarantine, but we don’t mind. Respondents report having 15% less sex during quarantine since March, but there was no difference between how much sex people wanted to have and how much they are currently having.
If you’re wondering about the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on the sex lives of US couples, you’re not alone.
A new Relationship Health Report released by relationship self-care company Relish has found that, overall, we are having 15% less sex during quarantine than pre-COVID. However, there is no gap between how much sex during COVID-19we’re having and how much we want to be having.
This reduction is likely due to the impacts of stress on sex drive. Since our stress levels increase, our interest in sex tends to decrease; with the past nine months being a stressful time for most people.
Sexual health during the pandemic
Maintaining a healthy sex life during stressful times can be a challenge. After all, sex is an opportunity to connect with our partner and can be a valuable stress release and mood booster.
WHO released various publications discussing the following issues:
Pregnancy & childbirth
Contraception and family planning
Violence against women
Self-care interventions for sexual and reproductive health and rights, etc
Besides, other researchrecommends safe sex practices during the pandemic. Non-monogamous partners should avoid sex during quarantine as they might serve as a network of a vast spread. Similarly, for monogamous partners, sexual activities should be avoided at all costs if one partner is symptomatic.
The video below discusses how sex during quarantine can pose a threat of infection. Find out:
Impact of age on sex drive
That said, many couples report that frustrations with their partners (likely from living in close quarters with them), issues with energy, mood, and anxiety have led to less sex during quarantine in general, even though they are spending more time together than ever before.
Experts recommend making time each week for sex and practicing stress-reducing activities like mindfulness and relaxation each day to lower stress and boost libido.
The report also looked at sex during quarantine across generations, and unsurprisingly, found a difference in the frequency of sex before and during COVID-19.
Generation Z (23 years old and under) were having the most sex during quarantine, with an average frequency of sex by age decreasing. Sex frequency also declines with the length of the relationship, with those in longer-term relationships generally having less sex in the relationship than those in newer relationships.
11% of Generation Z respondents were having sex daily or more than daily, compared to 3% of Millennials and 2% of Generation X. The most common response was 1-2 times per week, with around 30% of Generation Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers and 23% of Generation X choosing this option.
Impact of regional factors on sex drive
One of the variables affecting sex drive during the pandemic was the regional placement of couples. According to resources, pandemic caused a decline in the rate of sexual activity of Americans aged between 18 to 34 to 14%.
One primary reason for this decline was younger couples living separately. As a result of the say-in order during the pandemic, the couples were deprived of seeing each other for a long period.
Another survey revealed the stats in Italy about the decline in sexual interest of couples and increase of agitation, anxiety, stress, depressive symptoms, etc. The negative effect of COVID-19 on psychological health was more in Northern Italy as compared to Central and Southern Italy.
How has COVID-19 impacted infidelity in relationships?
So what about infidelity? Given the additional time we are spending online and the added pressure on relationships, have we seen a rise in online and in-person affairs?
It would seem not, and perhaps for several reasons, including the challenges of meeting up in person and fewer opportunities to meet people outside of the relationship.
Similar to existing research, 26% of respondents said there had been historical infidelity in their relationship, with 23% saying the infidelity was emotional, 21% saying it was physical, and 55% reporting both physical and emotional infidelity.
Of those who said infidelity had occurred in their relationships, 9% said that there had been infidelity during the COVID-19 pandemic, which indicates that it is still possible to conduct extra-marital affairs during lockdown and quarantine.
Impact of COVID-19 on porn habits
The new Relationship Health Report also asked about porn use, and although 12% of people said that porn had been an issue in their relationship, most people felt that their porn use had largely stayed the same during this time.
Some researchers had been concerned that, like social media, alcohol, and online gaming, pornography could be used as a ‘self-soothing’ strategy for some people during COVID-19 related stress, but this doesn’t appear to be an issue for the respondents of this survey.
Use of sex toys during pandemic
Another research points out how pandemic positively impacted the sex toy market as the newest sex trends.
Although COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted disease, it can be caused by coming in contact with the infected person during sex. This led to an increasing awareness and acceptance about sex tech products or adult toys as healthy sex habits during the pandemic.
The result of it was a drastic surge in the sale of sex dolls and sex robots.
How couples living separately during COVID-19 are maintaining intimacy
For those couples living separately during the pandemic, major challenges existed with maintaining intimacy- particularly those in long-distance relationships who could not travel to visit their partner.
For these couples, rituals such as online date nights (cooking classes, online games, and watch parties), care packages, and making plans for the future helped keep a focus on the future.
Distance and stress took their toll on many couples living separately- particularly those who were already suffering from mental health issues.
Relationship stress & boredom & how couples are coping up
So, does stress affect sexuality?
This report paints a compelling picture of how couples and individuals are managing during COVID-19 with stress, boredom, and fatigue likely contributing to less sex across the board. Interestingly, the survey also found that people now feel closer to their partners and more comfortable showing them how they really feel as compared to pre-pandemic.
So, the good news is that the drop in sex during quarantine is not so much about couples feeling less close, but more about couples feeling more stressed.
While we won’t know the full impact of COVID-19 for some time, for the moment, we can be confident in saying that.
Although we’re having less sex than ever, we seem to be doing a good job of building intimacy with our partners in other ways, which likely bodes well for our relationships in the future.
How to overcome sex life barriers during pandemic?
The unforeseen pandemic took intimacy off the table, and various barriers played a role in aggravating the sex problems in relationship.
Some of these barriers to a healthy sex life are:
Fear of financial security
Loss of job
However, this is a universal problem but at the end of the day, how you feel about yourself determines your next step in overcoming the barrier and improving sex life.
Some of the ways of overcoming such barriers, getting over sexual anxiety, and improving sexual relationships are:
Ask your partner about the day
You might spend the whole day together but still be unaware of each other’s mental health. So, make sure you check in with your partner about how they are feeling each day.
Although it is understood that you love your spouse, expressing it once in a while goes a long way in helping them feel loved and valued. Cuddling, holding hands, dancing together are some of the ways to regulate the nervous system and help your partner feel calm and relaxed.
Choose a common hobby
It could be reading a book or watching a documentary, or anything else. Make sure you consciously choose to do some activity together and spend some active time with your partner.
This will help you both feel secure.
It’s not permanent
There are various reasons why and how COVID-19 has impacted your mental, physical and sexual life. However, it is important to believe that the situation is not going to last forever.
So, get creative together. For couples living together, continue to prioritize sex during quarantine by becoming more sexually active. For long-distance couples, share your secrets, desires, and fantasies and fulfill your partner’s needs with unexpected ways of romance digitally.
Not everyone is finding time to work on intimacy, but surely and steadily, with the right effort, this too shall pass.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
BPsySc, MPsych (Counselling)
Briony Leo is a psychologist from Melbourne, Australia, who has a background in trauma counselling, addictions and health and wellbeing. She is trained in EMDR, Neurofeedback, Schema Therapy and ACT, and enjoys working with clients to improve their overall quality of life and connection and harmony in their relationships.