How the ‘intimacy drought’ of the pandemic has impacted our sexual wellness
“We shouldn’t understimate the effect that being told to keep our distance from others has had on us psychologically,” Nichi Hodgson, dating expert and author of The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder, says. “After being told to keep our distance for coming up to two years, casual sex doesn’t seem so free and easy any more.”
Monogamy and monotony
Being trapped at home undoubtedly also took a toll on those who lived with partners. Lack of space, fresh conversation topics and inspiration from the outside world are some, and by no means all, of the factors that may have made sex less appealing, exciting, comforting than it might have been before lockdown.
“For many cohabiting monogamous couples, life has still not returned to what it was before the pandemic,” Nichi says. “Vast swathes of us are still working from home, or hybrid working, while many women gave up the jobs to care for children during the pandemic.”
The very non-sexy, repetitive, stressful aftermath of lockdown restrictions and “the new normal” have had an impact on how cohabiting couples approach their sex lives. “It has tipped the balance of together time and alone time, and the casualty of that for many of us is desire,” Nichi adds.
Laura, 23, had varying experiences of intimacy with her partner from lockdown to lockdown. During the first, she moved in with her partner and enjoyed a great sex life. “We had sex very often and both of us were sort of on the same page with it. We spent a lot of time with each other, so we learnt a lot about how to be vulnerable,” she says, calling the experience a “crash course” in getting to know each other.
The second lockdown saw tests of intimacy with her partner, partially because they shared their living space with a flatmate. “Intimacy and sex drive dropped to very low levels. I am unsure whether this came through the presence of a third person, which broke the dynamics we had established during the first lockdown,” she says.
“In all honesty, I didn’t miss sex and I had a very low sex drive, which resulted in an argument in more than one occasion.”
When restrictions lifted, Laura’s relationship then had to readjust around her and her partner’s separate personal and work lives. “Now that both lockdowns are gone, we have to make a big effort to set aside time for each other,” she says, citing a lack of time for spontaneity as a big obstacle.
Making time for each other, and sex may be easier with no interruptions – and having the task of integrating it into your routine without it being forced upon you can be a challenge. Making time for this kind of connection – with your partner, or without – is key.
“Sex is a habit, and if we stop doing it, our bodies and minds stop wanting it,” Nichi says. “The trick is to realise that we can encourage our libidos by being sexual even if we don’t feel 100 per cent in the mood.”
Reconnecting with others and ourselves
Whatever our relationship status, we might be taking the disconnect from previous lockdowns (and the isolation we felt) into our relationships.