Intimate relationships have changed little under pandemic, UT scientists say


AUSTIN (KXAN) – Despite COVID-19 stressors such as job loss and the risk of health, intimate relationships and satisfaction with those relationships have changed little during the pandemic, according to a press release from the University of Texas at Austin on Thursday.

UT scientists published a new study in the journal Psychological Science that used over 600 participants to compare how couples felt last December to how they felt in March and April, according to the press release. Hannah Williamson, a UT professor and author of the study, said in the press release that couples with more positive habits, such as those that worked as a team and offered support to each other, were more satisfied with their relationship.

“We have increased amounts of time together, and the pandemic is forcing us to rely on our partners for more support during a major upheaval in our lives,” Williamson said. “In some ways, the situation is just amplifying the behaviors in relationships that were already there, good and bad.”

Williamson said more positive couples were also more likely to blame negative behavior on the pandemic rather than on a partner’s personality.

“How we think about our relationships and about our partners is a very important predictor for relationship satisfaction,” Williamson said. “If your partner is doing something irritating or you’re arguing, considering that they are under stress from this huge, external stressor of the pandemic can have a protective effect for the relationship.”

The study included a wide range of demographics in age, income levels, race and whether the couples had children, according to the press release. Most couples in the study were married and a had a relationship duration of over a decade.

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