Signs it's time to break up with your quarantine boyfriend or girlfriend

We’ve now been in lockdown for 45 days, and it’s only natural that cracks will be starting to show in terms of our mental wellbeing.

No matter how strong your relationship is, either being stuck in the house with no respite or relying on video calls while you’re apart is bound to take its toll.

A recent poll by Relate found that almost a quarter of surveyed Brits who have a partner (23%) say the current circumstances are placing pressure on their relationship.

There’s a difference, however, between the odd bicker about who last took the bins out or who got the wrong answer on the family Zoom quiz, and more serious issues that could signify a break-up on the horizon.

In certain cases, these serious issues can be worked out with effective listening and talking about problems. In some cases, though, the answer will unfortunately mean splitting.

We spoke to relationship experts to find out what they see as major red flags, or things that should be kept an eye on to make sure they don’t get worse and split you up.

Cheating

In general, cheating in a relationship is a no-no for most. But in lockdown the ways people cheat may have changed.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your partner takes their phone everywhere and is being cagey. Perhaps they’re having one too many video meetings with their ‘work wife or husband’ that leave you feeling cold.

On the other hand, you might be the one finding yourself straying, catching up with old flames or even downloading dating apps to ‘see what else is out there’.

Relate’s Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice, Ammanda Major says: ‘All the flirting, texting, sexting [has] found new heights.

‘No one should put up with being cheated on (and yes, we all have different definitions of what cheating is) but for many relationships, finding a partner on the screen with someone else isn’t a recipe for harmony.’

If you’re being cheated on, it’s up to you to decide where you draw the line on what constitutes a breach of trust.

But if it’s you who’s erring on the edge of fidelity, try to have a think about why you’re considering cheating.

Ammanda says: ‘Ask yourself if it’s fair to heap this added misery on your partner.

‘Basically, if you’re noticing new behaviours and actions then saying upfront how you feel about them is usually helpful.

‘Sometimes partners don’t notice or realise the impact their actions have so talking that through may help illuminate what’s being felt and what may need to happen to change or improve things.’

Talk before you act, especially when these actions can be devastating for your future.

Abuse

Reports over the last few months in lockdown have focused on the fact that many abuse victims now have nowhere to go to escape during lockdown.

Thankfully services have cropped up to help those in need. For example, a quarter of pharmacies in the UK – including Boots and Superdrug stores – now offer a Safe Space scheme where you can go to contact domestic abuse charities for advice in private.

Before you even get to this stage, though, you need to be in a headspace where you feel comfortable with leaving – and even accepting that you’re being abused in the first place (as many abusers may try to convince you that it’s a normal response to stress or provocations).

‘If you’re in an abusive relationship then don’t forget that it’s okay to leave,’ says Ammanda.

‘Staying at home does not make partners abusive. Abusive partners are making a choice to be abusive and this is especially the case with coercive control.

‘No one should have to endure behaviours like this so reaching out for help to get safer is important. There are lots of different support services, so if you can then get in touch.’

You can find out more information on the Refuge website, or call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline on 0808 2000 247.

Not focusing on each other

At the moment, our homes have become workplaces, pubs, clubs, pamper areas, and basically everything else.

So whereas normally you’d finish work and go spend time with your partner and give them your full attention, it’s now much easier to be preoccupied with everything else that’s going on.

‘Being together all the time has morphed into hardly noticing each other, taking things for granted with the consequent resentments,’ says Ammanda.

‘Dealing with kids at home may have increased the pressure cooker feelings and left you with little time to focus on each other and how you can resolve things.’

The best way to solve this is to make a point of dedicating time together. It doesn’t need to be a huge plan, but eating dinner at the table and putting phones away keeps the connection going.

Again, feeling distracted or distant can be a part of a completely normal relationship. It’s when your partner isn’t trying with you to rectify it – and plainly doesn’t appear to care – that it could be break-up-worthy.

Resentment

The emotion that comes after aeons of no effort tends to be resentment.

Silly things turning into festering issues is not a good sign.

Dating Expert James Preece tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Strong couples work as a team and support each other. When your only important decisions become choosing the next boxset on Netflix or what takeaway you’ll order, you have to be on the same page.

‘If you can’t agree quickly then it’s a sign you aren’t as compatible as you thought.’

Obviously that doesn’t mean never having a cross word. But if you’re always turning mountains into molehills, keeping tallies of past indiscretions (perceived or otherwise) or bringing up old problems and never working things out, this might not be a fixable problem.

Constant arguing

James says, ‘If things were rough before the lockdown then they are only going to get worse now!

‘You can’t take your frustrations out on each other. Talking issues through is the only way you’ll go the distance.’

Arguing is perfectly fine – and expected – but there’s a type of cyclical arguing that means nothing gets resolved and can be toxic.

‘Being together 24/7 really exposes problems that previously got managed by creating some space,’ says Ammanda.

‘Seeing a friend, taking the kids to school, or drifting round the shops. All these small things can help manage the ebb and flow of relationships by giving you time to calm down, re-reflect (was that actually my fault…) and most importantly plan what you might want to do or say differently.’

Ammanda says that the first thing to do if the fighting is new is to ‘recognise that it’s not only hard for each of you as individuals but also for your couple relationship.

‘By doing that you’re re-focusing on what you share and what may now be lacking. Cut each other some slack. Try not to rise to the bait and don’t throw any down either. Where’s it going to get you?’

Don’t try to ‘win’ arguments, try to have the end goal of any disagreement be the end of the argument itself – a situation that would make both of you happier.

If it’s not just lockdown niggles, though, that’s when non-stop bickering could be your death knell.

Relate – and other counselling services – offer a variety of solutions over the phone or on video call. You just need to want to make that change as a couple.

Lack of effort

You’re more than forgiven for not wanting to dress up to the nines to have your tea in front of the TV.

Deciding to forgo all effort in spicing things up could be a sign, however, that you have given up on making your relationship work.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a new side in your partner? Particularly if you’re in a new relationship, you’ll be getting to know who they are outside of a normal trying-to-impress-you date window.

No one can put in full effort full time – let’s cut each other some slack. But let’s also remember that relationships require give and take.

James says: ‘There is a fine line between letting yourself relax and letting yourself go. 

‘If your partner has stopped shaving, wearing make-up or can’t face getting up from the sofa, then you are going to see them at their very worst. 

‘If you can’t handle that – and see it as a sign of your future – then get out as soon as you can.’

In this time of the ‘new normal’, work out whether you’re okay what normal could potentially mean for the rest of your life. And are you happy with that?

There’s never a good time to break up, and doing so on a whim right now is less than advisable.

Always see if you can work things out first (except, of course, in the case of abuse or when your partner does something you know is unforgivable).

After talking things through or counselling, the cracks might still be too big to paper over and things might end. But for some, it’ll make them stronger than ever.

Ammanda says that this current paradigm ‘will make new and different demands on relationships.

‘But having come through the current crisis, maybe we’ll all have a better idea of our limits, strengths and what we most need from each other.’

Speak to Relate

Visit relate.org.uk to access webcam counselling, telephone counselling, Live Chat and online information and advice for healthy relationships during COVID-19.

Do you have a story to share? Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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