They say the course of true love never did run smooth. And for amorous couples during the outbreak of coronavirus, those words have never rung truer. On Tuesday 26 March, Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said that couples who live in separate homes should “test the strength” of their relationship and either move in together during the lockdown period - or stay living apart.
Speaking at a press briefing from 10 Downing Street, Dr Harries joked that she wanted to avoid starting a new career in “relationship counselling” but maintained it was vital that couples take appropriate action depending on their domestic situation.
"The principle is that we want people to stay in their household units primarily. If you have an infection, you are very close to your family members so the risk of exposure is very similar,” she said. “If you've two individuals, two halves of a couple, currently in separate households, ideally they should stay in those households.”
She said that the alternative to this arrangement should be to “decide if one wants to be a permanent resident of another household.”
The new lockdown rules, which were implemented by Boris Johnson on Monday 23 March, prohibit meetings of more than two people who don’t live together. This led many couples to be confused about whether those who were still living apart would be allowed to meet up.
These come just days after confusion about social distancing rules saw masses of people take to streets and parks across Britain to celebrate the sunny weather.
So, what do these new rules mean for your relationship? We’ve answered your questions below.
Can I see my boyfriend/girlfriend during lockdown?
Yes you can - but not in a conventional sense. Based on Dr Harries' advice, you have to decide whether it’s worth being separated from your lover for the coming three weeks or bite the bullet and move into the same household. For new couples, or those who have a long distance relationship, this can be a particularly daunting decision to make.
And in terms of dating, you can forget that all together. Life under lockdown means only essential trips can be made outside your home, such as for food shopping, exercise and medical care. It’s either virtual wine on a Zoom call, or bickering over laundry rotas and who gets the last biscuit. Your call.
Why are these measures in place?
These measures are part of the nationwide lockdown, which Boris Johnson implemented on Monday night to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Dr Jenny Harries said the reason they are suggesting these measures for couples is to avoid “people switching in and out of households.”
“The issue here is what we do not want is people switching in and out of households. It defeats the purpose in the reduction of social interaction. Otherwise we will not all be working towards achieving the outcome," she said.
Only essential travel is recommended during lockdown. This means moving into one household limits the journeys you have to make, keeping you in accordance with government guidelines.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, was also present at the virtual press conference. He urged couples who are deliberating over this matter to “Make your choice and stick with it."
How can I maintain my relationship during the coronavirus?
This is likely to be a testing time on relationships - established and fledgling alike.
If you've decided to see out the lockdown apart from each other, one way you can keep your relationship alive is by doing weekly virtual date nights.
"In a study, it was found that satisfaction, commitment and trust were greater in those with face-to-face contact than those with no periodic face-to-face contact," said Eileen Abbott, a relationship counsellor. "Treat online sessions like a date, dress up for your dates. Treating your online dates like dates means you’re still putting an effort in to please your partner, which helps keep the spark alive. Or see a movie at the same time and talk after."
If you’re taking the plunge and isolating together, an important thing to do is respect each other's space - particularly if you’re used to having your own.
"Try to let each member of the family, even if it’s just the two of you, have a room, or even a space in a corner, that the can call their own. Agree that no-one will invade that space if they have retreated into it," says Eileen. "Sticking to a timetable about bathroom and kitchen use will avoid arguments over whose time it is to take a bath and who is going to cook."
She also maintains its essential to "keep communicating"- even if you are spending all your time together.
"Sit down from time to time to chat about how it's going. Renegotiate the things that aren't working and give yourselves a pat on the back for the things that are," she says.