The New ‘Relationship’ Normal

The New ‘Relationship’ Normal

New Year’s Eve 2019 – fading bars of Auld Lang Syne, hopeful conversations about the potential of 2020, and all of the associated revelry that New Year’s Eve brings. Amidst all of this, few of us could have imagined that a global pandemic would take hold and dominate politics, the economy and that it would change our lives and communities in the way that it has. The fact that this particular Coronavirus was new meant we had no effective treatment, no vaccine and no population immunity.  In March – countries across Europe started lockdown.

The last four months have been a leap into the unknown for us all. Homeworking, homeschooling, physical distancing, furlough and webcam calls with your nearest and dearest have become a new way of life. The experience of stepping out of the fast pace of 21st-century living, watching the devastation of the virus as it wreaked havoc in communities, hospitals and care homes appears to have had a fundamental impact on us, and our relationships is one of the areas where we’ve been reflecting.

For the first-ever Relationships Week, Relate NI together with our colleagues in Relate and Relationships Scotland have been looking at the results from a survey of over 2,000 people from across the UK, of which 102 were from Northern Ireland and the results indicate the shape of what the new relationship normal will look like. The below focuses on the Northern Irish respondents’ views.

Respondents felt closer to friends (34%); neighbours (33%); parents (56%); and siblings (48%). In the midst of all of the uncertainty and anxiety we were feeling collectively and individually, 58% of respondents told us that it was their relationships with loved ones which helped them get through lockdown. The experience of lockdown has inspired 64% of respondents to make more efforts with loved ones in the future and has also meant that 48% of respondents have become more comfortable having open and honest conversations with loved ones about difficult topics.  Overall, 60% of respondents highlighted that lockdown has made them realise that relationships are the most important thing in their lives.

Spending more quality time with a partner (20%); with family (29%); having regular chats with neighbours (19%); actively trying to make new friends with people who live near me (34%) and taking family walks and spending time outdoors together (35%) are some of the key things that emerged from the survey that are habits respondents would like to continue after lockdown.

Relationships are such an important foundation to our health and wellbeing, and sometimes the frantic pace of modern life conspires in such a way that we can neglect attending to them in the way that we want to. As we start considering what the ‘new normal’ will look like, it looks like a collective realisation about the fundamental importance of relationships will feature heavily in those considerations, and that is a positive thing for us all.


During Relationships Week, Relate NI, Relate and Relationships Scotland are asking people to share their #RelationshipRocks via social media – with a picture or video and a short message about how someone has been a ‘rock’ to them lately. The charities are also urging anyone experiencing relationship issues to get support. Relate NI Services are still available via telephone and webcam.

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“How Relate NI helps people”

“I found the Relationship MOT an excellent method of focusing on we work as a couple and just as importantly, where we need to work. It was professional, insightful and well worth the time. It has reminded us of how much we have to be proud of in our relationship and why it is so important to occasionally review it with experts.”Service Attended Relationship MOT
“I would definitely recommend using the Relationship MOT service as a bit of a check in with your partner. I thought how the counsellor was able to steer the conversation was very insightful and nuanced. The MOT reminded us about why we are great together but also the importance of communication and respect.” “Our counsellor provided an outside perspective which immediately helped us to agree that we needed to stop and think with more kindness and empathy for each other especially when stressed or pissed off. We both felt that our counsellor’s excellent and gentle facilitation was quite invigorating. So many positives!”Service Attended Relationship MOT 2
Very Interesting Content. I like the concept of preparing your relationship before you have problemsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 4
The face to face programme has made me feel connected with others experiencing similar thingsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 3
The workshops made me more confident to balance family life after the baby's arrivalService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 2
I now have a better understanding of myself, it is good to know that it is normal to have argumentsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 1
I felt the weekly questionnaire, couples with the counsellor's understanding of my needs help contribute to my own understanding of my mental health and needs throughout.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Individuals
I loved every session. Our counsellor listened to what we had to say and gave us helpful wee homework - would recommend this service to everybodyService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
Our counsellor was a fantastic support - we now feel strong enough to continue working on our relationship togetherService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
I had a very good counsellor that helped me through a lot and it has made me come out the other side.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Individuals
Counselling took us from a bad place to a good one and I would return if neededService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
Been a lifeline to help us fall in love again - forever grateful!Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
I would just like to say that when I first came for counselling I felt that I was drowning.  I have completed my sessions and I now feel that I can cope a lot better with everything.  Thank you for a brilliant service.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Individuals
Thank you Relate NI for a good nights sleep.Service Attended Relate NI Kids Counselling
Really enjoyed Relate NI and I'm actually going to miss counselling.  I Found it helpful to find myself again. Very fair and equal within our relationship.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
I appreciated the straightforward, helpful and informed observations about situations. It really helped me cope during Christmas which is a difficult time for usService Attended Family Counselling
The counsellor was very pleasant to meet with.  They had the necessary skills to speak and listen when appropriate.  I liked their humour and good personality.Service Attended Family Counselling
Relate NI has helped me move on as well as understand myself and situation more.  My counsellor listened to me, facilitated me and was compassionate!Service Attended Relate NI Teen Counselling
I felt the weekly questionnaire, coupled with counsellor's understanding of my needs helped contribute to my own understanding of my mental health and needs throughoutService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Individuals
We had four funded sessions and cannot express how grateful we are for the help, guidance and knowledge. Our counsellor was incredibly professional, and her experience and obvious passion for helping couples like us was exceptional. She helped us to understand ourselves and each other like we otherwise never would have been able to.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
I have tried counselling many times in the past. This time actually made a difference. I was able to complete online sessions as well as some face to face.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Individuals

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