Q&A: Sex and relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic

Last reviewed on 21 December 2020

Even though you’ve been back at school, college or university, you might feel like the COVID-19 restrictions are still putting your life on hold. One area they might have affected is your love life – as if dating and relationships weren’t tricky enough, now social distancing has made them even more complicated!

Losing normal contact with people you care about can be really stressful and frightening so, in this article, Good Thinking answers some of the questions you might have. You might also like to listen to our podcast with Amber Newman-Clark of the charity Brook and visit the Brook website for free and confidential advice about your sexual health and wellbeing.

It’s perfectly natural to feel this way when you can’t see someone who you is important to you. Stay in touch by phone, text and online and be open about how you’re feeling – they probably feel the same way too. Find some activities that you can do together remotely, like watching TV with your friends on Teleparty or challenging each other on Xbox. It’s also a good idea to find other things to focus on, like exercising regularly or learning a new skill.

You might find our advice about dealing with anger and uncertainty and our five ways to good mental wellbeing article useful.

Although young people are at low risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, you’re not alone if you’re worried about your health and that you might pass the virus on to someone else. When we did asurvey with Partnership for Young London and TikTok earlier this year, we found that the majority of young respondents were very concerned about putting their loved ones and wider community at risk.

One good tip is to focus on what you can control. You can’t control the virus but you can follow social distancing guidelines to reduce the risk, you can stay connected to people remotely and you can find distractions, such as exercise. Find out more in Good Thinking’s article about dealing with stress and our podcast about OCD.

As the COVID-19 restrictions might change, keep an eye on the UK Government website so that you know what the latest rules are – you don’t need to do any more or any less than the guidance says. Good Thinking’s podcast with Professor Kevin Fenton of Public Health England might also be of interest as it explains why the guidance is so important.

Because of rising levels of infection, London went into Tier 4 (Stay at Home) of the COVID-19 restrictions on the 20th of December. This means you can only leave home for essential activities. Unfortunately, the Christmas bubble is no longer an option for Londoners – you cannot meet people from other households indoors unless they are part of your support bubble and you can only meet one person from another household outdoors. You can find full details about Tier 4 on the UK Government website.

We know it will be very difficult not being able to see some of the people you care about over Christmas and the New Year. With vaccines and more testing being rolled out, we’re going into 2021 with greater hope of a return to normality so hopefully you'll be able to meet up soon.

It’s OK to say no if you don’t feel comfortable doing this. One of the key features of a healthy relationship is respecting the other person’s beliefs and choices. Try to have a conversation where you each explain your viewpoint and discuss why you feel like that. Is there a way you can meet up without breaking the rules (e.g. going for a walk)? There are also lots of things you can do remotely to help you stay close. Could you video chat more often or even send each other letters?

If you feel like your partner’s comments are tipping over into something worrying, read Good Thinking’s advice about bullying and Childline’s advice about peer pressure.

With so many apps and social media platforms available, it’s important that you understand how to use them responsibly and how to protect your personal information. You’ll find lots of useful tips in Good Thinking’s podcast about online safety and on the BBC Own It and UK Safer Internet Centre websites.

There are lots of organisations that can support you if you’re feeling lonely, anxious or stressed, including:

  • Childline: Call 0800 1111
  • Hopeline UK (Papyrus): Call 0800 068 41 41, text 07860 039967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org
  • Shout: Text SHOUT to 85258
  • Student Space: Call 0808 189 5260 or text STUDENT to 85258
  • The Mix: Call 0808 808 4994 or text THEMIX to 85258
  • YoungMinds: Text YM to 85258

If you’re currently receiving professional support for any mental health concerns, talk to your counsellor or therapist about how you’re feeling.

Check out The Mix’s Christmas: Your relationship survival guide and if you need advice on contraception, gender, sexuality or anything else related to sex and relationships, the Brook website is a great place to start.

Get more advice from Good Thinking on 12 ways to good mental wellbeing for the festive season, how to cope with loneliness and how to stay mentally healthy at university.