Although spouses are spending more time together, an extramarital dating app recorded a spike in users in the past few weeks. Experts say, the lockdown is affecting relationships
Even as social media continues to be flooded with #loveinthetimeofcorona posts, a recent survey by extramarital dating app Gleeden, which recorded a 70 per cent increase in subscriptions in India in the past couple of weeks, raises the question: is love enough to get us through this time? The survey found that both men and women who are working are more likely to cheat in this phase. Around 56.3 per cent of the users from Mumbai were working professionals — third highest after Chennai and Pune. "In order to continue with their extroverted/outgoing nature, people are moving onto online dating apps to shoo away boredom, especially in this time of social lockdown," it stated.
What does the lockdown mean for married couples, especially working professionals, who are suddenly spending much more time together?
Together, but apart
"With or without the Internet, adultery hasn't been limited to a crisis. It stems from various factors ranging from unmet needs to lack of compatibility and respect. These could be exacerbated in a time like this," admits Jenisha Shah, clinical psychologist and therapeutic movement facilitator at Mpower - The Centre Mumbai. There's no denying the fact that the crisis we are in has uprooted our lifestyle. "Although it may seem like spouses have more time together, being in each other's presence may not necessarily lead to bonding. Couples are overwhelmed with changes — in work routines, the partner's 24/7 presence, family expectations, etc. As there are limited ways to recharge oneself, it can lead to temptations of infidelity," suggests Shah, who is also a marriage counsellor. Nikhila Deshpande, a relationship counsellor, has also noticed a mismatch in the levels of expectations among couples she has been speaking to. "Couples in urban households are dependent on support staff for a lot of work. In the absence of that, several clashes can emerge over who will take over these chores. Frustration is bound to build."
Solene Paillet, marketing director of Gleeden, says that logging onto the app is like "going out to a bar, talking to someone interesting you meet. It's exactly the kind of me-time that people need." However, Shah says that according to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, the definition of infidelity now includes a romantic and/or sexual relationship which begins with online contact and is maintained through electronic conversations. "But subscription to an extramarital app may not necessarily amount to cheating as intent does not always lead to action. People could be subscribing to seek a thrill as external gratification is limited."
Deshpande also says that those logging onto such apps may be looking for "some temporary companionship and fun" and that long-term relationships can't develop on such platforms. "Lockdown or not, those who want to will find avenues to cheat," she adds.
Virtual, so not guilty?
Professor Shalini Bharat, vice-chancellor and director, centre for health and social sciences, School of Health Systems Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, notes that if it's virtual, partners may not feel guilty as it's not physical. Gleeden's survey shows that there is an increase in people using the app from their phones, rather than desktops, because of the discreet features in the former. "Earlier it was easy for people to overlook potential dissatisfaction and find distraction in work, hobbies and friends. Now that the escape valve is gone, any problem between them is out in the open," adds Paillet.
Divorce lawyer, writer and social entrepreneur Vandana Shah's phone has been ringing off the hook since the lockdown started with mostly women calling up to inquire about their rights if they want to walk out of their marriage. "We don't realise that our marriages are based on the premise that the husband and wife don't spend much time together," she says, adding that she gets complaints of women having to cater to all kinds of kitchen fancies of their husbands, while managing work and children during this time.
"While some men may be helpful, a large section of them refuse to adapt and help out with housework. That can add to the pressures women are already facing. This, coupled with financial worries, will have a far-reaching impact on our relationships," explains Nandini Sardesai, former head of the sociology department, St Xavier's College.
While Bharat agrees with this, she is also hopeful that in some cases, there might be a rearrangement of house labour. "There are talks of many men learning to cook or clean. Men are finally getting to see what really goes behind running a home."
Rise in subscriptions on Gleeden in India in the past few weeks
Of users from Mumbai are working professionals
A couple of changes
While there is no rule book, here are some things couples can do to get through this difficult phase:
. Listen: Slot a time in the day only for each other and listen without judgement or comment. This could also be no-screen time.
. Share: Talk to each other about your feelings, highlights of the day and validate your partner's anxieties.
. Create a flexible schedule: Irrespective of office work, plan and share house chores.
. Discover: Try to bring out something new in each other to add an element of fun in the relationship.
. Help: Seek professio-nal counselling if required.
- Jenisha Shah
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