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The Psychology Of "Turbo Relationships" & Will They Last After COVID?

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Content Couple Enjoying Morning Coffee Togther

In the wake of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders at the start of the year, many new couples found themselves in a strange predicament: either enter into a long-distance relationship, or shack up with someone you just started dating. Many chose the latter. The result? A lot of relationships that got really serious really quickly.

But now that lockdown measures have eased in many places, what will happen to many of these so-called turbo relationships?

The rise of turbo relationships amid COVID-19.

A recent report from eHarmony and U.K. charity Relate checked in on 365 U.K. adults that had been living with a partner for less than a year as of June. They found 36% of participants who just moved in with a partner felt like the past two months were equivalent to two years of commitment.

Nearly 60% of new partners reported feeling more committed than ever to their S.O., and 36% say they've reached relationship milestones like moving in together quicker than they might have otherwise.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though. In another sample of over 2,000 U.K. adults polled in the report, 17% of the participants report that all the time spent together made them realize their relationship wasn't going anywhere.

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The psychology behind turbo relationships.

As a species, people tend to seek out connection in times of stress—and in a time when our social interactions are limited and stress levels are high, it only makes sense for members of couples to hold each other a little tighter.

"Facing a crisis together can be a deeply bonding experience," notes spiritual and relationship coach Cassady Cayne. "It can be a positive push, that we're approaching relationships on a more emotional, less surface level as the deeper facets of our psyche crave connection in a troubled time. As humans, we all crave connection and emotional bonding; it's in us as mammals since birth."

That said, while humans may seek connection in the face of hardship, it's hard to say whether that means they'll stay together long term. There are mixed reviews on how disasters and stress affect couples, with some studies suggesting relationships get stronger from coping through these types of hardships together while others suggest marital quality goes down (and divorce rates up).

"As time goes on, people may encounter some unexpected differences," clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, tells mbg. "If someone who previously really enjoyed night life has partnered with someone who's more of a homebody, that can certainly raise a challenge going forward. We know that healthy relationships flourish when both parties have both joint and separate interests, and in many cases, the pandemic has curtailed other relationships."

How a particular pair responds to these new circumstances may be relatively individual, but holistic psychologist Nicole Lippman-Barile, Ph.D., tells mbg, "Establishing a healthy and long-term relationship relies on gradually learning about the other as an individual, [and being] forced to spend more time together in much more intimate ways may uncomfortably speed up this process."

What comes next?

"We know that difficult circumstances can really bring people together and create strong bonds," Hallett says. "The caveat in these circumstances is that we have been living with a brand-new set of expectations, lifestyle, and experiences."

As we all navigate these uncharted waters, what comes next is a question on everyone's mind, particularly if you've found yourself in a turbo relationship. What will your relationship look like when you start spending less time together? Will it be better, worse? After all, many of these turbo relationships have become rapidly intimate at a rate many have never experienced before.

There are no clear-cut answers or solutions that will apply to all couples. People in turbo relationships should just be sure to be extra attentive to the way the ebbs and flows of pandemic stress have affected and continue to affect the relationship. As our circumstances continue to shift, checking in with each other regularly is more important than ever to make sure you're both on the same page, feeling secure in the new forms the relationship is taking, and have space to name tensions as they inevitably arise.

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