All our lives changed dramatically on Monday 23rd March 2020, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to the country that we would be moving into a national lockdown. The nation, where possible, would need to work from home. Restaurants, cafes, leisure venues and non-essential shops closed overnight. At the Laurel Centre all our face to face work had to rapidly adjust and our counselling and support programmes were moved online. Over the past 7 months we have been supporting many couples who are living with the effects of a sex and/or porn addiction in their relationship. This blog will highlight the impact that lockdown had on these couples.

Better balance of work-life commitments

Many couples commented in their counselling, that they had more time with one another. The hours spent travelling to work could be reclaimed and spent on other things such as cooking the family meal, walking the dog, playing with the children, or home schooling, exercising, and having fun together. Couples were forced to slow down and evaluate their priorities. There was more time to talk, reconnect with one another as well as spend more time with their children.

Removal of some physical triggers

For some addicted partners, the change in routine was positive because not travelling to work removed some of their major triggers. Such as walking past massage parlours, or a specific area where they had previously arranged to meet a sex worker, or attractive fellow commuters. For the partner this change in routine also gave peace of mind as they knew their addicted partner’ triggers had reduced and hence they too could be more confident that off-line acting out had stopped.

Increase in online triggers

When lockdown started there was a huge increase in demand for online communication. People had to quickly adapt to working online through the medium of video conferencing. Many sexual acting out behaviour is done online, so the temptation to continue watching porn, using webcams and chat sites was high. Clients recovering from porn addiction had to find different ways to ensure they did not act out. It did not help that certain porn sites offered unlimited free access to their websites throughout lockdown.

Partners also noticed an increase in their anxiety levels as they feared that their addicted partners would have a relapse due to them being online so much. Some couples agreed to ensure the office door was always left open so the partner could pop their head in the door at any time and see what was on the screen. Other couples installed accountability software to block certain sites and receive reports on what their partners were viewing. Another plan was to minimise screen time, e.g. take coffee and lunch breaks away from your screen and to turn the computer off once work was finished. If emails were received on the phone, then these were only checked in work hours.

Reduction in support networks

Lockdown saw gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, 12 step groups, church, schools, colleges, hobby groups, activity groups, charities all close. Many people in sex addiction recovery rely on support networks to maintain their recovery. They fill their time with attending 12 step groups, have personal therapy, learn a new skill, join a gym, or resume an old hobby. Overnight, their support networks disappeared. Some support networks were able to restart online such as 12 step programmes and counselling, but some physical activities could not be resumed.

Partners also expressed that their support networks had disappeared. Face to face group work had to stop and move online. Places such as the gym, meeting with friends or engaging in a hobby would have been places for the partner to unwind, focus on self-care, and provide mental and emotional space away from the addicted partner. But Covid took that away.

No private space

Even though we love our families, they can also drive us up the wall!  We all need our space away from our families. Lockdown limited this opportunity especially if your home had no easy access to outdoor space. Couples had to find new ways to gain private time, e.g. agree times in the day when you could be left on your own, or book time to talk to a friend or go for a walk on your own.

At the Laurel Centre we also saw an increase in partners finding out that their loved one was looking at porn, using webcams, or chatting to people online. These discoveries were particularly difficult because the lockdown restrictions prevented them from finding physical support and generally having to stay living with the person who had deeply hurt them. They did not have a place to escape to. Over the past 7 months we have seen an increase in partners contacting us either through using the support forum or joining one of our Partner Workshops.

The future?

Life is still uncertain. The country continues to adapt as we move in and out of the tiered lockdown system. The Laurel Centre continues to adapt to the changing times. Our face to face groupwork is now hosted via Zoom and has had positive feedback. Click here for our full programme. We are also in the middle of developing an online version of our “Couples Intensive” course which used to be held over a weekend. So, watch this space!

Back