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What’s love got to do with it?

Two clothing pegs with felt hearts

Hot on the heels of the traditional January ‘divorce spike’ comes Valentine’s Day. Maybe, in 2021, a year when so many have been looking at the same four walls and the same people within those walls, the annual ‘feast of love’ is exactly what we need?

It’s no surprise to note that research has proven the link between infidelity and separation, and Dr Andreas Vossler has found himself wondering if there’s been an increase in ‘problematic’ online behaviour during lockdown with all of us spending more time with our partners and very little else to do.

With that in mind, let’s consider what counts as infidelity. Is there a point at which online chatting becomes cheating? If so, where is that point and how do we ensure that all parties in a relationship agree on where it lies? I-Spy is a five-part fictionalised drama based on OU research from Dr Vossler and Dr Naomi Moller that examines these questions, aiming to encourage awareness and debate about which behaviours ‘cross the line’ in a relationship.

Their research was also used in a portfolio of resources hosted by Tavistock Relationships, as well as the OpenLearn CPD course ‘Working with infidelity’. Aimed at practitioners and promoted by Relate, hundreds of learners have already benefitted from the course.

We know from Professor Jacqui Gabb’s Enduring Love? research that it’s the small things rather than the grand gestures that keep a relationship on track.

In her recent research Professor Gabb is asking the question ‘Can using a relationship app on a regular basis improve your relationship?’ She suggests looking at Valentine’s Day as the first of 365 days of committing to investing in relationship ‘work’, this time using ‘Paired’, the first relationship app of its kind, dedicated to encouraging a daily active approach.

Winner of the ‘personal growth’ category in the 2020 Google Play awards, Paired achieved 100,000 downloads in its first three months after launch (October to December 2020), boasting over 8,000 daily active users (DAUs).

What does investing in your relationship look like on a day-to-day basis? Right now of course, we have to frame that question through the lens of the pandemic. How can you celebrate your relationship under such constraints?

Professor Gabb says: “Routine daily interactions are at the core of how families and couple relationships function, more so than big gestures or culturally-valued days such as Valentine’s Day.”

Valentine’s Day is typically the ‘grand gesture’ day, and for many people it’s an all-too-commercial annual event. According to Jonquil Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance, Valentine’s Day 2020 spending in the UK was just over £1 billion (source: GlobalData).

However, that was before the first lockdown and forecasters expect a big dip this year. A survey by comparison site,, suggests a million fewer people than last year expect to celebrate the day and, among the 40 million who will, the average spend is expected to be £23 per person against £35 last year.

So, what are the options for celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? Ms Lowe concludes: “Sharing a takeaway or special meal at home remains the most popular gesture for couples living together. The survey found that for those apart, only one in seven plans to exchange gifts. The rest are looking to video messaging, going for a walk together or, more worryingly, breaking the lockdown.”

However you choose to celebrate this year (with the exception of breaking the lockdown), have a good one!

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