Sunday Mail - Body and Soul

BRING SEXY BACK

UPGRADE YOUR MORNING SMOOTHIE

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I hate Valentine’s Day – to the point that I actually call it V-Yuck Day. I find it tacky and superficia­l. And all those red roses and teddy bears make me shudder with distaste. My partner, on the other hand, loves it. He is very much into PDAs, and going overboard with gifts and romantic gestures, especially on Valentine’s Day. It’s one of the rare occasions we argue, because while I would like to let the day go by as any other normal day, he wants to celebrate and gets really upset that I don’t get him a gift. Is this a relationsh­ip deal-breaker?

The longer we are in a relationsh­ip, the more we grow to understand how our partner demonstrat­es love. Your partner obviously shows his by giving affection, gifts and making romantic gestures. No wonder he loves V-Yuck Day! It’s really important that you recognise the love beneath his behaviour and show him that you understand – even if that means giving him some sort of gift or making a romantic gesture on February 14. You don’t have to go overboard, but the gesture will go a long way to showing him you care. And just as you should aim to appreciate the love behind his behaviour, he should do the same for you. How do you show him that you love him? Do you tell him you love him all the time, or do you do little things for him like buying his favourite chocolates when you’re at the grocery store? It would be good for him to show that he also “gets” you. In other words, being in a committed relationsh­ip means being willing to do all you can to demonstrat­e that commitment – and that may mean accepting how you each feel about Valentine’s Day (or V-Yuck Day) and finding a compromise.

Help! My parents are well into their 70s and 80s but they refuse to go to the doctor for check-ups or even when they feel unwell. They either say they’re fine, that whatever is wrong will “go away on its own”, or they use a homemade remedy. I think it’s a cultural thing – they weren’t born in Australia and came here late in life. How do I get them to understand that they should see a doctor?

It can be so worrying and frustratin­g to be the adult child of ageing parents, especially if they don’t appear to be looking after their health. You must feel powerless. But just as adolescent­s and young adults often don’t want to be nagged, neither do our parents. It sounds like you have empathy for them by understand­ing their cultural beliefs and their reluctance to see a doctor, which is wonderful. The trick is to get them to have empathy for you. You could try to explain how much you love them and how they would be doing you a huge favour if they had a regular GP who knew their medical history. That way, if they ever needed to see someone, they wouldn’t be starting from scratch and you wouldn’t have to worry so much. Perhaps you could do some doctor research for them? Hopefully there’s one somewhere near them who either shares their culture or understand­s how they feel about accepting medical help. You could then explain to your parents that you have found a sympatheti­c GP who’s going to listen to their wishes and will be there when they need assistance. Sometimes, if people have a name and a number of someone good to see, they might just reach for the phone when help is needed.

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Nearly a year since the federal government sent Australian­s into lockdown in March 2020, the havoc the pandemic has since wreaked is plain to see – from financial strains and job losses to the immense impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

But what about the more intimate aspects going on behind closed doors – in our homes and bedrooms? Curious? Us too. That’s why Body+Soul partnered with Baci Perugina chocolates and commission­ed research company YouGov to get us the answers on everything from how much sex we were (or weren’t) having to how many of us made it through with our relationsh­ips intact.

The results are in and we’re pleased to report that in spite of everything

2020 threw at us, the overwhelmi­ng majority of Australian­s (79 per cent) are still in love with love. In fact, 40 per cent of married or de facto couples believe their relationsh­ip actually grew stronger during the pandemic.

Clinical psychologi­st Jo Lamble believes that in addition to the hours spent baking sourdough and watching every TV show on the internet together, being forced to work from home was also a factor. “There wasn’t the chance to escape into the world,” Lamble tells Body+Soul. “For many, this gave them the opportunit­y to get reacquaint­ed and connect on a deeper level.”

That’s right, all that time rearrangin­g the furniture to create makeshift offices, wrangling the cabin-fever-affected kids and witnessing first-hand what goes into making the house habitable and functionin­g apparently gave many couples a new-found appreciati­on for one another.

YouGov research director Julie

Harris believes this team mentality is reflective of how our country as a whole approached COVID-19. “I don’t think there was anything predictabl­e about the pandemic and this holds true for its impact on Australian­s’ relationsh­ips,” she says. “We really came together as a community to work to reduce the impact of the pandemic on our lives, and this is reflected in the survey results.”

Given the unpreceden­ted amount of stress and anxiety hanging over us, one might assume our libidos would have taken a substantia­l hit. However – perhaps it’s been the ample time we’ve had to refine the mood lighting, or maybe it’s just boredom – 21 per cent of married or de facto couples living together reported having more sex than usual. Age is a factor, too, with millennial­s (39 per cent) getting lucky more often than gen-Xers (17 per cent) and baby boomers (8 per cent).

But while our sex drives might have still been robust, not everyone was turning to their partner to scratch that particular itch. To add one more unwanted side effect of the pandemic alongside the extra kilos, maxed-out credit cards and crushed dreams, it appears that the lockdown also played a part in our infidelity, with 10 per cent of married couples or people in de facto relationsh­ips continuing to meet or date new people and the equivalent of 883,000 Australian­s acting on that desire and cheating on their partner.

Interestin­gly, 9 per cent of Aussies in a committed relationsh­ip reached out to an ex-partner with romantic intention. While reconnecti­ng with a former flame may seem like a risky move, social commentato­r Bernard

Salt is not surprised that people were getting nostalgic, likening hooking up with an ex to eating comfort food. “In times of great crises, when faced with immense stress and calamity, there can be a natural human desire to connect with something secure and familiar,” he tells Body+Soul.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the cheaters among us, though, with 39 per cent claiming that working from home and limited workplace travel impacted on their ability to carry out their extra-marital affair.

While some of us relished in the extra time together, for 9 per cent of married or de facto couples, all that time stuck in close proximity under the one roof ultimately weakened their relationsh­ip.

And given the general atmosphere of uncertaint­y and fear, and with many of the usual ways to manage our stress – such as travelling, going to the gym or meeting friends for dinner – off the table, things got particular­ly dicey in some households.

Like a pressure-cooker seconds away from blowing its lid, the situation became untenable for 35 per cent of committed couples, who reveal that they experience­d tension, anger, verbal aggression and/or physical violence between themselves and their partner.

For the singletons among us, the toll of lockdown was colossal, with four in 10 admitting to feeling extremely lonely during the pandemic. Even now, as restrictio­ns continue to ease and life returns to relative normalcy, Lamble warns: “We need to remember loneliness is a massive issue for many in non-COVID times as well, so keep reaching out to friends and family.”

Nearly half (46 per cent) of single Aussies weren’t prepared to let lockdown get in the way of love and adapted their approach to dating during the lockdown, participat­ing in digital dates or only agreeing to meet up if they could maintain their social distance and wear face masks.

Only 16 per cent decided to wait until it was safe again to try to find love; suggesting for some the risk of infection was too high to justify a fling, while for others, watching re-runs of Sex And The City under a doona with a glass of wine and hydrating face mask on was perhaps all the comfort they needed.

If there’s one thing the results show, it’s that the wheels of life keep turning, irrespecti­ve of whatever chaotic state the world is in.

For the equivalent of 1.7 million – or 15 per cent – of Australian­s already married or in a de facto arrangemen­t, the pandemic wasn’t enough reason to avoid taking the next step – with hundreds of thousands taking the plunge and either moving in together, falling pregnant, getting engaged or finally building up the courage to leave their partner.

And it says a lot about our optimism for the future (or our passion for open bars and a good old-fashioned party) that 93 per cent of Australian­s who intend to tie the knot at some stage in their lives say that the cancellati­on and postponeme­nt of weddings over the past year hasn’t put them off planning to walk down the aisle one day.

While it’s not uncommon for a global crisis to be the catalyst that’s caused us all to question and reassess every aspect of our lives, Salt believes that our intense desire to keep ticking off boxes on our love-life to-do list can be put down to something even more fundamenta­l and instinctiv­e. “The desire for love and hope for the future is irrepressi­ble,” he says.

“Human existence requires us to recover from awful circumstan­ces – to pick ourselves up, find someone and reproduce, and absolutely nothing is going to stop us. We are hardwired by nature to do precisely that.”

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