Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Treena Orchard


This qualitative study investigates the experiences of cohabitating heterosexual (n=10) and female same-sex couples (n=8) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores how these couples utilized dyadic coping and relational resilience to manage pandemic-related stressors and how their gender identities influenced their responses. Employing a phenomenological approach informed by feminist, queer, and dyadic coping theories, the study reveals that couples strengthened their bonds during the pandemic through intentional communication and novel activities. The findings of the study also highlight that societal perceptions of gender roles continue to exert pressure on individuals, but female same-sex couples demonstrated greater adaptability by challenging these norms and fostering relational resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings offer valuable insights for couples and marital therapy practices across diverse populations and have implications for public health guidelines. Additionally, this research addresses knowledge gaps regarding the impact of COVID-19 quarantine on cohabitating couples' experiences.

Summary for Lay Audience

Every aspect of life has been altered by COVID-19 and government-mandated stay-at-home orders, including the dynamics of romantic cohabiting couples' relationships. This study examined the use of coping strategies that were employed by couples as a unit, how their resilience as a couple was impacted, and how their gender and sexual identities played a role in these experiences. Data for this study was collected through 30-60 minute interviews with ten heterosexual couples and eight female same-sex couples. The study findings offered a variety of cohabitating experiences, strategies for coping with stress as a team, reflections on gratitude surrounding the lockdown, an exploration of gender roles, and a focus on the positive and negative experiences of female same-sex couples. The majority of currently conducted research focuses solely on heterosexual relationships, whereas female same-sex couples' experiences have gotten comparatively less attention. Given the rise in same-sex partnerships both in Canada and abroad, it is imperative to acknowledge this gap in order to ensure that sexuality research is both inclusive and representative. This research gap is addressed by our study, which focuses on heterosexual and female same-sex partnerships, to better understand how gender and relationship dynamics impact the coping strategies adopted by these couple groups to cope with stressors brought on by COVID-19. The findings are expected to offer fresh insights into how COVID-19 affects two different types of romantic relationships. These findings may enhance the development of couples and marriage counselling practises among heterosexual and same-sex populations. Future sexual policies and practises in relation to medical emergencies may also be informed by the study's findings.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.