Frontline love: Romantic partners of frontline doctors and nurses during the New York City COVID-19 outbreak

Alana Siegel, Rachel Dekel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: This qualitative study's aim was to learn how the spouses and romantic partners of frontline doctors and nurses dealt with the acute stress of the outbreak; the kinds of support they provided when the frontliners had to navigate COVID-19 at their hospitals; and, according to their perceptions, how this crisis impacted their relationship. Background: This study focused on the partners of frontliners working in hospitals during the crisis of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City (NYC)—one of the earliest epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. This study expanded upon the Family Stress Model—which examines how economic problems can affect marital quality and stability. Method: Interviews were conducted with 29 partners of frontliners who had been treating COVID-19 patients in NYC hospitals during the pandemic outbreak from February 29 to June 1, 2020. Partners were recruited via snowball sampling, interviewed via Zoom or telephone, and results were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results: The following themes were found in the narratives: The burden of running the home independently; providing various kinds of support (concrete, emotional, and refraining from sexual and physical closeness); and the effects of the pandemic on the relationship via writing a will and discussing the possibility of death, the lack of relationship-ending threats, and emerging from the crisis with a strengthened relationship. Conclusion: The pandemic crisis unified the partners and frontliners, even in the face of multiple stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-919
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Marriage and Family published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.


  • COVID-19
  • Family Stress Model
  • New York City
  • coronavirus
  • crisis
  • doctor
  • frontline worker
  • healthcare worker
  • hospital
  • nurse
  • pandemic
  • partner
  • spouse


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