COVID-19 numbers for new cases and deaths aren’t the only numbers in China that people are watching.
Other statistics include the number of divorce cases. In some cities, according to Bloomberg News and other outlets, divorce filings have increased exponentially, presumably because people are tired of being cooped up for a mere 30 days with their spouses.
One woman complained that her husband didn’t do an equal share of the housework and played with the children after it was time for them to go to bed. Bloomberg News also stated that domestic violence incidents in China increased.
Increased Divorce Cases, or More Babies?
Psychology Today looked at the rise and fall of divorces and new babies after outbreaks and natural disasters. It found that while people believe that divorce rates and / or new babies increased after certain incidences, when statisticians looked at the numbers, neither life-changing actions significantly increased.
As social people, we are used to going to sporting events or meeting up with friends for dinner, whether at a restaurant or a home dinner party. However, when the coronavirus started spreading, the President of the United States asked people to stay home and practice social distancing.
While many did start doing that, it wasn’t for another two to three weeks before the governors of states implemented stay-at-home orders. Some have already been self-isolating since the second week in March 2020, and continue to do so, while others started self-isolating during the last week of March or the beginning of April.
These people are finding out that their spouses have irritating habits, such as not helping with chores and the children, sitting around watching TV, or with their faces in their phones all day. And it’s getting on their spouses’ last nerves.
But does that mean that more people will get divorced? Not necessarily so – at least not in exponential numbers. While the divorce rate might go up, it probably won’t be as bad as people might think if you base your answer on what has happened to families after other significant stressors, such as hurricanes or even 9/11.
Does that mean we’ll have another baby boom? Probably not, especially since people have been waiting until later years to start a family, or have decided to forego having children.
Staying home with each other is like winning the lottery for some couples, while for other couples it just adds more stress to an already stressed relationship. If a couple enjoys each other’s’ company, while they might have some arguments while being cooped up, those relationships will most likely last. However, those that had a contentious relationship before being forced to stay home are more likely to file for divorce.
Even with the stimulus package, people may have a hard time paying their monthly bills and buying groceries. Those who are used to struggling from week to week may handle the reduced income better than those who are used to living comfortably.
Another stressor is shopping. Many stores that are deemed non-essential are closed. Some grocery stores are allowing only a certain number of people in at a time, which causes lines. A quick trip to pick up essentials has now turned into a two-hour-long chore.
Many people are also stressed because they have to home school their children. They may not feel comfortable with homeschooling, or they may just not used to having the children home all day. Those with younger children might resent the interruptions their children bring throughout the day, and in turn, may take it out on their spouses.
Another substantial stressor is the news media. All day, the news channels talk about being quarantined, whether hydroxychloroquine works or doesn’t, that we might not see a vaccine for 18 months or longer, and that the economy is not going to recover. Combine the negativity of the news reports with the negativity on social media, including those who do not believe that the government has a right to tell them to stay home.
While you know you need to stay home, you can’t help but think about those going out and not social distancing. You wish you could, while at the same time, you might feel angry because these people could be spreading the virus and causing delays in opening the country up again.
If these things become too much for people to handle, or if one of the parties in the relationship becomes violent, a relationship that might have lasted longer or that might not have dissolved at all could end up in divorce.
The Rise of Domestic Violence
If a relationship is not a violent one, it is unlikely that the relationship will become violent. However, if one of the parties, whether a spouse or significant other, has a temper, even if he or she never physically abused his or her significant other or spouse, that person may start physically abusing the other person because of the stress of being cooped up, not working, and not being able to socialize with others.
If those in a relationship already suffered from physical and / or verbal abuse, the added stressors of financial worries and having children home all day could drive a more explosive person to become physically violent, which could lead to divorce.
Avoiding Divorce and Domestic Violence
Those who start thinking about divorce but would rather save their relationship could take steps to reduce the stress that is causing tension in the household.
- If you start to feel violent, take a step back. Explain to your spouse that you need to relieve the stress of the situation. Never just walk out – that could incite more disagreement when you come back. Tell your loved one that you need a few minutes or an hour. Go outside and take a walk around the block, or if you are in the country, walk down the street and back.
- Let your loved one know when the situation is becoming too much and ask for help from your loved one in dealing with a situation, whether it is chores or working with the children. Keep it polite and use “Please” and “Thank you.” You may be surprised at just how far these polite niceties get you.
- Create a list of things to be done around the house. Pretend it’s your new job. Start working on your list in the morning. Take breaks just as if you were at your real job.
- Share the chores such as laundry, cooking and cleaning! Use this as an opportunity to teach younger children how to do household chores.
- Take some time every day when the weather is nice to do something outside. Whether you take a walk in a park that is open, sit on your porch and read together, or even do lawn maintenance together, getting out in the sun helps your mood.
- When you run into a problem, such as not having enough to pay the upcoming rent or mortgage, or need groceries but do not have enough to buy them, sit down with your loved one to brainstorm the problem. Discuss asking a mortgage company to move one or two payments to the back of the loan or what you can make with the food you do have in the house. Can you delay paying a utility bill, so you have money for food? Some utilities are not penalizing until the country goes back to work.
Hopefully, as with other significant impacts, the divorce rate won’t be much higher than it is in normal circumstances, though family law attorneys should be ready to handle a higher caseload, even if it is minimally higher.
Those who do not have alternate means of meeting clients should set up those alternative means, including telephone meetings and video meetings. Know how your family clerk and court are handling cases – most courts now have electronic filing, so attorneys are still able to file new cases.
Carla Hartley has worked in the legal field for well over ten years. A former U.S. Marine, Ms. Hartley brings diligence and willingness to fight for her client’s rights to every case. An experienced litigator, Ms. Hartley works aggressively to keep her skills, abilities, and knowledge base at the cutting edge of family law. www.carlahartleylaw.com