You’ve been on lockdown for six or more weeks and you’ve had it. Not being able to go out is taking its toll on your sanity, and Zoom happy hours aren’t cutting it anymore. Worse, being stranded with your spouse 24/7 is pushing you over the edge.
You are constantly getting on each other’s nerves, and what started as a second honeymoon has turned into a bitter conflictpalooza. Ironically, while many of us craved more time together with our partners, we have discovered that too much of a good thing can have a negative effect on our relationships. As stay in place orders are being relaxed, is your first outing post-lockdown going to be a trip to a divorce lawyer’s office? Is a COVID divorce the only thing you’re thinking about once you get out of quarantine?
We have been bombarded with frightening statistics about the Olympic race to divorce court after the lockdown ended in China. Divorce lawyers the world over are predicting a similar phenomenon in their countries, suggesting that many marriages won’t survive the hardships of quarantine. Should you be worried? It depends.
Living in close quarters with your other half offers an excellent opportunity to explore the viability of your marriage, observe the dynamics in your relationship, and determine if it is on solid ground, if it needs correction or if it’s time to run for the door. Below, I will be sharing some tips to help you make this delicate decision with confidence.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before a COVID Divorce
Ending a marriage is not easy, and this is a decision you should never make in haste or under the influence of negative emotions. The stress COVID-19 is placing on relationships is natural. But does it warrant calling it quits? Only you can decide Put the situation in its proper perspective before rushing to conclusions, and avoid COVID divorce regret.
Do not be influenced by the tales of woe in China
Before you call a lawyer, ask yourself the following questions:
What are your conflicts about?
Is COVID-19 anxiety to be blamed, or do these conflicts underscore deeper problems in the marriage? Having a better understanding of the sources of your discord will help you determine if your problems are fatal or if they can be fixed.
Conflict is a normal part of human relations and is exacerbated under cramped conditions. You may have to share limited space, work from home, share chores, and child care obligations, while being deprived of the things that provided relief from everyday stressors.
As emotions start to rise, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Are we fighting more often than usual?” and “What are we fighting about?”
Is COVID-19 to blame?
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in all aspects of our lives and may be the main source of your marital unhappiness. Maybe not…
We are living under highly unusual and unexpected conditions. We are facing the unknown with its associated fears and real consequences.
You and your partner may be simultaneously experiencing loss of your jobs and income, or having to work in stressful and risky environments. To top it off, you may be living with fear, illness, and the prospect of death, yours, or a loved one’s. Having to confront possible financial ruin and mortality are no small stressors, with or without quarantine.
Instead of projecting terrible qualities to your spouse, step back and ponder if the conflict you are experiencing is related to the pandemic and the unwanted lifestyle changes that came with it. Is it caused by financial problems, division of responsibilities or pure anxiety, fear and constant negative news?
How are you responding to the conflict?
Pay attention, not only to what causes the stress but also to how you respond to it. Are you reactive? Irritable? Or are you coming from a centered place? How about your spouse?
Are these your typical responses or the result of unusually stressful circumstances?
As you examine these questions, adopt strategies to help you relieve stress and notice if they minimize discord. Acknowledging your contribution to marital strife will give you a degree of control over the outcome.
Is your marriage likely to go back to normal when this ordeal is over?
There is no question that this saga will come to an end. It is only a matter of time.
Are the problems you’re facing during the pandemic likely to resolve themselves when things go back to normal? Or has too much damage been done?
Don’t end your marriage over issues that are likely to go away on their own. By the same token, don’t get stuck in a relationship that can only offer you a lifetime of grief.
Does the pandemic highlight existing problems in your relationship?
While living under quarantine can trigger discord, it may also amplify more serious issues already present in your marriage.
Notice the behaviors that are causing tension and look back at the problems you had prior to the pandemic.
Are your problems novel or more of the same? Are they becoming more frequent or more severe?
Some seemingly minor behaviors, when done consistently, point to relationship and personality flaws that, over time, will snowball into major strife.
Inconsiderate behaviors, thoughtless actions, and disregard for your feelings can take a huge toll on your self-esteem and affection towards your spouse. Take advantage of this unique opportunity for involuntary togetherness to figure out if these pet peeves make your marriage unsustainable.
Are you in danger?
The incidence of domestic violence has escalated as a result of this pandemic. In addition to the stresses listed above, isolation–the abuser’s power tool–is playing in the background, and a survivor’s access to help may be limited at this time.
If you are in an abusive situation, seek help immediately! The National Domestic Violence Hotline is always available to assist you and can provide you with guidance to protect your safety, your children’s and guide you to a safe escape.
And, in an emergency, do not hesitate to contact your local police department.
In the meantime…
Hang in there. This too shall pass. Before you consider a COVID divorce, take some of the above into consideration. Practice self-care to empower and center yourself. Focus on communication and negotiate your differences with poise and grace. Tackling dicey issues head-on before they blow up will help you save your sanity and, perhaps, your marriage.