“Are you seeing an increase in separations since Covid?”
It’s a question I’m asked often lately.
It was predicted early on that the pandemic-caused lockdown would increase both birth and divorce rates. I’m no baby doctor, so I’ll only speak to what I know: As to the latter, it seems the prediction may be right.
This from the New York Times on August 26th says a lot:
Nearly one in 10 of married or partnered people in the United States say they are very likely to separate from their partner or spouse at least in part because of issues related to the pandemic, according to an Ipsos poll released Aug. 4.
The same Ipsos poll found 1 in 5 married/partnered people were fighting more with their significant other during this time, and 30% of respondents said they’re more annoyed with their partner than usual.
The reasons why seem apparent: high stress, quarantine, job loss, lack of childcare, illnesses and death of loved ones. It’s just been too much for some of us. If you’re one who’s decided to separate during this time, we’re sending you an extra dose of love.
But what if you’re not sure what to do? You’re not happy, but is separating the right choice? And how much do the current world circumstances factor into the equation?
Here are a few ideas to explore:
1. Remind yourself how you felt about your relationship pre-Covid (and how you might feel about it post-Covid). Every relationship has dark days. Or weeks or months. If you felt pretty decent before early March, consider that what you’re feeling right now may be short(ish) term. Can you separate the pandemic from the person? Try thinking about this time as a storm to be weathered. Yes, it’s causing issues, but ending your marriage isn’t going to cause the storm (i.e. the pandemic) to end.
2. Consider this a forced opportunity to really look at, and work on, the issues in your marriage. According to Florida-based counselor Leticia Grove, "On a daily basis, we can largely ignore or avoid acknowledging problems in our relationship by staying busy, working late, or being preoccupied with outside activities or our children. COVID has really created a situation in which we have been forced to spend much more time together and to work cooperatively to solve problems like financial stressors, taking care of elderly parents, managing schedules and office space at home, parenting responsibilities, etc. During times of stress, communication and partnership become even more vital. When couples come to a situation like the pandemic without the tools to manage, those deficits are seemingly untenable. But they are really only the same problems, just more obvious."
Breaking that down, your problems may not be new, just highlighted right now. But sometimes it takes getting to an extreme state to make serious change. Think of the heart-attack survivor who becomes a marathon runner. The cancer warrior who makes a total life turnaround. Sometimes blessings come in really odd-looking wrappers. And might require you to commit to some serious marriage counseling.
3. Imagine your life on the other side. Picture yourself separated from your spouse. Really try to visualize it. Put yourself in your own home, waking up and going to bed each day without your spouse with you. Is your immediate reaction relief, or remorse?
4. Consider seeing a divorce attorney, but just for a consult. This isn’t a “I’m getting divorced” meeting. Yes, you might gain information that will be valuable if you do ultimately separate. But think of this as your own litmus test. Your goal during this meeting should simply be to gain clarity. Does talking to a divorce attorney make you want to run home and save your marriage? Or confirm for you that it’s over?
5. Remember that no relationship is immune from the struggles we’re facing right now. Not even 110-year old Julio Cesar Mora Tapia and 104-year-old Waldramina Maclovia Quintero, the world’s documented “oldest couple.”