Couples that have never discussed splitting up before the pandemic are now filing for divorce. The experiences are becoming more and more common, with divorce applications skyrocketing around the world. Leading British law firm Stewarts recorded a 122% increase in comparison to the same period last year in separation enquiries between July and October. A major legal contract-creation site in the US announced a 34% surge in sales of its basic divorce agreements. The five-month-old couples made up 20% of the total sales. A similar pattern has been observed in China and Sweden.
It’s not a new theory that the coronavirus crisis has been affecting our deep-rooted core relationships with friends and family and now with a clearer understanding of the multiple factors feeding into the Covid-19 experts believe that the trend is set to continue into 2021.
The pandemic has often been described as “the perfect storm” for couples as lockdowns and social distancing force them to stay with each other for twenty-four hours of the day. This increased amount of “together-time” has acted as a catalyst for break-ups masked by previous separate routines. It won’t be wrong to say that the reasons for separation have not necessarily changed and the pandemic has just brought the domestic arrangements really into much more sharp focus than the ordinary set up. Lockdown is like a prolonged holiday, but with enormous added pressures.
But the stark difference this time lies in the fact that there is an increase in the number of women initiating divorces. Out of the recorded divorces, 76% of cases come from female clients in comparison to 60% in 2019. An important factor in this surge is the disproportionate share of housework and childcare is falling on women. This issue coincided with communication problems as both the people got on each other’s nerves without actually talking properly. Thus, an increase in the domestic workload while the added responsibility of home-schooling kids caused friction between the couples.
Some couples say that the decision to split came after a sudden realization. To reduce the risk of infection when one of them was tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the couples decided to sleep in separate bedrooms. This dawned on them with the realization that due to the pre-existing relationship setting this separation really “didn’t really make a difference” to the quality of their relationship.
For many, a surge mental health problems linked to the crisis became the deal-breaker. Handling everything from the disease to the anxiety issues or any other problems made it absolutely exhausting for a few people. So, separations came as people were, unfortunately, unable to give the required effort: emotionally, mentally and physically.
Not to forget, the financial impact of Covid-19 is also playing a major role in break-ups with more and more people being fired and taking home no salaries or lower salaries than usual. It is not new as it has already been discovered that the number of divorces tends to increase during economic downturns at least since the Second World War. However, this time, the pandemic has more prominently affected those who were already working in low-income industries such as retail, hospitality, leisure, and tourism, unlike other financial crises. In these sectors women, young people and ethnic minorities are overrepresented.
And now, when money has already taken an upper hand in relations becoming a common cause of marital strife. Decreased income adds an increased strain on the relationship regarding prioritization of expenses, consumption pattern and psychological understanding. This results in reduced relationship quality and it is a possibility that being made redundant can also be a major blow to self-esteem, especially among men. This can potentially birth anxiety and frustration, sometimes resulting in domestic abuse.
The world is still optimistic about being able to turn back to their normal lives in early to mid-2021. If this comes true many of us can start living more of our pre-pandemic lifestyles. However, many divorce experts believe that the vaccine may not be able to bring an end to the break-up trend as the financial impact of the pandemic could lead to a long-term recession. Some people also believe that even if the financial and economical situations improve, the divorce rate would actually rise than coming down because some spouses currently may be putting off splitting up for practical reasons even when they are actually facing marital problems. This new wave might also include live-in couples who are not getting separated right now maybe because they are nervous about being alone or dating again in an era of social distancing.
Several psychotherapists argue that the coronavirus pandemic is also prompting more introspection. People are now dissolving themselves into existential re-evaluations of what kind of people they want in their lives. This may hint at people looking towards a different lifestyle with such re-evaluation also taking place in marriages as couples reassess their life choices, emotional needs as well as their couple compatibility. The pandemic has reminded the human race that life might be short and we need to know and clearly choose how, and with whom, we should be spending our precious time.
However, this may also be for the individual good of the people. The silver lining to the pandemic might be that it has helped the human race realize that we really needed to introspect and value our companions and time. Otherwise, people who don’t really understand or love each other would still be sharing a bedroom, not talking to each other, and limiting each other’s inner desires.