The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to attack people’s health, and millions are still struggling to escape death. But in many households, it has already killed marriages.
Several international news sites recently reported a jump in divorce cases and legal inquiries during and after the lockdowns. One study, done by relationship support service, Relationships Australia, discovered that more than 50 percent of people went through a lot of challenges under the COVID-19 restrictions. Over 40 percent also had an adverse change in their relationship with their spouse or partner.
A Telegraph article cited 300 new divorce applications in a Western China law firm in just three weeks and a 30 percent rise in divorce inquiries in Italy after they reopened. BBC reported that in Hubei province in China, where this pandemic began, cases of domestic violence increased threefold after the lockdown. And in the city of Xi’an, marriage registration offices were flooded with up to 14 divorce appointments per day, which is more than the daily limit.
What could be the reason?
In all these, three things are coming to light. One is that many couples might have been spending more time at work, or whatever it is that keeps them busy outside than with each other. They know that world more than their spouse. Getting uprooted from that world forced them to reorient themselves with the one they hardly know now—their home. The adjustment might have involved childcare, household responsibilities, division of labor, finances, and other things taken for granted before—and this is the source of conflict.
It can be a welcome change for couples who have no problems with their relationship. Still, those with unstable marriages could be facing the very situation they’d been running away from. Their work and outside activities were an excuse to distance themselves from their partner and the issue they needed to confront. With the lockdown, they’re stuck with their partner 24/7, and the problems were begging for release.
Second, this unprecedented situation might have brought up problems or issues that were not there before. People have different reactions to cope with a crisis. But without a crisis, these responses don’t emerge. During the lockdown, the spouse or partner might have seen specific behaviors for the first time, despite years of marriage. Unfortunately, some of these reactions might have hurt or offended them, triggering a series of actions that led to a divorce decision.
Lastly, shelter-in-place rules have confined couples to the four walls of their home, with no family members and friends to confide in about their struggles. After arguing endlessly, they couldn’t leave the house and vent out somewhere, such as a park, the mall, a friend’s house, or the gym. They couldn’t visit their elderly parents or grown-up children or meet up with a close friend. This increases their stress level.
A marriage registration official in Xi’an told Globaltimes that some divorces in the past were made on impulse. They were a result of one-off heated arguments that led to a legal battle the couples later regretted. One couple, for instance, even decided to remarry just as their divorce certificate was being printed, proving that the decision to file for divorce should have been the last resort.
One of the positive findings of the Relationships Australia study was that 20 percent of those who had problems with their living arrangements during the lockdown were willing to make positive changes to their relationships. They immediately took control of the situation and turned it around for the family’s benefit, instead of going the divorce path right away.
What can you do?
If you’re in this situation, before you hasten off to the nearest divorce lawyer in your city, a visit to a marriage counselor might be the best first step. Marriage counseling can help identify your problems as a couple and work towards saving your marriage. If you have children, especially young children, keeping the union should be your goal. You need your partner’s cooperation in this if you want the counseling session to work.
You can also contact a divorce attorney without filing for divorce yet. Ask questions and present your situation. Find out the merits of your issues and your options as a spouse, partner, or parent. You can even do it online before you meet the lawyer in person to discuss your case in detail.
Divorce is a necessary legal process if you’re sure that your relationship has broken down completely. But remember that this pandemic is unprecedented, and many factors are at play, including both your state of mind. Do what you must, but be 100% sure you’re doing the right thing.