A recent report from China shows that since the Corona Virus hit their shores, they have seen a marked increase in divorce rates among couples.
This is quite understandable as couples are being forced to spend time together due to being confined to their homes during the COVID-19 ‘lock down’. It’s not that dissimilar to what we see in Jan/Feb divorce rates of each year when couples come back from their annual December holidays.
However, this is going to test many relationships (and families) over the next few weeks (possibly months) with couples being forced to work from home together and the added complexity of childcare as schools are forced to shut, not to mention every day routines being disrupted.
The two biggest stresses that individuals take to work with them is relationship/family and financial stress. Going to work every day allows couples to put some space between them to reflect, think, breathe and potentially cope with (or avoid) what is going on at home.
Uncertain times like this causes a lot of anxiety and stress. When there is the added fear of disease, especially if one partner is already sickly (e.g. suffers from depression) and financial uncertainty from potential job losses and salary cuts, it can be a huge source of conflict in a relationship and ultimately lead to divorce.
Being quarantined with your spouse over an extended period of time can cause friction in any normal functioning relationship but, when you have a relationship that is already rocky, it can be like a ticking time bomb and divorce can soon follow!
In times of conflict or stress, individuals can turn to negative coping mechanisms such substance abuse (alcohol, painkillers, medication, drugs), addictions (porn, gambling, social media) and more, and in some extreme cases can even trigger domestic violence.
In a relationship where partners are committed and have a healthy foundation, they may well be able to work through the disagreements that being in quarantine will unavoidably bring, it may perhaps even strengthen their relationship and bring them closer as a couple and family.
Others may not be so lucky especially where their relationship is already rocky, disconnected and volatile and it won’t be soon before they will be heading down the rocky road to divorce.
Here are some steps that couples can take to safeguard their relationship during the COVID-19 period:
- Understand that being in each other’s spaces (and faces) is going to cause disagreements or arguments – expect it and agree on how you will manage them (e.g no abuse, swearing at each other, allow time to cool off etc).
- Try and maintain as normal daily routine as possible if you are forced to work from home – stick to the same wake-up time, time you get to your desk, leave work, breaks etc.
- Explain to your kids what is going on and what they need to do (i.e. wash and sanitise), they will pick up on your anxiety and stress.
- Help to educate your helpers (if you have) on how they can keep themselves and their families safe.
- Take turns entertaining the kids if both parents are working at home giving each other time to focus on work deliverables.
- If you’re a single parent, try schedule activities for the kids to keep them busy so you can work – there are lots of online resources available to keep toddlers busy as well as older age groups.
- Take time out by taking small breaks – if you are able to, go for a walk, sit in the garden, meditate or exercise to avoid feeling cooped up indoors.
- Put steps in place to help you build your relationship during this period and going forward (activity jars are great!)
- Communication is key for couples – draw up a schedule of how you will manage household chores, kids and work responsibilities over the next few weeks to minimise frustrations and resentment from building up.
- Set up a specific work area for yourself at home if you don’t have the luxury of having a home office or study.
- Get to grips with new technology such as Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting if need.
- Speak up if you are feeling anxious, stress or frustrated – make use of online coaching and counseling services or your employee wellness services.
- If you have to meet people face-to-face due to the nature of your job (e.g medical sector) ensure you take the necessary preventative measures (keep your distance, wash your hands thoroughly, use a sanitiser etc).
- Boost your immune system by eating healthily and stocking up on vitamins and minerals.
- Take the time at home to up-skill yourself by learning a new skill through online learning platforms
It’s important for couples to seek help sooner than later whether it be as a preventative measure or if they are already feeling challenge.
I’ve had a few requests from my international clients on co-parenting during lock down so I chatted to Suzanne Griffiths, President, CEO, and Co-Founder of Griffiths Law PC in Denver, Colorado in the USA about the impact of COVID-19 on parents and co-parenting, and the legal implications during lock down which you can view here.
Take the Building Relationships on-line course and use this time at home together to help you grow your relationship and build your resilience as a couple.
We are able to offer support services such as online coaching, mentoring and counselling sessions via Skype, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp etc. Please get in touch if you are needing support.
Alternatively reach out to national support services such as LifeLine 0861 322 322 or SADAG 0800 567 567
A version of this article also appeared in The Sowetan
Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, Tedx speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula teaches individuals and companies tools and skills to immediately and positively enhance the quality of their personal and organisational relationships.