Since Covid-19 cases first began to surge, local governments all over the U.S. have asked citizens to shelter in place to avoid spreading the virus. For some people, this has meant working or going to school from home, while others are unable to work and have the added stress of lost income. Worries about illness and job loss are sometimes compounded by enforced proximity to a partner and the absence of other social supports. The effects of Covid-19 on relationships include a rise in divorces, added pressure on struggling marriages, and new sources of tension to cope with.
Predicted Rise In Divorce
Divorce attorneys across the country are anticipating an increase in the number of couples who file for divorce after the pandemic subsides. At this time, many courthouses remain closed to non-essential business, and judges consider divorce to be non-essential, even if many couples disagree. Courthouses that have opened face a backlog of cases that were in progress when the pandemic shut everything down. However, when more courts are back in full operation, they may be overwhelmed with divorce cases. Confinement seems to be making bad relationships worse while putting extra pressure on every family.
Quarantine Exacerbates Relationship Problems
The shelter-in-place orders have been especially hard on couples that were already having problems before the pandemic. When partners are unhappy with each other or with the relationship, the majority of their interactions are negative and hurtful. But in normal times, a bad marriage can survive if partners can spend enough time away from each other, at work or with friends. Being apart gives them a break from conflict, and being with friends provides valuable emotional support. Covid-19, however, has forced many unhappy couples into constant proximity where pressures build up and explode, sometimes in violence.
New Sources Of Tension
Even couples who weren’t having problems before Covid-19 may be struggling with their relationship now. For one thing, a lot of couples have discovered that they have very different levels of anxiety about the virus and different attitudes toward social distancing and safety guidelines. These differences of opinion can become major sources of conflict, especially when one person feels the other isn’t being safe or is putting the household at risk. Couples are also fighting more about the division of labor in the home. When both partners are working from home, they tend to have more disputes over the distribution of housework and childcare.
Communication Is Key
Of course, not every marriage is falling apart as a result of the quarantine. Couples who survive together with their relationship intact say that open communication is key. Rather than letting tensions build up, these partners talk to each other after their anger has died down, and they express their feelings honestly. Moreover, they listen to each other with compassion and work together to solve problems. Regular conversations about worries and frustrations can go a long way towards defusing arguments.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 is impacting family relationships negatively, and it’s likely that many marriages will not survive the quarantine. If you are having problems in your relationship, do what you can to care for yourself. Meditation, exercise, gardening, and reading are all activities that can help to relieve stress and distract you from worries. Couples who struggle with communication may want to consider working with a therapist online.