How the Covid-19 Pandemic has Changed Relationships, and What you Need to Know to Keep yours Alive
Updated: Jan 8
Having relationship trouble? Don't worry, you're in good company.
2020 has been a difficult year for a multitude of reasons, and these unique circumstances have led many couples to the brink separation. The pandemic has exacerbated the effects of job loss, mental health disorders, financial struggles and a variety of other tensions which can put unusual strain on a marriage. What is more, people are spending much more time at home, struggling to share limited space to work, raise children, and attend school. Divorce is a familiar side effect of pandemic and epidemics, according to an article in the New York Post: “a study in Hong Kong found that a year after the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, 2004 divorces in that city were 21 percent higher than 2002 levels.” But the real question is, why and what can you do to prevent it?
One clinical psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Cohen has a few theories that may bring clarity to these questions. In her article on divorce during pandemic, Cohen highlights the fact that, while you may feel affectionate towards your partner for 5-6 hours a day during the week, spending 24/7 with someone can reveal aspects of their personality that seem unfamiliar and unattractive. If you were married for many years before the pandemic, you and your partner likely fell into a comfortable routine; now, with an array of stay at home orders, closed restaurants and travel restrictions, couples are finding their familiar routines upended. These conditions can make long term relationships feel unfamiliar, especially for couples who have spent years learning to coexist with one another. While you may be recognizing “new,” deal-breaking qualities in your partner, it is important to remember that these changes may be the result of pandemic stress and unusual circumstances. If your relationship struggles are unique to the pandemic, recognize that this chapter in your life will soon come to a close. Check in with yourself -- is it possible that your partner has noticed changes in you, or that you have noticed changes in yourself? These changes do not diminish who you are, who your partner is, or who you both are as a couple. This year has brought about new experiences for everyone, and it is likely that your partner is doing their best to navigate new hardships, just as you are. A little bit of communication can go a long way. As Dr. Cohen puts it “how partners communicate, work through arguments and problem-solve will allow a stressor to either wreck a marriage or sustain it.”
Another common dispute that Dr. Cohen reports is over the best way to handle the pandemic. Some individuals are following CDC guidelines to a T, some are going above and beyond the restrictions, while others are not following them at all. When two people in a relationship have diverging approaches to Covid-19 guidelines, the differences can feel personal and fundamental. You may feel that your partner is making you unsafe, or that they are restricting your free-will. Either way this unique strain can bring a sense of disconnection and lack of trust to your relationship. These tensions are further exacerbated in couples with children. Let’s say you and your partner have been working for several years to establish a cohesive parenting style, with the safety of your child at the forefront. With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, you may feel that your co-parent is putting your child’s mental and physical health in jeopardy. This is where it is so important to meet your partner in the middle. Try putting yourself in their shoes to understand where they are coming from, and remember that finding balance in your relationship is a priority. A functioning relationship requires both parties to feel safe and heard, and keeping that at the forefront could be the thing to keep your relationship intact.
If divorce is what is best for you and your ex, there will still be unusual hurdles to overcome once your divorce is finalized. If you have children, divorce can bring even more instability to this already hard-to-process chapter in your children’s lives. If you do not have children, there are other potential difficulties unique to 2020, like finding a safe new living situation, and getting back onto the dating scene once you are ready. While these fears may be weighing on you, it is important to remind yourself that you only have control over the present moment. One area where you can exercise this control is the legal process, and finding the right representation can greatly change your experience. According to Daria Wise of The Wise Law Firm, "In certain cases, it may be harder for some (people) to handle mediations or court appearances virtually. Divorce is an emotional process, and sometimes that human connection of having your divorce attorney in your actual corner can be calming." Our leading attorney here at Pacem Tempestate Law, Angelina Ray is in the process of getting her Masters in Family Therapy, which helps her to assist you in navigating the unique stress of getting divorced during a pandemic. Finding the right representation will allow you to assert control in your life during a moment where many things seem to be out of your control. The importance of finding strong, knowledgeable representation throughout your divorce process cannot be understated, and can drastically change how your present can impact your future.
Relationship drama is not unusual right now, but experts such as Dr. Cohen report that persevering through these difficult times could make your relationship even stronger. You and your partner can use this time as an opportunity to get to know each other in a deeper way, learn how to help one another through times of struggle, or find common ground in this shared experience. Dr. Cohen mentions that “couples who break up during lockdown were likely headed that way anyway.” You can take solace in this idea, that if you and your partner do not last through the pandemic, maybe you were not meant to be together. If you do, this could mean further reassurance that you and your partner have a bond and dynamic that is worth fighting for. In the meantime, practice patience, compassion and communication, and you will see how far these qualities can take you.