Lockdown, job insecurity and money worries are some of the factors that have put an enormous strain on our relationships since the pandemic began.
As a result, many couples now find themselves in an unhappy or difficult place. So severe is the situation that family lawyers are now predicting a post-lockdown divorce boom, while Citizens Advice reported a 25% increase in views on its divorce webpage the first weekend in September compared with the same date in 2019.
Understanding the reasons behind the difficulties in your relationship is important to help you find the right solution to move forward. It may also hold the answer to bringing you closer together and allowing you to press reset on previous grievances.
What’s causing the difficulties in our relationships?
Divorce lawyers often talk about January as ‘divorce month’. This is because during the festive period couples often spend prolonged periods of time together, which can heighten existing tensions or create new ones. Summertime is also a popular time for divorce filings for the same reason.
Studies have also shown that financial problems, too much arguing, and an unequal division in parenting and household responsibilities are among the top reasons couples separate or file for divorce.
When you consider all the above, it’s easy to see why so many couples are having difficulties during the pandemic. Most will have been stuck at home for months on end and forced to interact with and live alongside each other in different ways. They may have had to address issues or confront subjects they were previously able to avoid by engaging in their regular routines. And unlike during the holidays, many people are still working, often in confined spaces, which can add an additional layer of complexity to any relationship. On top of all this, many families were trying to home-school or juggle childcare while working.
There’s also the financial stresses of the pandemic. Many people have been put at risk or made redundant or had their wages cut, which can cause huge levels of anxiety and stress within a household. For some couples, this has led to a reversal of roles within the relationship. For example, if one person was previously the bread winner while the other person worked part-time and took more of the childcare duties, a loss of income can force couples to look hard at the dynamics within their relationship.
The pandemic has hit every trigger point in our lives – work, finances, health, children and personal freedom – all coming together in a perfect storm of emotion.
Advice for couples experiencing difficulties
If you are struggling in your relationship and are looking to address any issues you’re currently experiencing, here are some things to consider during this difficult time.
1. Remember what your relationship was like before lockdown
The pandemic has been tough on all of us, and nobody has been feeling their best. Try to give your partner as much empathy and compassion as possible. Remember what your relationship was like before lockdown. The anger and frustration you may be feeling now does not define your relationship and may pass in time, particularly as you both adjust to what’s going on around you.
2. Take care of your own needs and communicate these clearly
Many of the issues that we experience in our relationships come from our inability to look after our own wellbeing. It’s hard to invest energy and love into our relationships with other people when our own needs are not being met.
If you find yourself getting frustrated with your partner and your current situation, consider whether there’s anything you could be doing that would bolster your own sense of happiness and fulfilment. Actively practicing self-compassion on a regular basis can help build your emotional resilience and help you to see things in a new perspective.
Once you’ve worked out what your own needs are, make sure you communicate these clearly to your partner. It’s entirely possible and important to do this with assertion but without being aggressive.
3. Look at the dynamics of your relationship and address any imbalances
Some of the disparity in relationships, particularly around parenting roles, is unavoidable, but some of it isn’t. If you think there is an unequal division in parenting or household responsibilities, it’s important to address this right away. Try to work out ways to share the load and support one another, particularly around key pain points such as busy workdays and evenings/weekends.
4. Learn how to argue more constructively
Even couples who have the strongest relationships argue from time to time. But if arguments with your partner are happening more often, it can make both of you feel hurt and rejected - and that's not a recipe for happiness.
If you find yourself arguing with your partner more than usual, you might want to learn how to do so more constructively so that you’re able to find a resolution more quickly - limiting the long-term damage.
5. Don’t make any rash decisions
No-one makes the best decisions when under stress. Therefore, it’s important to allow yourself time to think and process your feelings before making any decisions about the future. It’s wise to keep a perspective of what’s happening in the world and an awareness of the impact that the pandemic is having on everyone’s relationships.
If you feel you have no other choice, or come to the conclusion that is the best path for you, try to consider the short, medium and long-term implications this will have on your life, and make the necessary changes to ensure that you have good support systems in place.
CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members.
We provide a range of emotional support including personal and relationship counselling, find out more by contacting us today.
If you’re worried about the impact of the pandemic on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.