Covid-19: How the virus is putting a strain on marriages
The inescapable space shared during the initial days of the pandemic has left an indelible impact on marriages.
"We just couldn't stop fighting on whose turn it was to do the dishes," says Alia A., a senior executive working in Dubai and a mother of two school-going boys. The couple had always had the support of two part-time helpers who took care of the majority of household chores and assisted with child care responsibilities. But the Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home advisories disrupted their organised life, forced them to do household chores on their own, and created friction in what seemed to be a loving relationship.
The inescapable space shared during the initial days of the pandemic has left an indelible impact on marriages. While some couples struck a balance and emerged stronger and more appreciative of each other, several marriages have withered under the heavy demands of life in Covid time. The demand of household work and strain on finances are two main reasons for souring relationships.
Some couples have struggled and developed a greater sense of loneliness and isolation. They have experienced feelings of claustrophobia and frustration as a result of spending considerably more time together, often trying to balance working from home with homeschooling, housework and chores. For many, there has also been financial stress and worries to contend with.
"Married couples may find that their partners are often working long hours and the quality time they once had to air concerns and effectively solve problems also becomes drained, leaving them feeling burdened and isolated. Many are suffering from a lack of 'personal space', dedicated 'me time', and a lack of clear boundaries separating home and work life. As a result, the pressure on many couples has been immense and has naturally led to conflict and feelings of resentment on either side. Feelings of anxiety and depression were - and still are - common and are directly linked to sleepless nights, addictions, mood swings and boredom - all adding significant stress to any relationship," says Tanya Dharamshi, clinical director and counselling psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre.
The crisis, needless to say, has forced many couples to reassess their priorities and also their relationships.
Divorce enquiries have surged since the lockdown period, says Nita Maru, managing partner of TWS Legal Consultants. "I am seeing more and more divorce enquiries per month. Divorce was a societal taboo but it no longer seems a shameful option now. Numerous factors are feeding into the Covid-19 breakups, including depression, mental health/anxiety issues which cannot be ignored and it looks set to continue into 2021 as we are experiencing a very high volume of divorce enquires since the start of this New Year."
Dharamshi agrees. "Yes, more couples are seeking support for their relationship, and this includes couples that are not yet married as well as those that are married."
One of Maru's clients (name withheld on request) had been married for over 10 years. The husband was a businessman and spent majority of his time travelling, while the wife took care of the domestic front. The pandemic forced him to stay at home for weeks at a stretch and the couple found it unbearable to be around each other and their children 24/7. Also, the financial pressure of owning an established business which had been suffering losses and maintaining their high household/lifestyle expenses caused heated arguments. It eventually led to a divorce.
The challenges thrown by the pandemic are fairly common across cultures and nationalities. While several households might see themselves facing similar predicaments, there are couples that are resilient and used this self-isolation time to repair cracks in their marriage, bringing them closer as opposed to breaking up permanently.
"In some instances, this quarantine period in 2020 had actually led to resolution not dissolution, as couples have been able to take this time to resolve their marital issues and become stronger together," adds Maru.
The limitations imposed by the pandemic is testing relationships of all kinds. It is leading to mental health issues that should not be ignored, advises Dharamshi. "Do not struggle in silence or let resentment fester. With the heightened response to staying safe, being vulnerable does not come easy. Listening to each other, sharing worries and concerns and validating how each other is feeling is key."
It is also important to take a step back and appreciate everything you have achieved in life - from creating a lovely home to raising successful and happy children, and being happily married. Compiling a list and focusing on everything you have, rather than what you don't, can uplift spirits and give you a new perspective.
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