Covid-19 lockdown doesn’t have to end in divorce

Image: 123RF / Katarzyna Białasiewicz

The reported spike in divorce rate in China due to their national coronavirus lockdown has added to the anxiety of many couples in SA about the future of their marriages.

As a commonly practised precautionary measure the world over, we are among other things, required to stay at home as the government is doing what it can to arrest the virus.

As this happens, couples are trying to find better conflict resolution mechanisms and ways of not stepping on each other’s toes.

When left with nowhere to go, as the lockdown dictates, couples lose space to breathe from unresolved issues that may have long been plaguing their relationships.

This period will also bring up new issues you may have never known existed as they were hidden by your rhythm of being together after work and apart by day.

Being in each other’s face day and night, couples are most likely left without any of the back doors through which they usually escape from unpleasant situations.

The back doors would typically be high commitment to work, studies, church activities, visiting friends and family.

Unable to avoid the problems any more, couples may typically run headlong into them and the results are pretty much what you’d expect.

The threat of coronavirus is particularly unnerving because it represents so much more than just one danger.

As much as the country is on a 21-day lockdown, there are signs there may be an extension of our quarantine period beyond April 16.

Our physical health, financial security, employment situations, children’s education and childcare coverage are all changing and or are newly at risk.

Add to that stress the volatility, anxiety and uncertainty brought about by Moody’s downgrade of our economy to junk status.

Such stress while you’re locked down, through no choice of your own, with a spouse who usually serves irritation on a platter.

Looking at the situation — it’s no rocket science that a post-Covid-19 world will see a spike in two aspects in the home front — pregnancy and divorce rates.

Your post-Covid-19 world doesn’t have to end in divorce.

Consider the following recommendations.

Share the house chores

For many couples, lockdown is a period that reveals the true side of their spouses.

While some appreciate the opportunity to spend time with their spouses and children, many, especially women, are weighed down from the pressures of childcare without support and from imbalances in household responsibilities.

Negotiating your way around this issue alone can save your marriage.

Establish Covid-19 deal-breakers

For basic relationship health, each must list four critical points that are very important to your personal comfort during this period that your spouse must respect and adhere to, and engage around these as a couple.

These could be behaviours the other may see as frivolous but that low-level irritate you under normal circumstances, but really grate on your nerves when together 24/7.

Here's an example of partner one’s list:

  • Please put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or sink after meals; don’t just leave them there.
  • Continue to brush your teeth and take showers. You can’t be in your pyjamas all day, every day.
  • Don’t just come at me when you want to have sex; I prefer connecting emotionally first. Being home 24/7 doesn’t mean we should be at it 24/7.
  • Be open with me and kindly ask for time out if you feel smothered; I won’t be offended.

Partner two’s list could be:

  • Please monitor your language when speaking to me; I often interpret it as disrespect.
  • Be sexually available to me. Unlike before, I no longer have at my disposal the options of replacing your rejection of me.
  • Use the furthest bathroom from where we’re sitting if you want to do a number two. And don’t forget to use the air-freshener and toilet brush.
  • Manage the time you spend on social media while I’m present.

Understand everyone needs time to realign

Covid-19 has changed everyone from having a “thriving” experience to a “surviving” experience overnight.

This requires some readjustment time.

The difference in mindset can create tension and demands a focus on psychological survival.

The skill set that survival demands is different from what is required to thrive and can include: greater flexibility, presence of mind, a sense of urgency, and functionality over process.

In addition to the above points, we recommend setting ground rules in your marriage for fair fights; establish that yours shall be a lifestyle of forgiveness; and that you’ll continue to pursue your dreams while quarantined, albeit by applying different methods.

Increased time together during the lockdown isn’t automatically good or bad for a marriage.

What it generally does is accelerate the trajectory your marriage is already on.

In practice, a marriage that would have ended in two years might end in three months instead, should there be no change.

At the same time, the increased levels of stress, anxiety and fear during this time may typically lead to lower libido being with each other 24/7 doesn’t automatically translate to a sizzling period of sex.

Instead of allowing your marriage to continue on a downward trajectory, use this time as your own marriage boot-camp, to listen and learn stuff about your spouse that you never gave yourself time for.

You have a golden opportunity to change the trajectory of your marriage from negative to positive, and from good to great.

Don’t let your marriage die in isolation.

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