You vowed to be together for better or for worse, and this is it.
In 2020, couples spent more time together than ever before. But working together from home and juggling household responsibilities with alone time, couples reacted in different ways. For some, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise, since it gave them an opportunity to slow down and spend more time together. These are the couples who supported each other emotionally during anxious times, found ways to communicate, and strengthened their relationship. According to a survey conducted in April, the lockdown brought together 43% of British couples. However, the effects of the pandemic weren’t the same across the board. For many other couples, the lockdown was a major stress test that caused anger, disagreements on family chores, lack of intimacy, and, for 8% of UK couples, the realisation that the relationship must come to an end.
Even when they are based on mutual love and respect, marriages can still be tough. Work, parenting responsibilities, and financial problems can get in the way of the “happily ever after” and shake up long-term relationships. So, when the lockdown came around, it created the perfect storm of stress factors: partners spending 24 hours together, turning the house into an office, balancing work and parenting, coping with salary cuts or unemployment, all of this set against a background of generalised panic, uncertainty, and health anxiety. Many couples didn’t manage to navigate these new problems, and law firms do report an increase in divorce rates during the lockdown, especially those initiated by women. But is this the unavoidable destination for couples who didn’t live their best life during the lockdown? Not necessarily.
If you learn to communicate and work on your minor misunderstandings before they turn into a full-blown crisis, you can emerge from the lockdown stronger than before.
The way your marriage emerges post-lockdown greatly depends on how this crisis found you. If you had a strong relationship before and you knew how to communicate, then you will emerge from it stronger than before. But if you had some previous issues that you didn’t acknowledge or avoided with the help of your routines, then being locked inside your home with all these issues isn’t going to be pleasant. On one end, we have the lockdown as a cosy family vacation, and at the other, as one long and excruciating Christmas dinner with relatives you don’t like.
But before you start blaming yourself for not having the picture-perfect marriage during the lockdown, you should know that disagreements at a time like this are completely understandable. Even for solid couples, the lockdown can still be challenging because it takes away some of those pleasant routines that offer comfort and stability. Then there’s the fact that work and parenting responsibilities collided, leaving married couples little time for themselves. Unfortunately, for many partners, the lockdown was an endless test on juggling responsibilities and instead of being a team, each partner felt like they were struggling alone.
The lockdown also exacerbated differences. Partners who had opposing hobbies and lifestyles got alone perfectly fine when they only had to share a few hours together in the evening, but when they had to spend 24 hours together, it became apparent that they didn’t have enough in common, and that led to a sense of alienation. The pandemic hit hard couples where one of the partners had mental health problems, was laid off or worked in a high-stress field such as healthcare because it led to feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, and isolation.
Lockdown doesn’t have to lead to a breakup. Of course, if you are physically or emotionally abused, you should not leave in fear, and you should reach out to a service that can help you protect yourself and leave.
However, if you and your partner still love and respect one another but the lockdown is affecting your marriage, these tips will help overcome this difficult time:
And don’t forget, it’s OK to ask for help. You don’t have to be on the brink of divorce to see a marriage counsellor; in fact, the earlier to acknowledge the challenge and device to get help, the higher the chance of saving your marriage. A counsellor can help you communicate effectively, deepen intimacy and connection, and resolve conflicts without hurting each other’s feelings. During lockdown, you can even have couples therapy online or over the phone, which is even better because you don’t have to sync your schedules.