The COVID-19 pandemic has brought hardships to many. There have been extensive job losses, creating economic stress in many households. For those who remain employed, work arrangements had to be made, with working from home the new norm for many. Children have been learning from home, which has often created a heavy burden for parents. Parents have also had to deal with children who are separated from their friends and loved ones, even as they deal with disconnection themselves.
All this has happened while tens of thousands of people have become sick and died. Until very recently it appeared there was no end in sight.
These difficulties translated into relationship stress, especially for people with pre-existing vulnerabilities. Many people found that their marriages were no longer supportable.
Indeed, sales of divorce agreements online were up a surprising 34% this summer compared to the same time last year, according to Psychology Today. The beginning of the divorce surge came early, with a noticeable increase in divorce activity as soon as three weeks into the lockdowns. This October, at least one law firm reported a 70% increase in divorce-related phone calls.
Shorter-term marriages are somewhat more likely to be affected by this trend. That would make sense, as people in shorter-term marriages could lack the experience of making things work even when times are hard. According to available statistics, over half of the new divorce filers, this summer had been married for less than five years.
The pandemic’s stressors combine to take their toll
Ordinarily, people in unhappy but stable relationships can get relief by spending less time together. This time could include commutes, work, volunteerism, time with other family, children’s activities, and social engagements. Those escapes came to an abrupt end with the stay-at-home orders.
The array of relationship stressors presented by the pandemic may have combined with the lack of outlets to make things harder for unhappy partners. Some couples, when faced with external stressors, find it hard to engage in adaptive processes such as responsiveness and support. Those processes have been shown to predict relationship quality.
Why? When a couple already struggles with support and communication, extra stress can exacerbate the lack of coping abilities, leading to more division within the marriage.
Divorce itself can be stressful
If you have been considering divorce, keep in mind that the divorce process itself will bring additional stress to your life. Divorce can be a challenging life transition for anyone to undertake and can be even more challenging during a pandemic. Getting appropriate support is crucial if you are considering filing for a divorce from your spouse. It is also important to contact an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that your legal rights are protected if you decide to follow through with a divorce.