By Sara Davison, The Divorce Coach
They say familiarity breeds contempt and the pandemic has certainly provided the perfect opportunity to put this age-old adage to the test. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the collateral damage of lockdown has seen a record spike in divorce inquiries around the world with UK family law firms reporting a surge of more than 40% during and since quarantine. New statistics from the ONS show the largest percentage increase in divorce petitions for 50 years in England and Wales during 2019, and further surveys suggest the pandemic is causing growing marital discontent across the nation. Research from King’s College, London, found that over 50 per cent have felt angry over their other half’s view on coronavirus and restrictions (lockdowners vs liberationists is the new Brexiteers vs Remainers). Add to that financial worry, a lack of social life and a general feeling of housebound claustrophobia, and it’s no wonder the country’s married couples are showing signs of strain.
These challenging times will have had an impact on both of you. It may have changed the way you think about life and the priorities that are most important for you. The pandemic thrust domestic arrangements and frustrations into sharp focus. This has had a devastating impact for some couples as they are hit from all sides including money worries, working from home arrangements, sick family members, managing children’s stress and home schooling. Money is one of the most common causes of marital strife and over the last year people have had to contend with unemployment, being furloughed or taking home lower pay cheques.
Lockdown will soon be over but this doesn’t have to mean your relationship is too. Covid-19 has placed couples under enormous and sustained pressure so it is vital that you allow yourself some time to recalibrate. Take a breath and don’t rush into any life changing decisions when your marriage could well recover. If you began to see cracks in your relationship during isolation, or even huge gaping chasms, then please be reassured that this is only natural when you have been stuck with your partner for so long without the normal daily distractions. Even the healthiest of partnerships will have been through the mill so it’s important to take stock and not rush into a breakup. There could be a way to save your relationship and also even improve it!
So where do you even begin when it comes to getting your relationship back on track?
My top tips are:
1. Don’t rush into a breakup. It’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions after lockdown as these have been unprecedented difficult times and you need to make sure that you don’t leave with any regrets. Give your relationship time to adjust after isolation. When other distractions come back and you can live more independently you may feel your connection reigniting.
2. Commit to take some action. Good relationships don’t just happen, they take work and commitment. Make a decision to do everything you can to rescue your relationship so you know in your heart of hearts that you have done your best. The worst-case scenario is you leave with a lot more clarity and with less guilt having tried your best, but the upside is you could save your marriage.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let go of the little things that have upset you and drop minor grudges that may have been stacking up irrationally due to ‘virus stress’. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about issues that really don’t matter. Instead, try and acknowledge the things you do both get right. The more you focus on the things you do well, the quicker the relationship will start to feel better.
4. Be specific about problems. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk about what is going on for you right now. Don’t just say ‘everything is going wrong’ and expect your partner to make it right. Follow it up with what they actually could do to help make you feel better. Bear in mind that they’re struggling too – they’re not your parent, and they can’t fix everything, so don’t blame them for being unable to rescue you.
5. Identify separate areas of responsibility. One of the biggest sources of arguments, after money, is housework. So it’s vital to clarify responsibilities to avoid building up resentment. You might be fine with socks on the floor, but can’t abide an unmade bed, while your partner’s deal breaker could be abandoned coffee mugs. If you both know the one thing you need to do, it avoids weeks of nagging.
6. Appreciation goes a long way. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic is romance. Nobody has time for candlelit baths and flowers when the florist is shut and three teenagers are arguing in the kitchen. Appreciation is hugely powerful and, in times of strain, is more important than ever whilst we all feel vulnerable. With a few kind words, you can quickly transition your partner from grumpy housemate to beloved spouse.
7. Get on the same page. Aligning your priorities about key issues affecting your family and agreeing these things before you hit problems will help avoid conflict and upset as you move forward. Start with something you think you have similar views on, something uncontentious, and build form there.
8. Refocus your mind. Write a list of all the things you love about your relationship, including the things you are grateful for. It is easy to only focus on the negative points so this will help you maintain a balanced view.
9. Kindness is king. Kindness is often the first thing to disappear during rocky times in a relationship however it is key to a strong marriage foundation. Finding ways to be kind and loving can often melt tension and rekindle romance.
10. Actions speak louder than words. Be the change you want to see in your partner as this can be the most effective way to bring them around. You may find they reciprocate and make more effort with you without you actually having to ask them.
These steps won’t always be the easy option and sometimes you may feel like throwing in the towel and walking away. Bear in mind nothing worth having ever comes easily and a good relationship needs nurturing. If things have gotten off track it will take some time and effort to restore it. But the good news is that it is possible and it could even make the relationship stronger and happier than ever.
To book onto Sara’s virtual retreat, Heartbreak To Happiness, or to find out how you can become a Divorce Coach please visit www.saradavison.com
For more advice on how to navigate breakup or divorce, listen to Sara’s podcast at www.heartbreaktohappinesspodcast.com
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