When a couple considers divorce, there’s a wash of confusion surrounding them and a mantra of “How did we get here?” repeating in their heads like a bad song. With quarantine, I’m guessing a lot more people are hearing this mantra on a daily basis.
Can being locked in small quarters with someone really cause a divorce? No, I don’t believe so. But, it can cause a divorce to happen a lot sooner.
The reason so many people stay together is routine. We’re all used to doing nearly the same thing every single day. We go to work (or stay home), eat lunch, talk to clients, entertain kids, try to keep sane, and then, by the time we get back together with our spouse at the end of the day, we see them for a few hours before sleep. It never ends. We wake up and do it all again, every day.
Except now, we’re thrown from our routine. We’re stuck in small areas with our spouses, and we’re not quite sure how to handle it. If they drop another sock on the ground, you might lose it. If they even breathe in your direction, you’re going to snap.
But is it the stress of quarantine? Or is it because, in however long you’ve been together, you haven’t actually spent that much time together? Besides week-long vacations or a holiday weekend, we only see our spouses for a few hours a day. With kids, it’s even less. We’re busy trying to survive, and quality time with your spouse is limited to an occasional date night.
Over the course of a relationship, we pick up on little quirks of theirs that bother us. A random sock here, disregarding our feelings here, a flippant comment there. It’s not that big of a deal. But when you’re stuck with a person 24/7, these small annoyances suddenly become very big deals.
Quarantine is hard on everyone, but it’s even harder for those whose marriages already have cracks. You may not have even realized they were there, but now, it’s the only thing you notice. You’re snapping at each other or bothered by their presence or a thousand other things. And it’s only made worse when your views regarding quarantine are different. Maybe one spouse is taking this seriously and the other one isn’t.
No quarantine is complete without a few divorce memes, and they seem to be everywhere. They talk about the fortune divorce lawyers are going to make when the lockdown is lifted. Plus, China’s divorce rate skyrocketed once their lockdown was lifted, so surely ours will, too.
Here’s the thing: Quarantine isn’t ruining your marriage.
The real problem is that quarantine is adding a lot more stress to your marriage. But healthy, functioning marriages can take this added stress. Sure, there may be more bickering or eye rolls, but they’ll make it through.
It’s the marriages that are already cracked that suffer. Because while these marriages could’ve survived another decade or two while the kids grew without their routine changing, they can’t make it through social distancing. By the time the lockdown is lifted, these couples are the ones who will line up for divorce court.
Sucks, right? Most people don’t go into a marriage hoping for it to end. They want to make it through the hard times and come out victorious at the other end. And for many people, this is what will happen. Quarantine will be a stressor that you’ll talk about one day in the future when you’re creaking back and forth in your matching rocking chairs.
But for the rest of us, we’re noticing the real strain quarantine is putting on our relationship. And we don’t like it. It’s not fun, and it really, really sucks. It shines the limelight on the problems that deep down you knew were there. The problems you were trying to avoid.
That doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. If you’re noticing cracks in your marriage, that doesn’t mean it’s going to end.
Some people might be turning to online couples counseling, which is great. Many couples will get past this.
But this is a weird time. There are no date nights, there are no babysitters, and there surely aren’t any fights without little ears listening. You’re surrounded by kids, and with a crumbling marriage on top of that, what can you do?
Honestly? I wish I knew.
For those who feel like quarantine has flipped your relationship’s world upside down, I get it. I’m sure there will be plenty of us writing down “quarantine” as the cause of our divorce, joking or otherwise. But, as much as the situation sucks, is it possible there’s a silver lining to it all?
Like I said earlier, quarantine isn’t ruining perfectly good marriages. It’s tearing down the ones that were already in the beginning phases of dissolution. Is it showing you the things you never saw before? Or, showing you what you were too scared to admit? Maybe, just maybe, quarantine is showing us that it’s better to get out earlier rather than later.
Silver lining or not, ending a relationship is never easy, especially when there are kids involved. As much as we wish we could blame it on the lockdown, we can’t. Quarantine isn’t ruining our marriages. It’s just making them a lot harder. And for those who were struggling before, it may be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back.