Even though we haven’t seen the end of Covid-19, we are seeing the end of other things. One of those is the death of marriages. I am calling it the ‘Covid Divorce Syndrome’. I have heard of couples who have learned just how much they dislike the person they are married to because they were forced to be isolated with them. It’s a testament to how often couples may lead separate lives to the point of not spending any substantial time together. The forced cohabitation is killing whatever love there may have been between couples or proving that what they thought was love, was something else entirely.
While many couples are often a two income household, this means both are out there making money and neither is just waiting for the other to come home at the end of the day. It gives them a personal sense of accomplishment, purpose, and independence. It often means work friends are not shared. There are work-related activities. Maybe late nights or overtime. It makes it easier to decide that they can take care of themselves without the other spouse when things become what they consider intolerable. If there are children in the marriage, it isn’t uncommon for the tasks at home, and the activities the children are involved in, to be doled out to whomever has the most time at any point. They make it work by delegating or sharing responsibilities. It’s more like a business transaction than just being good partners. As long as everyone is pulling their own weight, no problems.
Given a situation with lockdowns where either one person is considered essential and continues to work and the other is not, or both are non-essential and both stay home, it’s a mixed bag of problems waiting to pop up. Financial worries happen fairly quickly. Too many live paycheck to paycheck or with very small savings. A crisis is a much bigger deal than a rainy day. Very few are prepared for worst case scenarios and then find themselves in the midst of one. Personalities factor in. How well do each perform under stress? What is their reaction? Anger? Depression? A partner who withdraws and says or does nothing is difficult to deal with on a good day. Or maybe they are a take charge kind of person who goes to the extreme and just bulldozes their way through things without considering their partner’s feelings.
Then there is the fact that spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a person can bring out the worst in both. All of those annoying little habits, that we were able to overlook because we weren’t together all of the time, become amplified. The hair in the sink, the underwear on the floor, the bread crumbs on the counter, the nail biting, the throat clearing, and the list goes on and on of quirks or behaviors that we can no longer choose to ignore. We can’t get away from it and the routine we are forced to endure, becomes a prison of our minds. Emotional states dictate behavior in the way we act or speak. Without outside contact, we have to rely on one another to be everything for the other and some people just fall short of expectations. The disappointment leads to dislike and, if it goes on long enough, something akin to hatred develops. Many are calling it quits because they just don’t see anything worth salvaging with the person they thought they’d chosen to spend the rest of their lives with in blissful matrimony.
Is this really something new? Or have the little red flags been there all along? Instead of helping our partners through a mutually difficult time, are we finding fault and being unrealistic in our expectations? This is why it’s really important to find out what your partner feels about situations or what they would choose to do when faced with a difficult time. And then be willing to give them some slack because if they haven’t experienced anything like it before, their reaction can’t be assumed. When we get married, we often promise to love for better or worse even if we don’t use those words in particular. We are vowing to be there for each other in whatever way is needed. There are going to be good times and there are going to be bad times.
This is a quote from my Early Marriage E-Workbook:
“Loving someone completely, being receptive to the other’s needs and wanting to express that in return, with respect for your partner’s feelings and expectations, will definitely carry you through awkward times. This is not one of those times that you should be thinking to yourself your partner should just “know” what you want or need. You have to feel you can trust your partner completely, so these things can be talked about without embarrassment. If a person is feeling vulnerable discussing something like this, their partner’s reaction can have a long lasting effect, both positively and negatively.”
You have to choose to be a team, true partners, to get through those bad times. You have to be able to communicate your needs and expectations and to listen to what your partner has to say. You have to remember why you fell in love and maintain that and the friendship in your relationship. You need to stop expecting your spouse to be your superhero that’s going to have all the answers and can get you out of any situation. Just because they aren’t letting you know all of their fears doesn’t mean they don’t have them. When the world is all out of kilter, you have to try to maintain a balance in your lives. It may not change things out of your control, but it will help you keep control of the things you can, mainly your relationship.
While you may be tested in many ways over the years, you have to stay grounded and in touch with one another to pull together and not feel you are fighting something alone. The other side of a tough time does not have to be a divorce. It can result in a closer, stronger marriage instead. That’s the “for better” part.