Will Coronavirus Lockdowns Lead to a Spike in Divorces?

A social media meme has gone viral that consists of a cartoon of two women talking. The conversation goes like this:

First Woman: Where’s your husband?

Second Woman: In the garden.

First Woman: I was just there. I didn’t see him.

Second Woman: You’ll have to dig six feet.

Mind, murdering a spouse and then planting him or her in the backyard would seem to be an extreme reaction to the cabin fever being experienced by a lot of families who are in lockdown. However, a lot of divorce lawyers and marriage counselors are expecting a large office business once the coronavirus pandemic is over and people are let out of their homes.

MSN explains:

“Some couples are finding out that they don’t like each other’s constant company in quarantine as much as they’d hoped. Business is booming for many divorce attorneys as some married couples are finding that time together isn’t bringing them closer to their spouse, it’s driving them apart. Family therapist Melissa Thoen says that the coronavirus pandemic is causing couples to make big decisions about their futures. For some people, that means having discussions they’d been avoiding, until now.”

The phenomenon is understandable. Most two-income couples spend most of the day apart at their respective jobs or businesses. When forced to live cheek to jowl in the same house 24/7, they may start to get on one another’s nerves. After weeks of such living arrangements, the theory goes, some couples will not want to see one another ever again.

And when kids are involved, the situation gets much worse. The task of homeschooling children while constantly explaining to them why they can’t go outside can stress out a pair of saints.

Data from China suggests that marriages may be one casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Bloomberg provides a warning.

“Although China publishes nationwide statistics on divorce only annually, media reports from various cities show uncouplings surged in March as husbands and wives began emerging from weeks of government-mandated lockdowns intended to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Incidents of domestic violence also multiplied. The trend may be an ominous warning for couples in the U.S. and elsewhere who are in the early stages of isolating at home: If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the opposite might be true of too much time spent together in close quarters.”

One way to avoid a divorce during lockdown is if one or both adults in a couple telecommute to work. Then, if boundaries are respected during work hours, the marriage or committed relationship can be preserved.

According to Newsweek, David Cates, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and director of behavioral health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center has some advice for surviving a prolonged lockdown with one’s marriage or relationship and sanity intact.

“So, to survive and thrive during quarantine, couples should look for opportunities to show interest, find areas of agreement, express affection and appreciation and demonstrate empathy. And they need to do this during times of conflict. They should also recognize that worry, fear, stress, and guilt are expected and normal reactions during quarantine and not criticize one another for expressing these feelings.”

Dr. Cates has a list of things one can do to minimize stress, which revolves around setting up a daily schedule, keeping in touch with others through phone or email, limiting consumption of the news media, and taking up a hobby or some other project. It goes almost without saying that one should get adequate exercise and sleep.

Cate’s theory is that marriages that are on a solid foundation are likely to survive the many weeks of lockdown that the coronavirus pandemic has made necessary. Marriages with problems may not survive. Indeed, the lockdown is likely to accelerate a breakup process that would have happened anyway.

Romper suggests that something else may result from the confinement of couples during the coronavirus pandemic. Increased sexual activity and a spike in fertility that has been noted during other times of confinement, such as occurs in the wake of a hurricane, earthquake, or other disaster suggests that a baby boom may be in the offing.

After one has binged everything on Netflix and has gotten tired of going on social media to vent, one last, pleasant activity suggests itself. In about nine months we’ll know if the theory has anything to do with reality.