Both happily and unhappily married couples are, just like everyone else in the world, facing truly unprecedented times as COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) cases continue to surge for nearly nine months after the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed COVID-19 a global pandemic. Due to its associated hardships, there has been a spike in filings for divorce in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
According to the BBC article titled “Why the pandemic is causing spikes in break-ups and divorces,” pandemic-related divorce rates have surged but not peaked as of yet. Per the article, a leading law firm in Britain, Stewarts, reported a 122% increase in divorce inquiries between July and October from the same time in 2019. As for the U.S., a 34% increase just in the interest in divorce came as early as April, reported the National Law Review. Moreover, the BBC said similar increases have been found in China and Sweden.
Why is the pandemic causing such surges in interest in divorce and divorces themselves? (No doubt, some couples believed at the beginning of the pandemic that extended quality time could lead to a renewed passion and happier relationship.) The BBC consults academics, lawyers, and therapists to answer this question.
Related Causes of Higher Divorce Rates
A Lack of Personal Space
A partner at Stewarts, Carly Kinch, told the BBC that the increased amount of time spent together could actually be one of the factors that increased sentiments of divorce. Since staying home is the primary way in which we can all stay safe during the pandemic and mitigate the virus’s spread, couples have not been able to meet up with friends to vent nor engage in any of their hobbies outside of their romantic relationships. Thus, it is no mystery as to how this lack of personal space could lead to a stagnant relationship; add in the financial and emotional stress of a pandemic and the mystery turns into a logical solution for many couples.
Therefore, lawyers in the U.S. and the U.K. have not been all that surprised by the uptick in divorces, as they see smaller surges occur regularly every year after the holiday season (i.e. after families spend more time together).
Unequal Division of Household Responsibilities
The BBC also reported that, for heterosexual marriages, there has been a notable difference in who is initiating divorces. Previously 60% of divorces were initiated by wives; this rate has climbed to 76%. The reason? Kinch turns to studies to back up her claim that the women in heterosexual couples must often bear the brunt of the housework and childcare responsibilities.
A Rise in Mental Health Problems
Another leading cause of this divorce surge has been the increase in mental health issues caused by the pandemic. When you are going through a rough time, it can be difficult to deal with your partner’s mental health problems on top of your own. Add in financial stress and making the moral choice to adhere to public health safety guidelines and temporarily forfeit an in-person social life, and the problem easily compounds on itself.
Even without any aggravated mental health issues, many married couples have been broken apart by the economic ramifications of COVID-19: mass layoffs and record numbers of unemployment.
“The number of divorces has tended to increase without exception during economic downturns at least since the Second World War,” said Glenn Sandström, a research fellow in historical demography at Umeå University in Sweden, in conversation with the BBC. “Given that we are now experiencing a severe crisis especially economically, we expect that the end result will be an increase in marital instability.”
Sandström further explained that money has long been cited as a root of marital conflict, and the pandemic has increased money problems for myriad people, thus negatively impacting many of these people’s marriages. According to the BBC, many people, especially men, base their self-worth on their ability to provide for their family; when they fail in this regard, it leads to increased “anxiety, anger and frustration as well as the increased likelihood of domestic abuse.”
A New Perspective
According to London-based psychotherapist Noel Bell, it appears that the stress of a pandemic has inspired many to reevaluate their life choices thus far and truly consider whether they are happy or whether they would rather have a go at another life.
Bell told the BBC, “The pressures of the pandemic have reminded us all that life might be short and we are tasked to assess how, and with whom, we are spending our precious time.”
Expected Divorce Rates for 2021
The number of couples considering divorce could be higher than lawyers and mental health professionals have seen so far.
For instance, it is no secret that the pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color due to the shutdowns of the hospitality and retail industries (in which these groups are overrepresented, according to the BBC). Furthermore, many individuals in these groups do not have the means to seek counseling and/or their cultures may view therapy, separation, and divorce through the veil of stigma. These couples may be putting off divorce until a more palatable time presents itself.
Are You Considering Filing for a Divorce?
For couples who decide to part ways, it is possible to do so without it leading to a full-on litigation battle or fallout. If you are considering filing for divorce, a compassionate legal professional at Pearson Butler can discuss your options with you during a free, confidential consultation.
Call Pearson Butler at (800) 265-2314 or contact us online today.