No one gets married planning on getting divorced. Every year there are over 880,000 divorces in the United States. The predictions are pretty grim when it comes has the divorce rate gone up this year. The COVID 19 pandemic may be to blame for the expected inflation in divorce rates.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things for Americans, but none more, than the amount of time we are forced to spend together at home. Has the divorce rate gone up because of the pandemic? Let’s take a look at what is happening.
Why Do People Get Divorced?
Everyone has their theories about why about half of all marriages end in divorce. If you ask a sociologist what they think about the divorce rate you will hear things like societal pressure to find personal happiness, if you ask a psychologist why people get divorced they will say things like the individual not being satisfied. If you really want to know why people get divorced it is the divorce lawyer that can give you the most in depth response.
Divorce lawyers are experts in family law and most have an insider view of exactly what breaks people up. Much to contrary belief, it is not infidelity that will tear apart a marriage, although it can play a role, it is the inability to get along that breaks a marriage up.
If people get divorced simply because they cannot get along, then it is a good bet, that the pandemic will likely drive those differences to the forefront. While it is still too soon to really tell has the divorce rate gone up because of the pandemic but according to the experts it very likely that the divorce rate has and will continue to climb.
The Distractions are Missing
The experts are predicting that the divorce rate will go up because of the pandemic because the distractions that keep people together are suddenly very absent. Distractions give us a break from the doldrums of everyday life. For example, let’s say a couple enjoys heading to the country club together to play some golf and meet with friends. Well COVID 19 has changed the way we can meet with other people. Now, that couple has lost one of their key social outlets.
Many couples are now both working from home. They are home educating their kids that are learning remotely. There is no reprieve from each other. Many couples are finding that they have a lot less in common than they thought they did.
There are no sporting events to attend with the kids. There are no theater options for plays, no open school nights, no extracurricular anything pretty much for anyone. Has the divorce rate gone up simply because we are together more than ever? Maybe.
It is the outlets that people use to balance their lives that is missed the most by couples. Those outlets like going to a ballgame with a bunch of friends help to reset the mood and help us to not recognize as much our partner’s failings. Without those distractions what is left? Well, we start to notice little things that may have pre-COVID been an annoyance but now are seemingly deal breakers.
People, in general, are under much higher amounts of stress because of the pandemic. They are trapped at home, they are worried about their financial future, they are worried about their health, and it can all spin them into overload.
Those feelings of being overwhelmed can start the blame game between couples which never ends well. It can be hard to see the redeeming qualities of a partner when you are together around the clock. Time truly does make the heart grow fonder. If you are never apart who has time to miss anyone and let that fondness grow.
People Handle Stress in Different Ways
Has the divorce rate gone up because people are far more stressed because of the pandemic? An increase of divorce filings may correlate with the increase in stress that the pandemic is largely responsible for. People cope with stress in different ways.
The “COVID 15” is a moniker that was invented to describe the on average 15 pounds that many people gained during the lockdown. Some people overeat when they are stressed out. For example, some people try to calm the stress by grabbing an extra few slices of pizza. Of course, gaining weight leads to insecurities which can lead to lashing out against your partner. It is this giant circle of blame, when the reality is, it was the stress of the pandemic that brought all the stress eating on and the resulting bad feelings.
Overeating is not the only negative stress-coping mechanism. Over drinking is another way that people deal with stress. Any attorney that is experienced in the divorce field will tell you that over-drinking is often cited as one of the reasons someone wants to divorces their spouse.
Another way that people deal with stress is the “clean slate” approach. The clean slate approach is when people try to wipe the slate clean and dispose of everything that causes them stress including their spouse. People that cope this way tend to blame everyone around them for the situation that they are in. Clearly for these people the answer to has the divorce rate gone up is going to be a resounding yes.
Overspending is another way that people try to control their stress. For example, they go to buy a new car when there is nothing wrong with the car they have. Of course, this can cause more stress in the marriage. One of the top ten reasons people get divorced is because of financial problems. Ultimately, the financial problems likely existed before the pandemic, but now there is no place to really hide from them. The pandemic has had a negative financial effect on just about everyone in the US, as a matter of fact, the financial pinch is felt around the globe.
Has the divorce rate gone up because of COVID or because COVID brought all those things that couples cannot agree on normally to the front and center of their relationship? For example, if you are with a partner that is prone to drinking away the stress, it is very likely that you have had several discussions before about this. Now, the drinking has really ramped up and is far more noticeable because you are together in the same space around the clock. Has he always drank like he is at a bachelor party and you did not realize because you were not there when he went anywhere with the “boys”? Was the behavior always there and you did not notice?
It is hard to say if the pandemic is going to be the reason for a higher divorce rate in the future or if it simply revealed behaviors that went unnoticed before. For example, if your spouse was kicking around the idea of calling a bankruptcy lawyer to get out of debt before the pandemic, maybe things were worse than you thought. Maybe you blew off the seriousness of your spouse considering bankruptcy and what was really happening.
Strong Relationships Bend They Don’t Break
There are literally hundreds of reasons why people get divorced. The fact is wondering has the divorce rate gone up because of the pandemic is really the wrong question. A pandemic will not break a strong relationship. The real question is how many of those people that file for divorce after the pandemic already were riding it out till they got to the point where they could divorce, and the pandemic just set the wheels in motion.
Divorce is not always a negative. Now that may take a minute to sink in, but it is true. Divorce is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is a good thing for everyone involved.
Getting Ready for Divorce After the Pandemic
If you and your spouse are at the end of your rope with each other you likely are in the group that is going “has the divorce rate gone up? HECK YEAH!” because you can easily sympathize with the other couples that just could not hang on anymore. If you and your spouse are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel and potential healing for your relationship and divorce is on the table, do it right.
There is a right way to divorce and a not so good way to get a divorce. Every divorcing couple should seek marriage counseling. That’s right if you plan on divorcing go see a marriage counselor not so much to work things out but more to make the break easier for everyone.
Child custody is always a hot topic in divorce. Seeking marriage counseling or the help of arbitration can save everyone a lot of pain. You can come to an agreement on child custody, visitation, alimony, child support, all the hot button topics before you start the process.
Some couples take it a step further and make sure they meet with an estate planning lawyer to ensure that they both dot all their I’s and cross all their T’s before they even utter the word divorce in the open. One of the biggest barriers to having an easy time of divorce is dishonesty.
For example, if you meet with a trust and estate planning lawyer to make arrangements for your jointly owned business, and you have a few things you need to discuss on the side with the lawyer, it is going to be a red flag to your spouse that you are not being honest.
Divorce is an excellent time to be forthright. It cleanses you of any burdens that you are taking out of the marriage. If your marriage is truly over there is no reason to hide anything anymore. Be honest, take your licks if you need to, and this way everyone can move on.
The Pandemic May Be Making People Act Rashly
Divorce is rough. It is rough on the spouses, it is rough on the kids, and it can be really rough on family finances. It is not a knee jerk kind of decision. The pandemic may in fact be fueling some poor decision making.
Has the divorce rate gone up because of the pandemic? Maybe, maybe not, but in a couple of years from now when we look back on these bleak days, we may determine that the rate moved up a bit but it is the reasons that people divorced that really changed because of the pandemic.
There is a cloud of hopelessness that seems to be clinging to the air because of the pandemic. The news seems to always be bad. This negative vibe that is surrounding people can push people to make flippant decisions about their marriage that they may not have made in the past.
There is no doubt that there is an element of “live your best life while you can because no one is guaranteed tomorrow” for some people that best life may include ditching the old model and looking for a new one. Perhaps being “trapped” together for months will pull back the veil and reveal character flaws that spouses always made excuses for. Maybe during the pandemic “, you forgot to take out the trash again” will turn into “how can I live with someone that does not care if we are swimming in the trash?”. Maybe there will be an increase in the divorce rate because people will be less tolerant or less willing to wait for change to occur. Maybe the daily death count has people on edge and they are asking themselves “am I really with the right person? Is this all there is?”.
Divorce lawyers will undoubtedly stay busy over the next couple of years dealing with the fall out of people being stuck in close quarters with no escape and no distractions. Only time will tell has the divorce rate gone up because of the pandemic.