In Ohio and nearly every other state, family law attorneys have observed an increase in divorce inquiries from prospective clients. This increase is closely correlated with the Covid-19 pandemic in general, and likely the months of quarantine in particular. It may be some time before data is available to show whether the pandemic led to a spike in divorce cases, but it certainly seems that way to most observers.
But why should this be? Don’t couples usually come together in times of crisis? And wouldn’t divorce seem like a risky move to make during a time when nearly everything else already seems risky? Again, it may take time to definitively answer these questions, but a recent CNN report included interviews with mental health and relationship professionals who offered interesting theories.
Forced togetherness sometimes leads to more clarity
The forced togetherness of the pandemic may be helping couples see their differences and incompatibilities more clearly and more quickly. So much time together without the breaks afforded by working outside the home are forcing many people to see their partner in a new light. In some cases, they are reassessing whether they still share the same life goals as their spouse.
When kids are also part of the equation, the pandemic may be highlighting disparities in household and parenting duties and creating resentment. Even when men and women both work fulltime jobs, for instance, women in the U.S. still spend an average of one more hour per day tending to childcare and housework. That disparity is much clearer when everyone is home all the time.
Crisis not leading to unity
One behavioral scientist interviewed by CNN noted that couples do tend to work more cooperatively in times of crisis. But that is more likely when a crisis is acute and finite. By contrast, the pandemic has dragged on for nearly all of 2020 with no end in sight. Moreover, it is “creating and re-creating patterns of uncertainty for many families,” according to the behavioral scientist. She argues that this creates an extended “disillusionment phase” wherein couples are less able to tolerate the things they don’t like about one another. The constant uncertainly also leads to prolonged stress, and very few of us are at our best under these conditions.
If contemplating divorce, follow your own path
Divorce rates tend to follow annual patterns and can also be impacted by singular events like a pandemic. But if you are contemplating divorce, you don’t need to pay attention to what any other couples are doing. Instead, focus on the process and the timeline that makes the most sense for your own family.