Divorce on the rise due to lockdown: Experts share tips on how to keep the spark alive

Divorce on the rise due to lockdown: Experts share tips on how to keep the spark alive

Couple arguing.

Only about six in 10 South African marriages get to celebrate a 10th anniversary and women are most likely to file for divorce and end the union.

This is according to a 2018 statistical report on marriages and divorces by Statistics SA released this week, which found that about four of 10 marriages end up in divorce before reaching the 10th year.

The report showed that there were 25 284 completed divorces in 2018, with more than half of them being initiated by women according to Statistics SA, reports the Sowetan.

Trends show that although the total number of divorces had been decreasing from 2009 to 2011, they were, however, followed by a consistent increase in the years 2012 to 2017.

And with the nationwide lockdown brought on by the devastating Covid-19 outbreak – which has already claimed two lives in South Africa – experts insist that this number is likely to climb even higher.

That’s certainly been the case in hard-hit cities such as New York in the US and Xi’an in China.

Divorce filings are skyrocketing from quarantine-weary and financially stressed couples, according to New York’s top matrimonial attorneys – who are experiencing a 50% rise in inquiries from potential clients, reports Page Six.

Leading Manhattan family-law experts are of the belief that certain couples forced to spend time together while quarantined in cramped apartments or even in palatial pads haven’t fared well during the coronavirus outbreak.

 “We’ve had an increased amount of calls in the past week from people seeking representation for divorce proceedings, a 50% increase, and I’ve been hearing the same from my colleagues at other firms,” says divorce attorney William D. Zabel, a founding partner at New York firm Schulte Roth & Zabel.

“People who have enjoyed busy lives suddenly find themselves confined together at a time of incredible anxiety. I anticipate there’ll be a number of high-profile divorce cases in the coming months.”

Similarly, in Xi’an in China, requests for divorce from couples coming out of months-long quarantines cannot be processed fast enough.

That Chinese city has seen a record-high number of divorce requests in recent weeks, with certain districts even maxing out the number of appointments available at local government offices, the Global Times reports.

Cape Town-based divorce lawyer Shando Theron says the divorce rate obviously hasn’t peaked yet in SA because the lockdown has only just started. However, relationships will be tested.

“So far the spike hasn’t reached us as the numbers of self-quarantine have not become evident.

“There has however, been a steady increase in divorce numbers due to the deteriorating economic climate in our country. When the money goes, the love follows suit, or at least becomes a much scarcer commodity,” Theron tells the Sowetan.

“Financial strain is a huge source of conflict in a relationship. Disease adds yet more stress and strain to a relationship – especially where both parties are sick and needy.

“On their own, none of the above are deal breakers, but add this to the mix of many relationships already flirting with marital disaster, it may very well be the ton of bricks that breaks the camel’s back.”

Nadia Thonnard, a counsellor, mediator and the founder of the South African Divorce Support Association, agrees. She adds that: “any challenges, let alone a crisis, will put stress on any relationship”.

“The quality of one’s relationship and ability to deal with such stress will most definitely be tested during the lockdown. The level of panic encountered pre-lockdown is quite alarming and is likely going to impact on relationships.”

But Thonnard insists that although local couples will feel the strain during the next 21 days, the government-imposed lockdown can benefit their marriages.

“If the individuals in the relationship find sound support in each other, the financial impact and other challenges caused by the nationwide lockdown can be faced proactively.”

Handy tips for keeping that spark alive during the lockdown

Nadia Thonnard, a certified counsellor and mediator, gives these tips for keeping your relationship intact during the lockdown.

Make time for alone time

“Everyone needs time by themselves and it can’t just be when you use the bathroom,” she insists. “Take time to be alone whether it’s to just watch a movie, text a friend, take a nap, read . . . whatever. The important thing is to take time to be by yourself.”

Create a schedule

Many people are struggling to keep a normal schedule right now, which is unfortunate because most of us rely on schedules for a sense of stability and even to combat things such as anxiety and depression. Thonnard suggests couples sit down together and come up with a rough schedule to add a bit of structure and make things feel a little more normal.

Stay in touch with the outside world

You might not be able to go out and see friends and family but, thanks to technology, there are plenty of other ways to communicate with others. Don’t neglect relationships with friends and loved ones who aren’t your partner.

“Making sure that you have one to two calls, minimum, per day with other people is helpful to your mental health and overall sanity and connection,” she says.

Learn how to communicate better

Communication is key in relationships all the time, but when you are quarantined together 24/7, communication is even more important.

“Part of this is learning to communicate clearly and learn to agree to disagree. Try to be empathetic, and don’t engage in minimizing, name calling, or shaming.”

Use the time to your advantage

If you’re a couple who live together but barely ever see each other due to conflicting schedules or social lives, now’s the time to reconnect.

“Although it’s not ideal to be ‘trapped’ at home, you can still make the most of it and do fun things with your partner, like enjoying date nights.”

Sources: Sowetan LiveGlobal TimesPage SixMy BroadbandStatssa

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