Recent data confirms that the coronavirus lockdown has strained couples’ relationships, resulting in an increase in clients seeking counseling or divorce, according to family therapists and lawyers. A study conducted by Relationships Australia, the primary national provider of relationship support services, revealed that 42% of individuals experienced negative changes in their relationship with their partner in recent months due to the impact of Covid-19. The study’s national executive officer, Nick Tebbey, attributed this statistic to the finding that 55% of respondents reported difficulties with their living arrangements during this period.
According to Nick Tebbey, the national executive officer of Relationships Australia, the organization has received an influx of calls and inquiries in recent months, largely from individuals struggling to balance working from home, homeschooling children, and managing domestic responsibilities, all while being confined to their homes. Jacqueline Wharton, the founder of Separation and Divorce Advisors, noted an uptick in clients seeking assistance since restrictions eased. Anne Hollonds, a psychologist and director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, told Guardian Australia that lockdowns had produced a scenario akin to the dynamic observed during the Christmas holiday season.
According to Anne Hollonds, psychologist and director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the pandemic has created a situation similar to that of Christmas and January, when people spend more time together without the usual structure of work and school. This often leads to the emergence of underlying issues in relationships, such as hurts, misunderstandings, and disappointments, which can be carried for a long time. Rachel Voysey, a psychologist who runs The Relationship Room, has seen an increase in clients reporting that the pandemic has worsened existing relationship problems.
According to Voysey, the pandemic has highlighted intimacy issues for many couples. Previously, lack of time was often used as a justification for these problems, but now couples are recognizing that the root cause is actually deeper issues within the relationship. However, too much togetherness can also negatively impact intimacy by diminishing desire. Voysey also noted that financial constraints resulting from the pandemic have made it impossible for some couples to separate as planned. As a result, she has seen an increase in clients seeking guidance on how to separate while still living together or how to delay separation due to the difficulty of maintaining two households during this time.
According to Wharton, there has been an increase in clients seeking assistance with “nesting” living arrangements, which involve renting a separate apartment and taking turns to stay in the family home to care for children. This allows them to have a better understanding of the housing market, while also testing separation or getting their children used to the idea without having to move into different rental properties, she explained. Wharton added that when property prices and superannuation are on the rise, people tend to feel more confident about their financial future with divorce. On the other hand, when things are uncertain, individuals are more inclined to stay put.
Tebbey noted that there was a “glimmer of hope” amidst the challenges of the pandemic. While Relationships Australia has received a significant increase in calls, many people have been willing to compromise and find innovative ways to maintain their relationships and support each other. Additionally, over 90% of respondents in a survey reported no change or a positive change in their relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Tebbey observed that people had become more creative in maintaining connections beyond their intimate relationships, and this was a silver lining amidst the difficulties.