Coronavirus is Becoming Grounds for Divorce

March 24, 2020

What happens when a married couple spends too much time at home together?

Divorce, apparently.

In China, local registrars are reporting a surge in couples filing for divorce, now that a five-week home quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 finally is over.

On March 12, Lu Shijun, who manages a wedding registry in the city of Dazhou in the province of Sichuan, told the local media that an unprecedented 300 couples have filed for divorce since late February.

“The divorce rate [in the district] has soared compared to before [the coronavirus outbreak],” he said.

Officials in a marriage registration office in the city of Xi’an said local couples had surpassed the daily limit of appointments to file for divorce.

If you’re surprised to learn that being stuck at home with your spouse could potentially lead to divorce, you’re probably a newlywed.

My husband and I have been married for six years, and we have two boys, ages 4 and 2.

As soon as my husband began working from home two weeks ago, we realized we had two choices: unleash the most miserable versions of ourselves, or attempt to replicate the rose-colored, compassionate tunnel vision of newlyweds. It’s hard, but we’re really trying.

I’m not easy to live with. I’m a little compulsive about tidying up; I ruthlessly usurp the remote control; and worst of all, I often assign nefarious intentions to people’s actions. If I don’t change, especially now that my husband and I are stuck at home together, I will essentially set him up for failure while I turn into a miserable victim. There’s simply too much at stake to fight.

I’m not about to start giving my spouse the silent treatment in the middle of a global pandemic. There’ll be plenty of time for that in the fall.

If there was ever a time for our base-level selves — whether angelic or intolerable — to float to the surface, it would be now, during this time of unprecedented stress. If the fear of dying or losing loved ones from the novel coronavirus wasn’t enough, we’re also missing work,  frustrated while trying to home-school our children, and in my case, running dangerously low on rice and pasta.

For many, this moment encompasses a perfect storm of fear, instability, financial struggle and debilitating burdens on relationships — relationships that probably already are strained.

Some couples might kill each other before the coronavirus kills them.

Some couples might kill each other before the coronavirus kills them.

Imagine the obituaries: “Mr. and Mrs. Katz perished during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, when, during their fourth consecutive week of home quarantine, Mrs. Katz pushed her husband off the balcony of their 17-floor high-rise, then fatally tripped over his collection of suitcases and fell from the balcony herself. She was last heard yelling at her husband about his untidy pile of old and damaged suitcases.”

We’re only human, and most of us are experiencing a real sense of cabin fever, especially in Los Angeles, where recent rainfall has made it difficult to go for a short walk.

Something tells me after this pandemic is over, we will run out of our homes like the desperately grateful animals that ran out of Noah’s ark. They may inhabit different areas of the same zoo, but some animals aren’t meant to live cheek by jowl.

Our baser selves always seem to rise to the surface in times of panic. If you’re prone to belittling others, you’ll probably be even more judgmental; if you normally try to see the good in others, you’ll probably be easier to live with; and if you’re known for being dismissive and thoughtless, you probably should know that your wife is right behind you on the balcony.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker, and activist. 

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