‘Forever together: We’re not letting lockdown tear us apart’

Jun 22, 2020
Months of enforced, 24/7 proximity during coronavirus have some couples emerging from lockdown and heading to the nearest divorce lawyer. Source: Getty Images

Has coronavirus and ‘work from home isolation’ changed the way husbands and wives ‘get along’ with each other? It has, and in ways nobody could have predicted. You see, apparently the number of couples seeking marriage counselling — or worse, choosing to separate or divorce — has skyrocketed during the stay-home/isolation period.

How sad. It’s not just in Australia either. In the United Kingdom, the United States and reportedly particularly in China, couples are experiencing similar isolation breakdowns.

There’s no denying life has changed dramatically over the years for most married couples. Some of you might recall the 1940s and ’50s when wives usually stayed home, cleaned, did the washing and took care of the kids before and after school while husbands went to work to pay the bills.

My own mother used to talk about how she’d ‘pretty herself up’ prior to Dad arriving home from the office. Dinner was usually on the table not long after he got home. (Mum was very artistic and quickly got bored sitting round home and went on to open her own millinery shop selling bespoke hats, but that’s for another story!)

However, in 2020 things are more than a little different. The need for two incomes just to pay the rent (or mortgage), put kids through school, keep up with the latest fashion or tech trends and hopefully enjoy a week or two on holiday during school breaks has become the new ‘norm’ for many people. Particularly it seems for couples born in the 1980s and ’90s.

For many, the daily routine now consists of waking up around 5:30/6:00am, showering, getting dressed etc. — no time for breakfast, we’ll get a coffee and a roll on the way to work! — then, with hopefully a parting kiss and a ‘Love you!’ both go their separate ways for anywhere between 10 and 12 hours at least five days a week, sometimes more.

Apart from taxiing kids to and from school (what happened to kids being safe to walk or cycle to school or their own?) there are after school activities and sports that kids ‘have’ to do, requiring parents to juggle timetables. Do your best to fit in catching up with friends or undertaking exercise of your own.

When did the world become so busy that couples spend more time apart than together? What is the impact of this busy ‘norm’?

Currently, my wife Kaye and I are travelling Australia full-time (very slowly I should add) and sometimes in conversation we’ll tell people that we’ve also worked together day-in and day-out for most of our married life (and still do as it happens). It’s funny how many look at each other, then at us, seemingly shocked and say, “Oh my goodness, I could never do that. How can you stand to be in the same room with each other day-in, day-out, seven days a week, sleep together and still talk to each other?!”

It makes us laugh because we quite like each other actually and isn’t that the point of marriage? Being together?

Sure, we have our moments. Who doesn’t? But Kaye’s an individual just like me and we’ve learned how and when to compromise. Lucky? Maybe, but definitely grateful that’s for sure.

Yet with all the Covid-19 restrictions many people are now working from home and living at home together 24/7! How are they coping?

As I mentioned earlier people seeking divorce or counselling is on the rise. Apparently friction after Christmas or family holidays sees a not dissimilar jump in marital relations. Has the lockdown revealed some couples didn’t have a strong relationship in the first place or did they simply ‘grow apart’ without realising what was happening?

No judgements from me I can assure you. While being ‘together’ 24/7 every day travelling in our caravan for the past 12 months has had its challenges, personally we wouldn’t have it any other way. We find something new to be grateful for on a daily basis.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve also adopted a technique some very experienced caravan friends of ours came up with. It’s a code word to defuse potentially volatile disagreements — a very simple phrase involving the word ‘fishing’.

As in – “Okay! Why don’t you just go fishing!” or “I’m going fishing and I may be some time.” Meaning one or other would go for a walk to provide breathing space.

I should add the couple in question has yet to use the code word and neither have we, but in a world where anything you want to learn is just a click away maybe we need to revisit some of the older skills to maintain happy families during these unprecedented times.

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Were you spending more time with a loved one during retirement or the coronavirus pandemic? How did you cope with being together more frequently?

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