By Susan Leigh
I daresay there are quite a few of us confined to our homes with someone we don’t like or have fallen out of love with. This may be because they’ve had an affair or because something’s changed and they’re not the person we met and fell in love with. Or over time there may have been a slow erosion of feelings and we’ve finally decided it’s over, but COVID-19 means it’s impossible to issue divorce papers. We can’t relocate, so we’re forced to spend lockdown together.
Whether we’re married or partnered, have children, joint financial commitments like a home, or shared business interests, splitting up is a complex process, even without the impact of COVID-19. The thought of being in isolation for an indeterminate period of time, not knowing how long it will last is a daunting prospect, especially when we’re spending lockdown with someone we want to divorce!
Many people are already experiencing an array of emotions throughout this time and these emotions are very different for each of us. Some people are relishing the enforced break, taking time to reevaluate their priorities, be at home, maybe pursue their hobbies, read, tend the garden, play with their children. Others have serious anxieties and worries about their health, job, business security, the financial impact, their loss of freedom and the future implications of this crisis.
Add relationship worries into the mix and it can make for a very stressful time. So are there positive ways to manage spending lockdown with someone you want to divorce?
– Remember you already have many skills for dealing with impossible situations. You’ve no doubt had several experiences when you’ve been presented with a fait accompli, a fixed set of difficult circumstances to navigate. As an adult you’ll know there are some things you’ve no choice but to accept and work around, others that you’re able to negotiate with a little. Breathe. If you can’t change something there’s no point in stressing about it. Let it go and focus on making the best of what you can do something about.
– Being civilized and polite to each other is a good start when you’re spending lockdown together. Discuss your meals, what you want to eat, the TV shows you’d like to watch, when to spend time together or apart. Could you explore your music back catalogue, old photographs, holiday memories, raid the games cupboard, share the chores?
– Gratitude is an important reflection when you’re in lockdown. Appreciating your shared story, how far you’ve come, the personal development that’s occurred as a consequence of your relationship. You may have grown up together or survived several tough times. Being grateful can reconnect you with your roots and core values, remind you of what was important before life, ambition and success got in the way.
– Allow yourself to laugh together. Maybe cooking mishaps or clumsy DIY attempts could be a source of amusement. Affectionate humor is a positive way to manage stress and retain a more light-hearted approach when you’re spending lockdown together.
– If children are at home agree to keep the atmosphere pleasant for them. You may want to divorce but you’re both still their parents. COVID-19 is confusing enough for children, no need to complicate things further. Take turns and alternate lesson time, so giving each other a little space for personal time.
– Don’t over think bedtime. Whether you’re sleeping together or apart, being intimate or not, these are unprecedented times. If you decide to be intimate agree that these are exceptional circumstances and as long as you’re both consenting adults it could well be an acceptable temporary arrangement.
– Appreciate that lockdown could provide a good time to talk. You may not have had the chance to share, discuss, listen to each other in a non-purpose driven conversation for many years, if ever. Listen properly to what each other has to say without jumping in with your thoughts, comments or challenges to their versions of events. You may not agree with what they have to say, but if that’s how they feel you have to accept it and use it as a starting point to talk.
Maybe agree some ground rules when discussing serious issues. Avoid going round in circles, rehashing tired examples or apportioning blame. Focus on how you’re both feeling, what you each want from your lives, how you’d like your relationship to work from now on, especially if there are children or mutual responsibilities involved.
– Many of us are finding that we’re becoming more patient and tolerant due to being in lockdown. Our priorities have been forced to change. What was once sought after or prized is now less so as we realise that expensive cars, designer goods, fabulous holidays and celebrity status matter little when we’re scarcely allowed outside to shop for food, socialise or see our loved ones.
– This change of pace could be a time for real honesty in your relationship, for learning and better understanding each other, for stripping back the usual stresses and distractions and maybe rediscovering the person you fell in love with before life got in the way. For some of us it may even provide the opportunity to see attractive qualities in each other we’ve not seen before or to reconnect and appreciate how special our relationship could perhaps be once again.
If we’re prepared to make the effort and work with our relationship we may even find ourselves asking if we still want that divorce. But if you do decide to continue divorcing hopefully this time together will have helped ease the process into being more amicable and respectful. After all, you did love each other once.