When people get married, they are always full of hope for the future, and they intend it to be a lifetime commitment. Their dreams and goals are interwoven, and they make plans on how to achieve these together. When married couples have children, a family unit expands and supposedly strengthens.
Unfortunately, not all marriages live happily ever after. Whether the couple has children or not, divorce can happen for various reasons. When the pandemic hit in 2020, it caused problems or exacerbated existing problems between many couples.
Divorce is always painful, whatever the cause. When there are children, it becomes even more emotionally wrenching. Professional family counseling can help couples and children deal with the process and its aftermath.
Divorce Around the World
On January 19, 2021, MyExBackCoach.com conducted a survey among 2,429 respondents, of which 48.7 percent were from the United States, 21.4 percent were from the United Kingdom, 5.8 percent were from India, 5.2 were from Canada, and 4.6 percent were from the Philippines. A majority, or 54 percent, were women, while 46 percent were men. The age groups of the respondents were 37.5 percent from 35 to 44 years old, 23.7 percent from 25 to 34 years old, 14.9 percent from 45 to 54 years old, 10.6 from 18 to 24 years old, 9.1 percent from 55 to 64 years old, and 4.2 percent aged 65 years old and above.
Results show that 11 percent said the pandemic harmed their marriage, with 19.98 percent or 284 people saying they were considering divorce. Among those who said their marriage had worsened, 15 percent were men, and seven percent were women.
BBC reports that inquiries about divorce applications at top British law firm Stewarts increased by 122 percent between July and October 2021 compared to the same months in 2019. On the Citizen’s Advice divorce webpage, views increased by 25 percent on the first weekend of September compared to the same time in the previous year. Divorce applications also increased sharply in Sweden in 2020. In China, Wuhan Marriage and Family Committee director Zhang Fujian stated that as soon as divorce application procedures reopened after lockdown, the divorce rate doubled from pre-pandemic levels.
Divorce in the US
According to Legal Templates, sales of their divorce agreement increased by 34 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. This peaked on April 13 when there was a 57 percent increase within two months from February 13. Note that this was about 15 to 20 days from the start of official quarantines in most states, showing how much the crisis pushed marriages to the brink.
Among the couples going through a divorce in 2020, 58 percent got married between 2015 to 2020. More divorce filings were among those married for the shortest periods, with 20 percent married for only five months or less. In the previous year, only 11 percent of those who purchased a divorce agreement were married for five months or less.
The trend also shows an increase in divorce filings among those married for shorter periods. Nine percent married in 2019, nine percent married in 2018, seven percent married in 2017, seven percent married in 2016, and six percent married in 2015.
Among those who completed divorce agreements in 2020, 45 percent had children below 18 years old, a five percent increase from the number of such couples in 2019. More surprisingly, two percent were expecting a baby, a hundred percent increase from the previous year.
The divorce rate was highest in southern states, at two to three times more than the rest of the country. States with the highest divorce rates are Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alabama.
Surviving a Divorce
US News reports that data from a study among children of divorced parents aged nine to 18 show that exposure to parents’ bickering during a divorce results in higher fear of abandonment which, in turn, increases the likelihood of mental health problems after 11 months or more. This occurs even if the child has a healthy emotional relationship with one or both parents, and at all ages, although more prevalent in younger children.
Karey O’Hara, the study’s lead author and Arizona State University assistant research professor of psychology, advises couples not to argue and fight in front of their children. Parents must also not say things that make children feel that they must take sides. Couple therapy can enable parents to thresh out their differences away from their children.
Couples go through ups and downs, something inevitable in a relationship. Sometimes, the drawbacks outweigh the advantages, forcing some to go through separation. Even for those with no children, couple therapy can help navigate the complicated issues of divorce. After the divorce, each will benefit from professional therapy to manage lingering emotional issues and start a new life. Separation doesn’t always have to end bitterly with no solution in sight.