On March 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the order for the state’s almost 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, making it the first statewide mandatory restriction in the United States, according to KSLA 12 News.
In the subsequent days and weeks, other states followed suit, with 95% of Americans currently under lockdown according to Business Insider. As a result of this nationwide quarantine, many consequences have ensued, one of which is the strain on familial, marital and romantic relationships.
It’s common knowledge that people can become frustrated or annoyed with their significant other or family members from time to time. It happens, but it rarely happens that people are mandated to stay in close quarters with their loved ones on a consistent basis, much less 24/7. So it comes as no surprise that these relationships are being tested and strained in ways that are completely new and unique.
Divorce filings are skyrocketing, with top matrimonial attorneys experiencing a rise in inquiries of up to 50%, according to Page Six. Most of these filings come after already unhappy couples are confined together and forced to deal with existing problems. This constant confrontation can lead the relationship to completely crumble after the issues come to a climax, whether in marriage or long-term romantic and platonic relationships.
“Many fights coming out of this will stem from not having space, and being overwhelmed,” Melissa Thoen, a couples’ therapist and the clinical director at the Ackerman Institute for the Family therapy practice in Manhattan, told The Post.
In addition to this is the stress people are trying to cope with after either being newly laid off or having to work from home. Couples and roommates social distancing together are constantly seeing each other around the house or apartment, and little things that they used to overlook are suddenly becoming major points of tension.
But this tension is hardly surprising to divorce attorneys and marriage and family therapists, who have seen the same trend in China amongst couples.
In the city of Xi’an requests for divorces from couples coming out of month-plus quarantines can’t be processed fast enough, according to the Post. By the first week of March, the office said it received 14 divorce appointments, which was the limit set by the office.
Household tension is not just limited to couples though. People with children may be experiencing some strain in those relationships, leading to increased fighting and overall agitation. Previously, if a teenager or child was dealing with conflict or tension, they had the opportunity to escape for a while at school or perhaps spend time with friends. Now those environments are being stripped away, leading people to have to cope with these potentially emotionally damaging situations behind the closed doors meant to keep them safe.
In a “Current Events Conversation” by the New York Times, teenagers from around the country weighed in on how they are coping with being at home in close quarters with their parents and siblings. Similarly to how couples may not be accustomed to spending long periods of time with their partners, parents and their children are going from only spending only a few hours together throughout the day, to being together 24/7.
Rubi M, from Chicago, believes this to be the reason for increased conflict in the house.
“I feel that we are facing more conflicts as time passes. I can see these changes happen as we spend more time together in the house. I’ve been getting into more problems with my mom and we keep on arguing,” Rubi said in a comment on a New York Times.
In other households, repressed conflicts and frustrations are rearing their heads in the form of more trivial arguments.
“The irritability and boredom caused by self-isolation have caused us to be quick to insult or side-eye each other. Which then escalates into a fiery argument that surfaces feelings that have long been repressed…we pack our feelings of anger far away until the next trivial disagreement can set them free.” Malia from Santa Monica said in a comment on a New York Times article.
Despite the current tension, quarantine has the potential to bring couples, roommates and families together. Making the best out of a not-so-great situation can be key to keeping relationships strong and overcoming potential conflicts. Compromise and good communication is key in maintaining a healthy relationship, no matter the situation.
“Loss of income, bills, kids at home and a new, unexpected constant togetherness can all put huge stress on a relationship,” Jessica Condon, an individual and couples counselor at In Bloom Counselling, said in an interview with Times Colonist.
However, Condon firmly believes that good communication during challenging times can be profound.
“It’s about learning how to face fears together, so it becomes us against the world instead of the world against you,” she said.