If there is one term that COVID-19 sums up, it’s unprecedented’-charting new ground for how we work, travel and socialise.
Yet our relationships have been one of the greatest shake-ups and stressors.
Relationships Australia found that 42% of individuals encountered a detrimental shift in their relationship, while at the end of June, Google searches for ‘divorce’ increased to their highest point in 12 months.
“In New South Wales alone, we received 2,000 more calls a month than we did at this time last year, so we know that people are suffering in a whole range of ways,” said Elisabeth Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia and clinical and counselling psychologist.
“We can also see that when people reach out for help, they are trying to find a way out of that rather than announce the end of a relationship.
“The majority are trying to see if there are other possibilities and outcomes.”
For certain couples on the verge of breaking up to go ahead with a scheduled breakup, the COVID pandemic has also made it financially impossible.
“Even lockdown alone meant that people felt trapped together,” Shaw said.
“I think what’s really important first of all is to do no more harm. If your relationship is in trouble and there’s all these other stresses, try and come to some sort of agreement.
“Is there a way to come to common decency, and respect what we’ve had together?
“In a funny way, the more that you talk about how you need to see this through, you’re in a conversation about ‘we’ that maybe you haven’t been in for a long time.”
“Some people are delightfully surprised by what they can be to each other during this time,” Shaw said.
“For some, they’ve noticed the amount they were working or travelling meant that intimacy didn’t stand a chance.
“For those people, they’ve been able to touch base with some of the foundations of their relationship.
“The people who were already in significant trouble were very confronted.
“But there is a group in the middle that’s saying maybe our relationship needed work – and they could see their way clear to a better relationship with some more skills, time and attention.”
“It’s important to be able to talk about the relationship, and many people don’t stop and reflect on it,” Shaw said.
“What’s really crucial for a good connection is to remember relationships thrive in the context of others. We are at our best when our relationship is fleshed out by the cast of thousands, from work to family.
“Remembering that you have a life outside and being responsible for your self-care means you bring the best of yourself to the relationship.
“Be accountable for your own state of mind – if your partner is accusing you of being grumpy, rather than being defensive about it, be accountable.
“Then the heat goes out of that irritation and you can start to exchange what the possibilities are.”