Why do pandemics lead to divorce? Because a lockdown means spending 24/7 together. On weekdays, the typical dual-income couple sees each other for 30 minutes in the morning and two to three hours in the evenings. Time spent together on weekends is greater, but usually diluted by errands, activities and visits from friends. Now many of these couples are at home all day long, watching each other all the time!
While the usual issues, including a lack of intimacy, affairs and disputes over parenting styles, are still leading to divorce during the pandemic, I’m getting lots of complaints about how differently people’s partners are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. One woman told me she is exasperated by how controlling her husband is about the cleanliness of their apartment. “He literally wipes up my sweat when I am working out!” she sighed. Another regular complaint I’m getting: “I cannot believe how irresponsible he is being about social distancing and not taking this seriously.”
Once people see they have fundamentally disjointed ways of handling this crisis, it underscores other differences in the marriage. “Joe” called me the other day and said he was furious at his wife when she came home with their two kids and his daughter told him, “Daddy, we had such a great time with Oliver and Jane at the park.” He could not believe his wife had allowed their kids to have physical contact with other children. “How can I trust her judgment?” he asked me.