Help! I’m quarantined with a spouse I want to divorce!
Vassilia Binensztok, PhD, LMHC
Contemplating divorce can be stressful enough, as is, but how can you cope when you are quarantined with a spouse you want to divorce? While divorce is already fairly common, divorce attorneys and therapists expect a rise in divorces after quarantine. Courthouses expect to be rushed with a slew of divorce filings that were delayed by COVID-19 as well as many new cases directly resulting from quarantine. These relationships might have already been on the rocks and worsened by people having to face their partners 24/7, while they can typically escape and ignore their relationship problems. Additionally, COVID-19 has taught people how fragile and short life can be and many are finding that they no longer want to spend the one life they have in an unfulfilling relationship. ABC News
Maybe you have not yet told your spouse you would like a divorce or are still on the fence. Or maybe you and your spouse have discussed divorce but are forced to be quarantined together for housing or financial reasons or have chosen to stay in the same house for the children during this time. In any of these scenarios, you might feel burdened with stress and guilt. Fast Company Article
What you might be experiencing in quarantine with your spouse
Being cooped up in your home with a partner you no longer want to be with can bring up many different emotions. You might feel angry about the situation and resentful about your relationship. Many people feel stuck at this time. They might not be in a financial position to divorce during the COVID-19 crisis or feel stuck with their spouse because of children. This can lead to annoyance, irritability, and a shorter temper. You might find yourself losing your temper and patience with your spouse and others.
You might feel guilt about knowing you are thinking about divorcing your partner or about knowing your custody arrangement will change after divorce. If your spouse is unaware of your wishes, you might feel guilty seeing them think that everything is fine between you, or if you and your spouse have discussed divorce, you might feel guilty witnessing their pain.
You might feel as though you are losing time during COVID-19. Maybe you are longing to live alone, to start dating again, or to move on in other ways but are forced to wait until quarantine is over. Stress, guilt, and anger can lead you and your spouse to argue and blur boundaries.
The situation might be tense and lead partners to snap at each other or to stonewall and dismiss each other. Unfortunately, when facing these two stressful situations at the same time, we might see the worst sides of our partners and ourselves.
How to cope
Decide when you will talk to your spouse about divorce, if you have not done so already. You can determine whether or not to bring it up during quarantine or wait until after quarantine is over. Either way, feeling as though the timing is your choice will help you regain a sense of control over your life and your future.
Be sure to stick to your boundaries. Find ways to get your personal space and clearly outline what you need to your partner. There might be certain topics you do not wish to discuss right now or you might need time and space away from your partner and children daily. Make sure to respect your partner’s boundaries as well. Mutual respect will help you get your needs met and can lead to a smoother divorce process.
Focus on the big picture. Remember that quarantine will not last forever. You will eventually be able to leave your relationship and move past the pain. Though things might seem bleak now, life does go on and we can even improve our relationships with ourselves and children when we follow the path we want.
Focus on what you can enjoy. Savor the time with your children. Take care of yourself and focus on your own needs. Invest in your emotional wellbeing by talking to a therapist, using self-help resources, and connecting with friends. Quarantine is a good time to lay the groundwork for your relationship, career, and family goals. You can also take this time to speak with an attorney so you are prepared to move forward when the time comes. Try not to engage in arguments or power struggles with your spouse. This is a good time to start looking past regrets and towards the future you want.
In the case of domestic violence, you might need to be very careful about what you do and say to your spouse. Make sure to have a safety plan for yourself, your children, and your pets. Below are two resources for domestic violence assistance in South Florida.
Divorce is never something you should do without support. Whatever stage you are in, you deserve to have someone to help you through the process. A therapist can not only help you relieve stress but can also help you find ways to cope, have a civil divorce, and effectively co-parent.
If you are looking for therapist near me or a therapist Palm Beach Gardens, FL, give me a call for a free 15-minute phone consultation!