Has the lockdown destroyed your marriage? Here's what to do next

The pandemic has had a negative effect on jobs, schools and finances.
The pandemic has had a negative effect on jobs, schools and finances.

First, you're not alone.

Reports reveal a 20% increase in divorce applications since the lockdown moved to Level 4. 

Reasons for this increase are complex, and the unprecedented havoc that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has wreaked on our lives has had far reaching consequences. 

The pandemic has had a negative effect on jobs, schools and finances, and ironically, says Rushka Pedro, a divorce mediator and coach, these are important aspects that a marriage requires in order for it to work. 

Is divorce inevitable?  

Pedro, founder of Johannesburg based Minor Impact, told Parent24 there were many marriages under immense strain even before the world started shutting down, and the last thing they needed was to be forced into a situation that made everything worse and aggravated the misery even further. 

"We are all just trying to survive, and a divorce can be avoided by sitting down with a trained professional to work through your struggles and for them to provide you with the necessary tools needed for conflict," she says.

The individuals involved need to work through their own personal demons, avoid triggers with their partners and eliminate what seems to be the inevitable explosion. Everyone needs to understand that success in a marriage is a joint effort, she explains.

How to save the relationship 

The fallout of the pandemic and lockdown is new to everyone. No one knows how to manage this correctly, and no one could predict that this pandemic would result in such extreme loss.

Couples and families are facing the loss of family members, loss of jobs, loss of income, but most of all, says Pedro, loss of our sanity.

"My thinking is that before anyone gets divorced during this time, they need to seek outside help or see a marriage coach or a marriage counsellor to work through the situation," she told Parent24. 

"Everything comes back to constructive and respectful communication and with this; compassion and understanding… especially when there are children involved," Pedro says, "and the decision to separate should not be taken lightly".

Pedro says she always suggests a trial separation, with all responsibilities intact, as well as marriage coaching.

"The time apart is definitely recommended, for some ‘breathing room’ and time to put things back into perspective and figure out your priorities," she explains. 

No light at the end of the tunnel

If your attempts at reconciliation are unsuccessful, or the reasons for the end of the marriage are irreparable, and you feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, Pedro's suggestion is to get divorced in the simplest way, with the least amount of pain possible.

There are two different types of divorces, Pedro explains: contested and uncontested.

Uncontested is the easier of the two, and happens when there are no arguments about who gets what and the division of assets and so on, are agreed upon.

Contested divorces are a little more involved, and occur when there is a dispute regarding assets and such, and everyone wants what they think they deserve. This is where an attorney gets involves and fights on your behalf, and can be a lengthy, expensive, and very uncomfortable process.

An alternative resolution 

"The courts are inundated at the moment," she warns, "so I would recommend divorce mediation as an alternative to resolve your divorce. This will eliminate a long drawn out uncomfortable situation, under unfamiliar circumstances." 

Divorce mediation is an alternative route to resolving divorce related disputes.

The process is significantly more inexpensive than the traditional method of divorce in court with an attorney. It is also much quicker, and can be completed with a minimum of one 90-minute session, meaning it can potentially be much less painful. 

A divorce mediation is handled in a neutral place with a qualified mediator present. The mediator is not there to represent any one individual, but instead is present to manage the interaction between the two parties, and possibly translate between what is said and what is meant. 

Once this process is complete the divorce agreement is handed to the court for a decree of divorce to be issued. The length of time this takes is dependent on the courts' availability. 


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