What a year 2020 has been. There have been many things happening on a global, national and individual level. With the US election now over and the world holding its breath over other global events again, the big issue is of course, that Covid is still with us and the politicians are still undecided about how to handle it. We know from recent experience that denying it exists, isn’t the best way forward and most governments have taken the lockdown route as a final resort. This has had dire consequences for individuals, families and businesses, even if it cuts the rate of infection.
One area of our lives that have been greatly affected during the lockdown has been in our relationships. Two articles that appeared in the London Times today show contrasting fortunes for different couples under different circumstances but more about that later. If I look back at my own individual experiences with my wife in lockdown 1, we are coping with lockdown 2 much better, much more in tune and working towards a purposeful future that looks beyond the time of less freedom. We are renovating a house and major work is due to start in 2021, we are planning trips and of course, Christmas. However, it was a different story at the beginning of the lockdown in March this year. Neither of us really knew what to expect and while we took it day to day, we eventually got into a habit of not communicating and concentrating on our own individual needs. While this is not wrong under normal circumstances, it affected us badly as a couple who are normally very close.
The main issue was the different way we dealt with the restrictions attached to the lockdown. I am someone who finds it hard to relax, am somewhat of a workaholic and reacted to the lockdown by increasing my work to seven days a week. If I was not in session, I was writing or grading papers for the university I work with. I filled my day and by the end of the lockdown, I was exhausted and have only just started to regain energy. My wife, in contrast, had just finished a major project and while she was still working, was left with hours during the day alone with her feelings of isolation. It caused tension between us and if I am honest, the end of the lockdown came just at the right time. This time, things are going much better and I can honestly say that we have grown as a couple and become closer again.
Back to the research from London. Many couples have also said that their relationship improved during lockdown 1. I quote:
Twice as many unions improved during the pandemic as were made worse, according to a report by the Marriage Foundation using analysis of 2,559 parents who completed the UK Household Longitudinal Survey Coronavirus Study by Essex University. Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation, said: “Covid has spawned a plethora of inaccurate predictions and a divorce explosion was just one such. On the whole marriages have blossomed through lockdown, no doubt because of the extra TLC spouses have been able to invest in their relationships freed from the terrible pressures generated by having to spend a lot of the working week at, or travelling to and from, work.”
This is good news and the report goes in to say that 20 percent of the couples interviewed felt that their relationship improved while 10 percent claimed the opposite. However, there is always a dark side to these figures and the Times reported sadly that an increase in domestic abuse was a terrible consequence of couples being locked up together. Again I quote the Times:
Domestic violence in the country’s first lockdown led to a record number of people using the courts to protect themselves from abusers, new figures show. More than 8,800 applications for domestic violence remedy orders were made in England and Wales between April and June 2020, the highest number ever recorded by the Ministry of Justice in a quarter. The figure was 24% higher than the same quarter last year.
Many of these orders were sought by women who were in abusive relationships before the lockdown and the situation got worse under “pressure cooker“ conditions. Some were for harassment of former partners who had sensibly left an abuser before the lockdown. The Times highlighted the case of one woman who was in an abusive controlling relationship with a man who controlled every aspect of her life. Before lockdown, she had lost her job and her husband‘s controlling and abuse went to a different level, limiting her access to finance, checking her phone and email. When she tackled her husband, he became violent and she escaped. When the police found her, they informed her that her husband had been tracking her via an app on her phone and had attempted to get the police to bring her back saying she was suicidal. Luckily, a social worker finally got him removed from the home but only when she told him she would escalate it to a Child Protection Order and they would then have to contact his work. She is still trying to come to terms with his constant attempts to make her life difficult. Not an isolated case, I’m sure.
The case highlighted shows that domestic abuse is a big issue in family life and needs to be addressed with firm measures from government. Many victims are afraid to come forward for fear of being let down by the system and facing the wrath of their abuser. This has to stop.