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Since its beginning in December of 2019, the entire world has collectively been impacted by the trauma of COVID-19.
Entire economies were shut down and businesses were laying off workers to stay afloat. When the quarantine regulations began, so many couples were forced to stay in their homes in fear of their health and their safety.
You may have walked into quarantine thinking, “Oh, it cannot be that bad. My partner and I can finally spend more time together. Maybe we can use this opportunity to resolve some of our differences and grow closer together.”
However, reality often takes us down a different path than we expect.
The Biggest Collective Trauma of the Modern Age
During an interview with my friend and Neurofeedback expert, Len McEwen, he said that whenever we go through a major traumatic event, we typically need up to five to seven years after the traumatic incident to recover. He said, “Trauma occurs when a person is helpless when they are faced with a situation that has taken a life or may take a life.” As a result, traumatised people develop knee-jerk reactions as a survival mechanism. The downside to this is that these knee-jerk reactions are often triggered, leading to overreactions. This can happen even during normal interactions where the situation may not be as serious.
According to BBC, mental health issues linked to the pandemic have led to a rise in breakups in relationships. In Canada, approximately 38 percent of marriages end in divorce, and in the United States, the divorce rate is still about 50 percent.
Even with the experiences of SARS, H1N1, the Zika Virus, and Ebola, the impact of COVID-19 has exceeded previous viruses in the modern age. With all the anxiety from the economic shutdowns, the job losses, and the fears for personal health, we can expect a collective trauma to pervade across the world. This trauma, if left untreated, will manifest into coping mechanisms that will lead to broken relationships and subsequently, broken families.
On the flip side of the coin, many marriages were already on the verge of divorce. These couples may have even begun filing before the mandated lockdowns.
There was only one problem.
When quarantine began, many couples found their divorces to be stuck in limbo. Court dates were continuously pushed forward. Layoffs meant that splitting would be too costly to afford. When schools closed down, children had to stay at home to learn online.
And so many of us didn’t know when life would return to normal.
Some couples were fortunate to be able to resolve their divorce through online mediation. However, not all divorcing couples consciously uncouple. Researchers estimate between 15 percent to 30 percent of divorces to be high conflict. These divorces are often the ones where one party drags the other through litigation. They turn family court into a battlefield and may even involve the kids in the divorce.
Women around the world were stuck between quarantine restrictions and wanting to get out of the marriage for their own sanity. Imagine being stuck at home, walking on eggshells with a partner who has become a completely different person than who you married. Often in high conflict partnerships, these women are terrified of the abuse they have suffered, knowing that same abuse will be directed at the children who were now at home more often.
The women who were still working from home were left to balance their jobs with this new home dynamic. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, women continue to outperform men in unpaid domestic labor by 15 hours. This means that not only are most women balancing their work life at home, they are also ensuring the home is cleaned and the kids are cared for. In cases with high conflict partnerships, this will add an enormous amount of stress and trauma to these women and their children.
Couples who were separated would find that parental alienation became much easier with quarantine. Many women in my coaching practice spoke of having been denied access to their kids. Their exes would use the lockdown and mask mandates to deny access to the kids, citing that their children’s health was at risk. And the worst part? They can’t enforce the court order for shared custody because the courts are closed!
As time goes on, we can expect more couples to reach their breaking point. While divorces were statistically lower in 2020, we have already started to see them roll over into 2021.
Getting a Divorce? Here are Three Steps to Ensure You Consciously Uncouple Post-Covid
As I always say, divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. Many women who come to me for coaching learn pretty quickly that divorce isn’t finished overnight. The whole process can take a great deal of mental and emotional energy, which can be quite draining. Furthermore, high conflict divorces can escalate into fierce litigation battles that can leave you questioning your sanity.
Before stepping into divorce, make sure you follow these three guidelines.
Assess Your Situation
Often you may find in high conflict divorces that you have unwittingly given control to your ex. They may control the finances in the family, have the house in their name, or be the only one who owns a car.
Before you enter a divorce, you must pause and list down what you have control over.
>> Do you have joint bank accounts?
>> Are you able to support yourself if you leave?
>> If the kids join you, are you able to support them?
>> Where can you move to if you leave the family home?
>> Can you afford a lawyer if the divorce enters litigation?
>> How is your mental health?
>> Who will take care of the kids?
>> How will your ex react to the divorce?
Make Your Divorce Goals, Vision, and Plan
Divorce goals are the targets that you set for the divorce process. This can include but is not limited to custody arrangements, asset division, and a co-parenting plan. It is important to be as detailed as possible with your divorce goals so you can ensure that your needs are met and the needs of any children you have are catered to as well.
The divorce goals come together to help create an overall divorce vision. Think of your divorce vision as a big picture outcome from your divorce. This will set the foundations for your new beginning after your split. You may envision a safe relocation, greater financial stability, the needs of the children are cared for, and better job opportunities.
With your divorce vision, you now have a clear destination to strive for. From here, you can start to plan, step-by-step, how you will achieve your divorce vision.
An excellent exercise to use to map out your divorce plan is to take one part of your divorce vision and say, “In order to achieve ‘____,’ I have to do ‘_____’ first.” This exercise will help you break down your goals into small baby steps. This makes your divorce plan easier to visualise and complete.
An example may be:
>> In order to be more financially stable, I need to pay off my debt and have an emergency fund.
>> In order to pay off my debt and have an emergency fund, I need to designate part of my salary to paying off debt and growing my emergency fund every month.
>> In order to designate part of my salary every month, I need to go back to work.
>> In order to go back to work, I need to apply for new job positions.
>> In order to apply for new job positions, I need to update my resume.
Build Your Support Team
Divorce can be incredibly isolating. When you suffer alone, you start to question your self-worth and feel unworthy. Some days, the depression hits you like a truck and you break down into tears. Friends and family either avoid taking sides or get too involved. In many cases, some loved ones may take your ex’s side in the divorce.
With the isolating feeling of Covid, divorce can be even lonelier. You may seek out emotional support from your lawyer; however, this too is a common mistake. Within my practice, I often remind the women in my coaching circles that lawyers are experts of law, not emotions. They are not social workers or therapists.
To best get the support you need in your divorce, I encourage you to seek out a divorce coach or a counselor to help you work through the emotions and stress caused by your divorce.
With a divorce coach, you can craft your divorce goals, vision, and plan so you can feel more in control. You will have a clear path to walk on without feeling lost and alone. Your divorce coach will ensure you avoid the common pitfalls in choosing your attorney, entering litigation, and coparenting with your ex.
Take back your power and become free. You do not have to walk this marathon alone.
Not only will you find peace of mind, you will save money in the long run. When lawyers charge fees at $300 to $500 per hour, you are only increasing your bill when you emotionally vent to them. Worst still, lawyers are not trained to help you work through your emotions. It is not their fault; they are specialists in law. That is why you need a specialist in the emotional aspects of divorce to help you walk through these emotional moments, who can support you when you are hurting and can guide you to finding your personal strength.
All of this at a fraction of the cost of your lawyer fee.
If you’re considering a separation or divorce, reach out to a divorce coach first and discover how to ease the financial and emotional pressures of your stressful situation.
Don’t dive in alone without a plan!