couples

'My husband and I separated a month ago. But thanks to COVID-19, we're still living together.'

These are crazy times we are living in and unlike many other large scale world events; COVID-19 has affected all of us directly in some way.

Whether it’s your health, being unable to access products or services, job losses, changing daily habits, or switching to working from home, no one has been untouched.

WATCH: Horoscopes in isolation. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

One interesting side effect of the measures that have been implemented to help prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus is that we’re seeing a lot more of our families (the ones we live with, at least). While Australia hasn’t taken the extreme step of a lockdown, people are being encouraged to stay home where possible, and many have pulled their children out of school and childcare and are working from home.

I must acknowledge that the ability to work from home is indeed a privilege for those who are able to do so, as there are many in industries where this just isn’t possible, and I’m not taking it for granted in the least. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that not every home or family is necessarily happy, and the sudden enforced togetherness presents an additional challenge.

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Around a month or so ago, my husband and I made the difficult choice to separate after almost 13 years of marriage (sorry friends, family and acquaintances who are hearing the first of this right here. Surprise!), and although we decided to remain under one roof until our lease is up later this year (sensible), we could not have anticipated that we would be here, both working from home, with three primary school-aged kids also here and bored.

Please note: The irony of becoming single after all these years and the government being all like “LMAO you can’t be within 1.5 metres of another person” is not lost on us. Nicely played, universe.

Suddenly, our house – which admittedly already felt small at times – feels like it has shrunk to the size of a shoebox and we are piled in on top of each other like sardines. But the sardines are stressed and the shoebox is on fire and the world is falling apart. I shouldn’t complain too much, because our split is amicable and tension is minimal. Fortunately, we both use dark humour as a coping mechanism during stressful periods.

It got me thinking though, about the fact that we cannot be the only ones in this predicament. If the latest memes and social media commentary are anything to go by, half of (straight) couples are going to come out on the other side of this pandemic pregnant, and the other half is coming out single.

And to be honest, I don’t think that’s even a joke. Cabin fever is real (just putting Stephen King’s The Shining out there as isolation reading), and even the tightest of couples are bound to get on each other’s nerves when confined in a small space.

Listen to The Split, Mamamia’s separation and divorce podcast. Post continues below.

It’s early days yet, but here are some tips for – how shall I say? – maintaining the peace in your home prison, whether your relationship is solid, or not:

  • Remember, the outside world isn’t lava. You can still go out for walks, so take the dog and/or kids and get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Carve out your own set workspace, preferably with a door for meetings (or so you can just say you’re in a meeting when you really just need some peace and quiet).
  • Manage your expectations. As you’ve heard a billion times, this is an unprecedented situation and the normal household rules and standards don’t apply. Screens are unlimited and junk food aplenty.
  • If you’re making a cuppa or a sandwich (or pouring yourself a 10am glass of wine – no judgement here), ask the other person if they’d like anything. A little kindness and respect goes a long way.
  • Set 10-15 minutes time slots for quick tidy ups and take them in turns. You can get a lot done in 15 minutes, and everyone will be a lot less angry with a clean kitchen (it’s science).
  • Reach out. When it gets too much, FaceTime or phone the friends/family/colleagues that make you laugh. Staying connected even when we’re physically apart is so important.
  • And the super obvious one: Remember this is not permanent. We don’t know how long this will go on for, which is terrifying, but eventually, it will end.

This all comes across as quite flippant from me, but I truly worry about the women and children who are victims of family violence, and who will be placed in even more danger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and distancing/isolation measures.

It is well known that domestic violence increases during periods of stress, and it has already been reported that a NSW-based women’s shelter service has experienced a 25-30 per cent increase in calls for help in the past fortnight. If stricter isolation measures are brought into place, this is only likely to increase.

If you have experienced sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for 24/7 counselling.
You can also call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for help and support.

Feature image: supplied.

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