How to keep peace on the homefront during isolation
Author: Caroline Gordon-Smith
Date: Mar 2020
The first Monday in January is often referred to as “National divorce day” - that being the day when divorce lawyers receive the greatest number of new instructions to end marriages.
It’s closely followed by the first Monday after schools return in September. The common theme lies with the stress of spending enforced time together over Christmas and summer holidays. It is no surprise, therefore, that lawyers are expecting a massive spike in divorce as a result of the unprecedented isolation families now find themselves facing.
So how can we alleviate the inevitable strain of quarantine to try to avoid marriage breakdown?
Talk it out
Poor and/or miscommunication is often key to relationship difficulties. The current availability of time could be put to good use in face to face discussions over worries and frustrations. It may even result in solutions or at least assurances to help relieve stress and disputes. Family meetings involving children could also be useful for you and them. Try to be united over what you tell children about the current crisis to avoid confusion for them.
Establishing a daily routine may help manage time and enable family members to share chores and childcare so no one person feels put upon thus causing discord. Daily timetables might include scheduling time for working from home, exercise, home educating children, relaxation, chores and even pursuing new hobbies/interests. The mental health charity MIND states that for some people routine is often what keeps them grounded.
Take a moment to yourself
Where possible having regular slots of time to oneself away from a partner or children may enable relaxation and relieve any tension. This may simply be the opportunity to read a book, lie in the garden, face time a friend or soak in the bath. It is believed that we build our mental strength and develop more compassion if we allow ourselves time to be alone with our thoughts detached from distraction.
Keep in touch
Using technology to keep in regular touch with family members and friends is very important. Those relationships will alleviate feelings of isolation, keep perspective and provide comfort and support. A laugh with friends is of huge benefit as humour has been proved to strengthen your immune system and even trigger creativity.
Treat this enforced isolation as an opportunity rather than a punishment. Whether it be time to declutter or the possibility of learning a new skill which will lead to a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem. The family or you and your partner might take part in some of the many remote opportunities becoming available.
That might be singing as part of the Sofa Singers, using your brain in The Living Room Pub Quiz, online baking with Bake Ahead Bakery or doing one of the many online exercise classes. You might find such activities fun and refreshing.
Although it is often said that it is spending time together which causes divorce, relationship breakdowns are actually caused by the unrealistic expectation that we often place on holidays and the stress and disappointment when they so often fall short.
Let us be realistic: this lockdown is not going to be easy.
However, if we are kind on ourselves and our family, accept a slower and more simple life rather than the heightened expectations and pace of life we have become used to, we can survive it with our relationships intact.
Caroline Gordon-Smith practiced as a divorce lawyer for 32 years and was formerly head of the family department at Stevens & Bolton LLP
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Last revised: 25 March 2020
Next review: 25 March 2023