Too close for comfort?

The Asian Age.  | Shalkie

Life, Relationship

As home quarantine brings couples to spend more time together, personal space and harmony in the relationship become equal priorities

Representative Image.

With the horror of the novel Coronavirus gripping countries worldwide, many countries have stepped up to ask its citizens to maintain social distancing, and in extreme conditions, get home quarantined.

As work from home setups and quarantine are breaking the status quo of routine functioning, a bizarre ramification of the move has been an increased rate of marriages breaking.

In Dazhou, a Sichuan Province of south-western China, Lu Shijun, a manager of a marriage registry has gone on record to state that over 300 couples have scheduled appointments to get a divorce since February 24.

“The divorce rate has soared compared to before… Young people are spending a lot of time at home. They tend to get into heated arguments because of something petty and rush into getting a divorce,” said Lu, according to various publications.

In the pre-COVID-19 times, couples, in the humdrum of their routine, would unknowingly exercise a healthy distance by being invested in their individual commitments and interests.

However, under the unforeseen circumstances, now that they have been shoved under one roof, it seems like they don’t even want to wait ‘till death do us part’.

According to Rhea Tembhekar, a marriage counsellor, being in quarantine is like being in a Bigg Boss house.

She says, “Boredom and irritation are bound to happen. When you are in each other’s face for a very long time, it’s only in the human nature that the couples will fight. How much can you talk? How much creative can you get?”

At a time when several Indian cities are under the threat of a pre-emptive lockdown to prevent community transmission of this highly contagious virus, people are experiencing bouts of apocalyptic anxiety.

According to Rashi Laskari, psychologist and family counsellor, couples are experiencing core individual differences in terms of perceived stress.

“When you are in quarantine, everybody has a different way of coping and dealing with stress. So in a marriage, as they experience the scale of stress that they have never experienced before, most couples are finding themselves in a situation where they have to face this intensity of the stress. They are also coming to witness their own as well as their partner’s coping mechanism and response to stress for the first time which is bound to be radically different, given each one’s upbringing and personality," she says.

"While we might think of it as too much intimacy, the issues are happening because they are not being able to cope through the stress together or managing the information overload that is coming their way,” she decodes.

Additionally, the spike in divorce rates is also a result of the lack in physical and emotional space that quarantine increases.

“By virtue of having worked for long hours outside their homes, most married couples have become used to spending time away from each other, enjoying their space and freedom. Hence, now that they are staying together, even though they intend or not, one partner is bound to feel intimidated, controlled or monitored, which is not acceptable to any partner,” elucidates Dr. Rajiv Anand, psychiatrist and marriage counsellor.

As COVID-19 is not only capable of breaking our immune system but even our marriages, people need to not only physically and socially distance themselves to battle the former but also keep in check their individual emotional responses to battle the latter.

According to Laskari, couples and families need to have an open conversation about their emotional stress in order to meet each other in the middle. She also suggests, “It’s also important for us to extend our communication from beyond just the partner or just the family in a digital way with as many people as we can.”