Calling time on your marriage post COVID19

I don’t know if I can do this any more. I think we have grown apart. I want to do something else with my life. We argue more than we used to. Life is different now.

It is common for couples to go through periods of disconnection and to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. Those in long-term relationships know from experience that calmer seas will return once the storm has been dealt with and often find their relationship comes out of the squall stronger. Since Covid-19 came into our lives, however, an increasing number of middle-aged women have told me that they are seriously thinking about ending their long-term relationship. Their reasons for doing so are varied and the subject of this month’s blog. 

Why the Pandemic is affecting more than just our physical health.

For many of us, the Pandemic has elevated stress levels to a point where we are constantly feeling the flight or fight effects of elevated cortisol levels in our bloodstream. The little things that didn’t use to bother us, suddenly become the most annoying of habits – do you have to chew so loudly! Feeling out of control is also a familiar feeling during stress. We can’t control so many things right now, and a natural reaction to that is to focus on things we can affect. For some, this might be as simple as a new hair-style, whilst for others; it equates to completely changing how they live and with whom.

Midlife crisis isn’t just for men.

For women with children, middle-age usually coincides with the little darlings gaining their independence and leaving home. This often leaves a huge void in their lives, and some will decide that it is also time for them to spread their wings and do something new, with or without their spouse by their side. For women without children, middle-age is also a time for contemplation and revaluation of their lives. The hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause affect all women regardless of child-bearing status and remind us that we are getting older. It can feel like it is now or never to fulfil that dream you had when you were in your 20’s but never did. Women can dream of owning a convertible or a Harley too.

Why aren’t all women leaving their long term relationships now then?

Some news reports will tell you that there has been a significant increase in the number of divorce applications since the Pandemic broke, whilst others claim that the rate is decreasing. What they all have in common though is an acknowledgement that couples are under more stress than they ever were before. They also agree that relationships in which one or both were already unhappy before the Pandemic, are less likely to weather the covid-19 hurricane.

Reasons why women leave.

The following reasons are not necessarily gender-specific, but they are ones that women have reported as being the reason why they have considered or have left a long-term relationship.

1. Unresolved trauma

Pandemic stress has trigged memories of past hurts or unmet needs from childhood or early adulthood. The woman has decided that she needs time away from the partnership to resolve them or realises that the current relationship dynamic is an unhealthy replication of those earlier hurts and needs to change.

2. You know longer feel supported

Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, the couple has taken out the stress of the Pandemic on each other, and the woman no longer feels supported, wanted or loved by her partner.  In some cases, she no longer feels safe because her partner has chosen violence as a way to deal with their stress.

3. You have grown apart

 The couple has drifted apart and no longer find time to do things together. This is more likely to be the case in relationships with children, where for a long time, the focus has been on raising good human beings. Once they leave, the couple no longer has anything in common. Age plays a part also as values and goals change over time due to lived experience. The woman feels that her partner is no longer on the same wave-length as her or wants different things. Priorities have changed for both of them.

4. The spark has gone

Intimacy has dissipated, and the woman no longer feels attraction or attractive to her partner. The stress created by the Pandemic has put intimacy on the back burner, and the woman feels more like a flatmate than a loving partner.

5. You no longer matter

The woman no longer feels appreciated or that her concerns, opinions and feelings matter. They still love their partner, but their partner’s indifference or inattention to the things she says has affected her self esteem. She feels that leaving is the only option to feel “normal” again.  

6. Insecurity

 The woman no longer feels secure in their relationship. Communication and intimacy have come to a standstill. The woman believes her partner has lost interest in her or is interested in someone else, and his reaction does little to convince her otherwise.

7. FOMO (fear of missing out)

She has compared her partnership to others and decides that perhaps the grass will be greener on the other side.

8. The emotional bank is empty

Equality in a partnership is important. Women leave when they feel that they have been doing all the giving and receiving nothing in return. I don’t mean gifts either, if one partner is always there for the other but does not receive the same emotional support in return, over time they will question whether the relationship is worth it and leave. Due to the stress of the Pandemic, the time spent deciding this may be shorter.

9. A difference of opinion 

People have reacted differently to the Pandemic. Some consider the lockdown and social distancing an over-reaction. Some think precautions to keep the virus at bay have not gone far enough, whilst others sit somewhere in the middle. For most couples, it is a discussion they have not had to have had before, and the differences of opinion have proven too much. They might have been able to have coexisted with different political views but having different opinions about the virus is too much of a compromise. For example, there may be irreconcilable differences over whether to shield the vulnerable or protect the economy. Practising social distancing is difficult if you have a partner who believes it is all an overreaction to a flu virus and wants to go out, but you want to stay home and stay safe.    

10. Relationships can end

 Till death, us do part is no longer considered by some to be an unbreakable vow. People do change over time. For some women, the uncertainty of the Pandemic has resulted in a reevaluation of their relationship and a realisation that they do not want to be with their other half anymore. They have talked about this openly and honestly with their partner, and they have come to the same conclusion. The woman isn’t the only one to leave; she just suggested it first. 

 Whatever the reason for leaving, there is a right way and a wrong way to break up with someone, especially if there are children (even adult ones) involved. If you are thinking about leaving your partner, or any of the reasons above resonated with you, contact me today to make an appointment. I can help you work through the process of separation, either as an individual or together as a couple. You have both been through a lot over the last year, and the decision to end a long-term relationship should not be taken lightly.

Relationships are not always smooth sailing, and sometimes the storm can seem worse than it is.

I am here to help you figure out if a change in course direction is the answer or if it really is time for a parting of the ways.   


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Ann Jay

Ann Jay is a Wellington Relationship Counselor who provides marriage counselling, couple's counselling, and relationship coaching for couples and women either in a relationship or single. Her goal is to help people create healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships and experience the love they deserve.