My husband and I recently marked our 25th wedding anniversary, but we didn’t acknowledge it with the trip to Hawaii we’d always dreamed of. We didn’t even enjoy a dinner out, and it’s not because of Covid. Here’s how to survive divorce during the pandemic.
In fact, my husband and I didn’t speak at all on our 25th anniversary.
He and I separated a few months before, and – even though we’d agreed to divorce amicably and told all our friends and family not to choose sides – things didn’t go the way we planned for them to. Or least the way I had planned for them to.
RELATED READING :: 10 Tips to Make Sure We Aren’t All Going Through a Divorce After COVID-19
Another outcome of my naive “rainbows and butterflies” way of thinking.
I had very high expectations of us, my husband and me. I based my expectations on what I thought I knew of us: mutual respect, deep concern for each other, and – even though our marriage seemed to be coming to an end, a love for one another.
I’ve matured since then. Now I know that nothing puts people in a more truthful light than divorce. It’s like the rosy lens through which you view not just your spouse, but others in your orbit suddenly shifts into focus, toppling everything you believed about your circle.
It’s heart wrenching and exhilarating all at the same time, finding that some of the people you thought were your people were only conditionally so, while reconnecting with others who have come out of the woodwork to reveal in marvelous, unexpected ways that they’ve been in your corner all along.
The thing about divorcing during a global pandemic is that there are all kinds of unprecedented layers to the experience that the divorcées in our lives – who we’d normally turn to for advice based on their personal experience of a split – have no idea about.
They have no frame of reference from which to pull their words of wisdom.
Meetings with attorneys look different, mediations look different, and staying connected with your inner circle looks different.
There were several times throughout the last few months that I reached out to divorced women in my life to ask things like, what does mediation look like? How long will the divorce process take?
But their answers didn’t apply to me because the women I talked to had all divorced before Covid.
If you’re divorcing your spouse right now, or considering divorce, here are some things to know:
Meetings With Your Lawyer
Meetings will likely be strictly virtual – over the phone or over video chat. The only time I chose to meet in person was for our mediation, because I wanted to be in the same room with my attorney by my side.
Most likely, mediation will be conducted over Zoom or some other video conferencing platform. What happens is you’ll all meet in one meeting, then break out into “meeting rooms,” and the mediator will join your room with you and your lawyer, then sign out of that room to join your spouse and their lawyer in the other room.
I didn’t feel comfortable joining the Zoom meeting from my home because my kids were home and I didn’t want to risk them hearing parts of the meeting. I also wanted to have my lawyer in the room with me, in case I needed questions answered on the fly (which I did, so this was the right decision for me).
Selling Your Home
Getting your home “show-ready” is trickier than normal during Covid because you’re likely to have a child at home during the day. Keep this in mind when working with your agent to limit showings of your home during times that won’t interfere with your child’s homeschool schedule.
Also, homes in the Austin area are selling so fast, many of them have multiple offers before anyone has even viewed the home in person. This is great news, financially, of course, but it’s tricky when considering how to get into a new home – whether buying or renting – because those homes are being snapped up at the same rate. You have to move fast on selecting where you’ll go if your house goes under contract quickly (it will).
People going through a divorce have to consider whether their current employment is sufficient for their income needs going forward as a single parent. Stay-at-home parents typically have to go back into the workforce.
But work is less stable because of Covid.
Jobs have been cut, salaries have been cut, and companies have closed indefinitely or permanently. If one of you is paying support toward the other, make sure to consider what will happen if either of you contracts Covid and can’t work. I suggest asking your attorney to add in a Covid clause that establishes what will happen in this case.
Mental and Emotional Health
There’s never a more important need for in-person connection with your people than when going through a divorce. But because of Covid, that’s exactly what we can’t have. The mental and emotional toll of constantly being in our home – even though my kids are here – has created a restlessness within me I’ve never experienced before.
I feel like I’m scratching my way out of my own skin in desperation for a trip or even chips and queso in an actual restaurant setting.
Aside from just restlessness, people like me, who have anxiety, have reported spikes in their symptoms during Covid.
The stress of navigating all these changes is obviously hard, even if you and your spouse lock arms and brave the process together.
But if your situation is like mine, and you find yourself carrying the full burden of the emotions, as well as the logistics: readying your home for sale, finding a new place to live, packing up all your belongings, moving everything to your new place, finding work or starting a business, homeschooling your kids or getting them to and from school each day, shuttling them to their sports practices and games, helping them manage their emotions surrounding the split – not to mention your own – and having to do all this without having the person you’ve loved for so long right beside you; without being able to meet your girlfriends in person for a drink and a pep talk; without being able to spend a weekend with your aging parents because of the health risks… it’s just almost too much for one person.
Divorce isn’t easy, no matter what the circumstances, I’m guessing. And while I’m not saying going through one during Covid is worse than those who divorced before the pandemic, there is no denying that the experience does have notable differences that our friends who divorced in “normal times” can’t help us with.
If you are someone who’s considering a split right now, the most important piece of advice I can share with you is to force yourself to focus on your mental health above all else right now: seek counseling and stay connected to others through phone calls and video chats.
I even think that sometimes the mental health benefits of a rare in-restaurant meet-up with a friend outweighs the health risks.
And cut yourself all kinds of slack. You are doing a ton of emotional work right now.