The last two weeks have caused most people to evaluate a lot of issues in their lives. Faced with the threat of illness or even fatality, many are looking at what really matters to them.
No 1 on the agenda appears to be self-preservation and protection. This starts apparently with an overwhelming need for soft toilet paper, followed by dry food on a scale never before purchased. However, the fear also in some quarters has brought out even more of the worst in people.
We have been aware for some time that when given an opportunity to degrade, pillory, criticise or threaten people on social media, there has been an overwhelming pack mentality. As a society we are ever more shocked at how people behave towards each other. Social media has become a cesspit of frustration and envy. Add to this abject fear over the coronavirus and having to be cooped up with family for months on end, what creatures will evolve?
As a divorce lawyer and seeing the numbers increase over the last few weeks, despite events, fills me with wonder and surprise. Do people in a crisis pull together or pull apart? Sadly, from what we have seen, the latter appears to be more prevalent. Selfishness, self-protection and self-preservation appear to be the norm. Kindness is also prevalent in some places but when panic sets in, which facet of human behaviour will prevail? Only time will tell. I am hopeful that kindness will be the way in which the world will involve but will it?
Each year divorce lawyers confirm that after summer holidays, September sees the peak in relationship breakdown. Similarly, after Christmas where parties are holed up with relatives or have unmet expectations the rate goes through the roof. In both case the evidence is that if parties are forced to spend time together with competitive approaches to family, ie who is to look after the children or clear up or simple household tasks, there appears to be an explosion of selfishness perceived by the injured party. Translate this into being holed up for months in the home with each party believing that either their work is more important or that work trumps tasks, there is a potential recipe for relationship Armageddon.
So here are my ten tips for surviving during this unhappy and exceptional time that is Coronavirus: –
- Everyone’s role during this time whether in relation to children, tasks or work is equally as important. Pin this message to the fridge or wall.
- Respect each other during this time. If one party is exhausted then do not tell them it is their job/role or “its tough”, try to ease the burden by helping.
- It is not just the province of women to cook, clean, and deal with the children and in addition do their work from home with no input from you. Remember you are both in this together.
- Share tasks of looking after the children and/or caring about your elderly relatives. If the children cannot go out, then invent games or get out board games or plant things in the garden with them. Children will have to adjust to playing without being constantly entertained. Let them go outside, suitably dressed and kick a ball around. Children survived before television and computers. Do not allow your children to dictate the agenda to you. You are the parents. They are the child.
- Ensure teenage children help in the home without arguing during this time about whose turn it is. Set out a rota and hang it on the fridge or wall so everyone is clear about their tasks. Again, do not allow the teenagers to dictate the agenda to you or invite all of their friends to put you at maximum risk. There is a lock down and they have to understand this and be sensible. Further do not allow them to make excuses about why they want to go out only to find out that they are meeting up with their friends, again putting you all at risk
- Talk to each other in a kind and non-snapping tone. If necessary, practice in the mirror. You may think you are talking normally but you might not be. Remember we are all in this together. Just because you are a CEO in the office, does not give you a right to become belligerent and overbearing at home. Maybe your partner can cope with seeing you just at the weekend but translate this into months, your dinner may find itself on your head.
- Treat others with respect during this time and don’t expect others including your partner or children to go to places or do things that put them or your partner at risk. They will resent it and eventually frustration will turn to anger.
- Do not hog the computer or laptop saying that you need it for work, only for your partner to find that you have been watching endless hours of Netflix or Amazon Prime or playing video games whilst they were undertaking all the tasks at home. Resentment is a very powerful tool. Again, you may find that your laptop is slung out of a top floor window.
- Do not start criticising everything in the home, the way your partner irons, cooks, cleans etc and never run your finger up the bannister demonstrating what dust looks like. Again, you may find the contents of the hoover emptied where you least want it. Also, you most definitely will be told to do it yourself in the future. Condescending or undermining remarks when people are under stress is an absolute no go area. Try the opposite, show appreciation for what they are doing or have done and help where you can. Don’t wait to be asked, just do it.
- During this time, follow the rules laid down as suggestions by the health authorities. Do not imply that it does not apply to you as you are some kind of super hero and that only others are susceptible. Just do it!! Stress will be caused by inordinate and selfish behaviour. So grow up and comply. Further, do not expect that because you are at home that your partner is available for sex at any given moment. At times of stress, people’s libido can drop dramatically. Do not start getting angry just because after a full day of working at home, looking after the children etc he or she really does not fancy anything more than a hug.
Many people are becoming very stressed and looking at others as potential carriers with distain and anger. Let us all start behaving as adults, we are all in this together until things calm down and some form of normality, albeit in a different way will prevail. The alternative is endless hours spent in the divorce courts or speaking with divorce lawyers! Which is it to be?