I’m hoping you can offer some advice on how to a weather a divorce during this pandemic. My husband and I got together over ten years ago in our early 20s. We initially connected over shared hobbies and friends. But since then, we've both changed quite a bit and our differences have become much more apparent. He likes predictability and routine, is very introverted, and has difficulty communicating his feelings. Meanwhile, I like novelty and adventure, have a large group of friends, and crave deep emotional connection.SponsoredJudge Doug North, a Proponent of Diverting Non-Violent First-Time Offenders into Treatment Programs, is Endorsed by The StrangerClick here to see what people are saying about Judge North.
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Six years ago, I went through a major health crisis that lasted for several years. During that time, I felt completely alone in our marriage. His dislike for talking about feelings meant that he was unable to fully connect with my experience, and instead often tried to change the subject, make poorly timed jokes, or remind me of all of the things I should be grateful for (even though I was in chronic pain). Fortunately, I have made a full recovery and been healthy for two years now. Since recovering, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what’s missing in our relationship and realized that I fell out of love with him years ago. Through counseling, I have decided that I no longer want to be married to him. A month ago, I initiated some hard conversations and told him that I was considering leaving him, but was willing to give couple’s counseling a try. In my mind, I felt like couple’s counseling would be a way to help end the relationship, but not necessarily to mend it.
Then…the pandemic happened.
We are now stuck at home together and living in limbo. He is going to (tele) counseling to improve his ability to communicate and pressuring me to give him answers about where I see our marriage headed. Before the shelter in place orders, I was strongly considering a separation and had made plans to move in with a good friend. However, my husband and I both work in the front lines in healthcare, and now I don’t feel comfortable moving in with my friend and potentially exposing her to COVID19. I could find my own apartment, but it feels financially irresponsible during the pandemic to take on the additional monthly cost of living on my own while still splitting the mortgage. My parents might get sick and I might need to take extended time off. Or, there’s a high likelihood that I myself might get sick. I’ve told him that I’m very uncertain about our future, but haven’t said that I think we should divorce. Historically, he has the tendency to shut down and pout after hard conversations and I can’t imagine being stuck living with him in the house for an indefinite amount of time without a plan to move out.
So Dan, do you think I should shelter in place and continue to weather this emotionally unfulfilling marriage for now? It feels unwise to try and move out during this time, but I’m also concerned about how long the pandemic might last. We can easily continue living as the roommates we’ve been to each other. However, if I do stay for now, it feels inauthentic to pretend as though things are more or less fine between us, but I also don’t feel comfortable telling him how I really feel when we are stuck together. I would really appreciate your advice, and I'm curious how many of your readers are going through similar relationship conundrums with the pandemic!
Pandemic Makes Divorce Difficult
The Global Times reported that the Chinese city of Xi'an has seen a record-high number of divorce requests in recent weeks, with some districts even maxing out the number of appointments available at local government offices. Health officials say the increase could be explained by two factors. First, offices have been closed for a month, so are likely be hit by a wave of delayed requests now that they've re-opened, the Global Times reported. Secondly, many people have been quarantined in close quarters, creating an especially inflammatory environment for marital feuding.
There were people in your shoes in China, PMDD, thousands of them, and we can safely assume you have company all over the world. You're one of many who was just about to leave your spouse when the order to stay the fuck at home came down. And while early on some were predicting a coronavirus baby boom nine months from now, a post-quarantine divorce tsunami is looking far likelier.
What do you between now and the end of the lockdown?
You cite a lot of good reasons to stay right where you are, PMDD, at home with your husband for now. There's the risk of exposing your friend if you moved in with her, the chance you might need to care for your parents if they get sick, and, to be frank, the moral obligation to take care of your husband, PMDD, should he get sick. While you say he wasn't there for you emotionally during your long illness—he couldn't connect with you way you needed him to, he made dumb and jokes, his "look on the bright side" comments drove you up the wall—he did take care of you. You don't say so in your letter but if your husband hadn't taken care of you while you were sick—if he didn't accompany you to your appointments, if he didn't go to the pharmacy to pick up your meds, if he didn't make sure there was food in the house—you certainly would've mentioned that in your letter and divorced his ass two years ago, PMDD, right after you recovered from your illness. You aren't obligated to stay with him forever, of course, but the combo of the all the reasons you have to stay with him in the short term—cited above—and the possibility he may get sick before this over argue and your indebtedness to him and the face that this isn't a high-conflict marriage... it all argues for staying put.
For now, for the time being, not forever.
But what do you tell him when he presses you on your long-term intentions? You've made up your mind to leave but telling him the truth—being fully honest with him—will make your living situation unbearable. And not just for you, PMDD, but for you both. If he's not satisfied with ambiguous or circumspect answers about your intentions, you may have to tell him what he wants to hear to avoid making your living situation unbearable. You don't want to exit limbo only to enter hell. But telling him what he wants to hear doesn't mean saying, "Everything's great! Looking forward to spending the rest of my life with you!", but something closer to, "I'm open to counseling and willing to make an effort. Let's keep talking, let's keep taking care of each other, and then let's where we are in six months."