COVID-19 continues to have us reeling. Are we coming or going? Are we working at home or going back to the office? Is it safe to visit family or is some new variant going to show up, and will we be the next breakthrough case? Are we going to keep fighting with our partners, friends, and neighbors over vaccines?
As the world starts to address the longer-term impact of a global pandemic, I’ve become curious about this idea of a “new normal.” For the vast number of people who got used to working from home, it might mean more flexibility about going into the office. College students could discover they are learning in a hybrid model — meeting online for some classes, in person for others. Those attending concerts and other big events might still wear a face mask or risk being a statistic at a super-spreader event. What I do notice is the craving for connection to each other is coming back. With all its turmoil and uncertainty, we are being presented an opportunity.
Do we want to return to the way it was before the global health crisis? Are we satisfied with a few comparatively minor changes even though the world has been fundamentally altered? Reading the eloquent words of novelist Arundhati Roy reminds me how much pain and suffering still exists in the world. Am I making the most of my opportunities?
On the personal level, there’s at least one challenge with the idea of a “new normal.” It assumes that we can settle into some kind of equilibrium. What if going through Covid-19 has knocked us off balance in some fundamental way? What if we can’t picture feeling “normal” again? What if your primary relationship is feeling fragile and it feels like divorce is just one fight away?
We are living through a global pandemic. It affects us as individuals, couples, families, and communities. Most of us have spent well over a year together turning our homes into offices and classrooms or we have experienced intense periods of social isolation. Some of us were essential workers whose jobs put us at risk every day. Others cared for friends or family members who were sick or dying. We are grieving the loss of loved ones. In circumstances like this, it’s normal not to feel normal.
Many people have reported that they feel closer to their partner after going through this difficult time together. For others, the global pandemic has reopened old wounds or exposed problems that were simmering just under the surface. In a recent survey of 2,704 married people, 21% believed that the pandemic had negatively impacted their marriage. That percentage was almost double that of a similar survey conducted a year ago.
Separation and divorce rates plummeted during the pandemic, which is understandable. Government offices were closed, courts had a huge backlog, and many people reported that they were putting off making major life decisions. (That’s probably why the number of weddings also dropped during the pandemic.)
But as the pandemic seemed to be receding, the number of people filing for separations and divorces is starting to climb. Courts in many parts of the country say the numbers are significantly higher than this time last year. Legal experts are suddenly seeing a lot more clients come through the door.
Covid-19 is presenting many people with the opportunity to take a long, hard look at their lives. They finally have time to focus on how they’re feeling. They’re asking themselves if this might be a chance to begin making the changes that they’ve been contemplating, whether it’s time for some transformational personal growth.
This could be a time in your life for you to take radical responsibility for your own happiness and joy. You don’t have to apologize. Fleet Maull, who has written extensively on the topic, describes radical responsibility as freeing yourself from “emotional handcuffs.” It’s about taking responsibility for yourself, moving away from self-blame and showing yourself some empathy and compassion.
The good news is that you have control over how you bring a relationship to an end. There’s no reason it has to be bitter, contentious, or dramatic. The Collaborative Divorce model is one that many people choose because it allows them to work with, not against, their partner to manage their transition from an emotionally engaged couple to a friendship or co-parenting relationship where the focus is on taking care of the business or raising healthy children, minors, or adults. Although you each have your own lawyer, the lawyers don’t dominate the process, and they are not adversarial with each other. They are part of a team with a mental health professional and a financial expert and help guide you through each aspect of the divorce. You move forward at your own pace, on your own terms, with privacy and discretion.
If the idea of a courtroom fills you with anxiety, then a Collaborative Divorce may be a great option. You never have to set foot in a courtroom. In fact, the only time that court is even mentioned is when it’s time to file the necessary paperwork and the final settlement documents. The actual divorce order comes in the mail.
Although the world seems to be pushing us to act in or feel a certain way, the new normal doesn’t necessarily have to look like the old normal. You don’t need to settle for old patterns or outdated notions that keep you from being your best self. You have the power to change your life for the better, and in a way that feels right for you and leaves you feeling empowered and hopeful. Sometimes you just need a divorce. When that time arrives, consider your options, including Collaborative Divorce.