Divorce inquiries increase during coronavirus lockdown

Travel has long been hailed as the ultimate way to test a relationship, but now there may be a new contender - the COVID-19 lockdown.

Most Kiwis have been stuck living and working at home for months in what feels like a reality television show, and many couples have been struggling.

Divorce lawyer Jeremy Sutton told The Project he's seen a spike in Kiwis looking towards divorce.

"We've seen a 25 percent increase in separation inquiries since lockdown," he says.

"They are asking questions about what the money's going to look like if they separate and arrangements in relation to their children."

Lockdowns have reportedly caused a spike in divorce rates overseas including in China, and a Japanese rental firm is pedalling short-term accommodation for couples considering 'corona-divorce'.

Barry Helem, Presbyterian Support upper South Island CEO, says being confined during lockdown can blow up any minor issues couples may be facing.

"The fact that you are in a bit of a microcosm in terms of the home environment 24/7 if there are any underlying issues there in terms of relationships, it does intensify that as well."

Steph Dowse, a relationship counsellor, has been doing sessions over Skype during the lockdown and says it is important for couples to consider the situation they are in.

"I don't think any time is a good time to break up particularly after a lockdown situation where people have been under intense pressure," she says.

"Don't get me wrong, sometimes I think breakups do have to happen, but when things have been really, really tough I think the dust needs to settle before people make those rash decisions."

Her tip for those in relationships under pressure is to find space.

"I think you actually need to regroup. You actually need to go away on an individual level and just find a quiet space inside yourself and work out what you really want. Do you really want to be in this relationship?

"I think it's about tapping into your heart and moving away from that blame game that we all get into when we are feeling really tense and angry and upset."

But she told The Project not all of her clients have been facing difficulties during the pandemic.

"Strangely there have been a lot of couples who thought they wouldn't bear too well but they have actually been surprised at how well they have done," she said.

"Some of this is because they have been forced to iron out their difficulties as they haven't had their little escape routes, shopping, gym, work, friends, and so they have actually had to do that face-to-face eyeballing stuff on the couch at night. And that has actually pushed some of them into a new way of communication which is a really good thing."

In New Zealand the lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease with Kiwis allowed to restaurants and bars, hang out with friends and attend small gatherings under alert level 2.

On Friday the gathering limit will also increase from 10 people to 100, allowing Kiwis back to gigs, events and church and funeral services.

Hopefully, this will allow some relief for those getting frustrated being stuck inside with their partners.