13th May 2020

Lockdown – Are You Having Doubts About Your Relationship?

By James Pirrie

Relationship doubts during lockdown. In this blog, director James Pirrie discusses the recent findings by Relate and how relationship doubts can be managed with assistance from the right third parties. 

In late April, Relate’s survey (found here) of a little over two thousand adults found that:

  • More than one in eight people were having relationship doubts, rising to one in five (21%) for 25-34 year olds.
  • Almost a quarter said the current circumstances are placing pressure on their relationship.
  • 27% of respondents in a relationship are finding their partner irritating right now (22% of men compared to 31% of women).

Relationship doubts can be mutual or they can be harboured by one side, perhaps coming devastatingly out of the blue for the other. For many years now there has been that rather horrid frisson as regards the divorce Mondays that arrive after the schools go back in September and at the end of the Christmas holidays. At FLiP our own experience is that, increasingly, these peaks are less about profound irritation at spending too much time with the family. They are more about the upshot of having had time away from work and making use of the opportunity to carry out a profound reassessment of what matters in life.

For some, there is no doubt that the tradition of the New Year resolution has finally caused the jump to be made despite the fears of what the future holds and the anticipated agony of the upset that it is likely to cause.

At FLiP, we have always sought to be supportive of relationships that can be made to work – and during the COVID-19 pandemic, all the more so. My colleague Pamela Collis wrote an interesting blog on this back in March 2019 (Do I Need a Divorce?).

  • Generally our initial focus is going to be to address the fires that may be burning. Once that is done a couple are far better able to reflect on any challenges in their relationship.
  • After all there was something that brought a couple together in the first place. Over the years living life together, and often when there are children, the glue to hold the relationship together may not always become stronger. But certainly there are more losses and difficulties that can arrive if the relationship ends.
  • At FLiP we make relationship support services available to all our clients. Yes, this may be help with how to manage the process of separation better and to create better transitions for children. But first are the questions as to whether the relationship can be made to work with an examination of the relationship and what are the motivations towards separation.

So, the Relate findings are worrying; it suggests that many may be bounced into separation by the irritation of co-existence in the pressure cooker of health worries, isolation and – for many – financial uncertainty. Hopefully these are short-term issues, that may start to be solved as the acute phase of this horrible disease passes. They may even be the stuff that makes our relationships stronger in the future.

Of course there will be some – perhaps many – who have taken this time to really reflect on life and the future. Some may have realised:

  • That life as it is cannot be sustained for the remainder of their four score and ten (or whatever period it proves to be); and
  • That they and their partner are not capable of the changes needed to create that sustainable life-long relationship.

For them the pragmatics-stage can begin – looking at how best separation might take place. For them perhaps the sooner it starts the better. Agreements are far easier to work through when there is simply reluctant certainty and when it can be given time. Agreements can become harder when we are increasingly impatient for closure.

But for those who are simply irritated beyond their wits’ end at domestic habits or feeling on top of each other:

  • Pause
  • Take time to reflect; and
  • Ideally get some professional help.

In easier times, these foibles may be tolerated or may be talked through. None of us want to be leaping from our relationships and being left to wonder why in years to come.

In short, difficulties in a relationship are not only about reaching for a lawyer for guidance. Lawyers work well when we know what it is that we are trying to achieve. Generally your first step might be to reach for a trained professional to talk through the relationship and where it is going … either on your own or with your partner.  What you may have been experiencing now might be the tolling of a bell at the end of the relationship but it may just be that these are irritating foibles in tough times and you may still get through these times better with your partner than on our own again.

At FLiP we have in-house counsellors who can support you through your relationship difficulties. Our in-house counsellor Jo Harrison has a depth and breadth of expertise in working with clients who are separating or divorcing. She is sensitive to the impact of relationship breakdown and how it can affect individuals and families. As a relationship counsellor, Jo fully appreciates the emotional upheaval and difficulties of a separation and as a former family lawyer she understands the particular pressures of going through the legal process.

For further information and advice on resolving your family law issues during lockdown, please contact director James Pirrie or any of our top London divorce lawyers and family mediators on E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.