After almost two years of COVID, lockdowns, stress and lifestyle upheaval it seems humanity is copying the virus that continues to torment the planet.
Just as the virus grows, divides and spreads its contagion, so are relationships coming apart as isolation and pressure take their toll on the state of our hearts.
Some are even calling it “the great separation” as the coronavirus leaves shattered relationships in its wake, with more than one in five couples reporting stress and friction as two more symptoms of the pandemic.
According to a national survey conducted for online platform amica, a further eight per cent among more than 1000 respondents said their situation had caused them and their partners to consider separating.
Notably, the poll was taken in October while lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT were still in place.
Some 37 per cent of NSW residents who took part reported experiencing relationship stress or said they were considering separating as a result of lockdowns.
Young love on the rocks
The figure was only marginally lower in Victoria, where 32 per cent of those surveyed reported love had wilted since March 2020, when lockdowns began in earnest.
Young couples fared worst, with 40 per cent of those aged 18-34 experiencing relationship stress compared to 28 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds.
Those aged 45-54 scored 30 per cent and those 55 or over, 17 per cent.
Gabrielle Canny, a director at National Legal Aid and amica’s project chief, says the while the past two years have been extremely challenging for all Australians, some have found it more stressful than others.
“We anticipate there are tens of thousands of couples who have held things together as long as they can but now want to move on without becoming one of those bitter and expensive separation horror stories we so often hear about,” she said.
“The best piece of advice I can give to couples who feel their relationship has run its course is do your research and arm yourself with information before you arm yourself with a lawyer.”
Amica offers a separation app designed by family lawyers to help guide couples through the process as calmly and fairly as possible.
It is federal government-backed and free to use if one partner is receiving Centrelink support.
The service uses artificial intelligence to assess the length of relationships, assets and earnings, age and health needs, arrangements for taking care of children, and future needs.
Ms Canny said there were at least some positive findings among the research, with one in five respondents saying their relationship had improved during the pandemic and 48 per cent saying the virus had no impact.
“We also see that relationship stress is lower in those places that have avoided prolonged lockdowns, such as South Australia, where just one in 10 people say the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have had a negative impact on their relationship,” she said.
“This gives hope to those in NSW, the ACT and Victoria, for example, that now lockdowns are lifted, your relationship could also improve and become stronger.”
Some 1009 people participated in the poll, with 731 of them either married, in a de facto relationship, engaged or in a relationship.