As Australia and the rest of the world emerge from the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic the effects of lockdowns, border restrictions, business closures, home schooling and social isolation continue to impact the mental health of many Australians. The results from recent research have also found that the divorce rate amongst Australian couples has skyrocketed. According to divorce statistics in Australia by The Age, over 200,000 divorce applications were lodged by unhappy couples in the past two years which did not include de-facto separations or figures from Western Australia.

The Australian government responded to the COVID pandemic by shutting international borders in March 2020 and keeping them shut for the better part of 18 months. With the intention of restricting people entering Australia from abroad where COVID was rapidly circulating, the policy restricted international travel for the majority of the population. This led to couples being separated and unable to reunite for months and at times years. For other couples they experienced heightened stress when they were unable to leave Australia to visit close family residing overseas. In addition to international border closures, Australia experienced frequent state border closures leading to family separations and heightened couple stress, leading to a spike in divorces in Australia.

Victoria and New South Wales experienced the longest and most stringent lockdowns in Australia. These decisions involved legally enforceable stay at home orders for large pockets of the population, leaving couples forced to spend extended amounts of time together. With restrictions on time allotted for daily exercise, prohibitions of seeing friends and family and few permissible reasons to leave home, many couples found it impossible to have space from one another for recharging and self-care. The forced time together left couples unable to avoid each other and likely to a surfacing of issues that had gone unaddressed, perhaps for many years. Some came to the conclusion they shared irreconcilable differences with their partner leading to the breakdown of the relationship.

The ‘forced time’ between couples caused relationship stress
The forced time together also created a “pressure cooker” situation for many. Even minor triggers could set off disagreements and arguments, leading to overall unhappiness within the relationship. For some couples, disagreements and arguments escalate into domestic violence, and the family home no longer is a safe place. The “pressure cooker” was further inflamed by the associated financial stress either through loss of work or loss of business in association with the closure of non-essential services and businesses during the lockdown. For many, this represented a loss of self-esteem, identity and purpose leading to poor life satisfaction. Another significant strain was the closure of schools and the requirement of children to learn from home, leaving many parents having to rapidly develop teaching skills, coping with, and caring for anxious and lonely children with no respite for months at a time. In some families the caregiving burden may have been unequally distributed leaving one couple member feeling taken for granted or expected to repeatedly assume the role of emotional caretaker.

For other couples, the stark reality of a pandemic can reflect on their life satisfaction. Day after day, we were inundated with death tolls worldwide as COVID claimed the lives of three million people, according to the WHO. The ongoing reminder of our mortality and the fragility of life may have led some people to leave relationships for a more fulfilling experience before their death.

The divorce rate in Australia vs The World
The median age at divorce has also risen over the ten years through 2020 to 45.6 years for males and 42.8 years for females. IBISWorld forecasts the percentage of divorce in Australia to increase by 0.7% in 2022, to 52,145.

The divorce rate in Australiais 1.9 per 1,000 people, which is lower than the divorce rate in the USA but higher than the divorce rate in many other countries. This places Australia right behind the United States at 2.5 divorces occurring per 1,000 people each year. The highest divorce rate is in Russia with 4.8 per 1,000 people, while the lowest is in Sri Lanka with 0.15 per 1,000 people.

The divorce rate in Australia has been increasing over the last few decades, but it is still lower than the divorce rate in other developed countries. In addition, second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages, with 60% ending in divorce. The main reason for Australia’s high divorce rate is that it is a very individualistic society, where couples often put their own needs and desires above those of their partner. This can lead to problems in the relationship, eventually leading to divorce.

Couple & Marriage Counselling
If you’ve reached a point in your relationship where you can’t resolve an impasse, and communication has broken down, couples counselling may be your best option to move forward.

Here at Bayside Psychotherapy, we have a number of counsellors and therapists with solid experience in the delicate task of relationship counselling, who are well qualified to potentially help you get back on track to a thriving, loving relationship. Sessions can be held either online or face-to-face at our clinic, depending on your preference and which therapist you see.

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Therapists who do online

  • Adam Szmerling
  • Carolina Selvarajoo
  • Humaira Ansari
  • Kelli Tranter
  • Lawrence Akers
  • Natalie Szmerling
  • Georgina Delamain

Therapists who do in-clinic

  • Adam Szmerling
  • Natalie Szmerling
  • Georgina Delamain