Japan Today

#coronadivorce trends online as locked-down couples realize they don’t actually get along

By Luke Mahoney, grape Japan

Families across Japan are experiencing some difficult times. Schools are out of session recently, forcing children to stay at home. Likewise, working adults find themselves making living room offices official as teleworking becomes the norm. With no end in sight to the pandemic, relationships are beginning to suffer.

In all likelihood, the problem will get worse before it gets better. Only recently, columnists were reporting about the peculiar absence of infections in Japan. Less than a month ago, for example, The Japan Times wrote that perhaps cultural habits—bowing as opposed to shaking hands, wearing masks, cleanliness, etc.—had bequeathed an advantage to the island nation. At the time of the report, only 900 cases had been confirmed.

Yet, in a matter of weeks, that dialogue has changed. Daily infections are growing in metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, while clusters of infected individuals are occurring across the nation. A state of emergency has been declared for the capital, as pedestrians and commuters increasingly stay home.

Part-time workers are cutting back hours. As we reported, restaurants, supermarkets, and others are changing store hours as well as business models to accommodate working parents. While this flexibility is necessary, a reduction in work is turning household budgets upside-down. Indeed, those with nonregular employment (e.g., part-time working mothers) are feeling uncertain about their safety net and their financial future.

Married couples are struggling to cope as a multitude of household stressors converge. Sadly, corona divorce is a growing trend throughout the country.

A Message from a Marriage Counselor

While the health impact of COVID-19 is devastating, an overlooked social impact is making itself known. As couples spend more time together, many are finding fractures in their relationship they had not previously understood.

According to Atsuko Okano, a researcher of marital problems, clinicians are seeing an increase in strained marriages. She explains that "when widespread societal issues occur, a formerly stable relationship can develop in unexpected ways."

Okano continues to explain that a similar phenomenon was seen after The Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Although most would expect couples to "dig deep," many touched by the tragedy were instead driven to reexamine their lives and relationships.

Eiko, a 37-year-old housewife who has a remote IT job, is living this reality. Her husband was commissioned by his company to work from home as the pandemic became widespread. According to Eiko, her husband effectively took over her living room working space. As the couple often bicker, Eiko is struggling to adapt to the situation.

“He always acts like his job is so important," she explains. Initially, Eiko tried to divide household chores, but she quickly found the effort futile. Her husband attempted to make lunch and was overwhelmed. "He asked so many questions like 'Where's the frying pan?' 'How big do I cut the vegetables?' and so on. I couldn't get any work done." Finally, says Eiko, he refused to do any more cooking claiming that it's a woman's job.

“If things go on like this, I don’t think I can continue,” she admits.

Divorce in Japan

Unfortunately, there are many like Eiko. While divorce in Japan is significantly less common than in some Western nations such as America, it is a growing trend. Approximately one-third of marriages end in separation, with the number being higher for couples who wed younger.

As divorce becomes more accepted, the stigma is decreasing. Many divorcees date and remarry. Yet, there are hurdles in the workplace. Divorce often weakens future employment prospects. Also, while child custody goes solely to the mother in most cases, fewer women have stable careers than men. This situation creates further financial uncertainty as the number of men who avoid child support is relatively high in Japan.

Unexpectedly, however, there is a significant number of Japanese couples who divorce upon retiring. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the divorce rate in this demographic increased by 300 percent—the reason why is similar to Eiko's. Couples who rarely saw one another during their working years are suddenly forced to spend large amounts of time together. Men often treat their wives like servants, and, not surprisingly, women are unwilling to accept this change to their quality of life.

#CoronaDivorce on Twitter

Indeed, it seems there is nothing worse than spending time with loved ones. As corona continues to wreak havoc on home lives, frustrated couples are reaching out on social media. In particular, #Coronadivorce is trending on Twitter. While some posts are seriously considering divorce, it seems others are simply venting over a temporary, albeit frustrating, situation.

"About this corona divorce trend, my husband is currently teleworking. If I have to also, we will have no personal time. It’ll be really hard being together 24/7 for an entire month."

“I keep seeing guys who have been told to telework writing 'my wife gets mad at me even though I didn't do anything.' Don't you understand anything! It's because you DON'T do anything that she's angry."

Or, in a post now unavailable since the owner made her account private, one Twitter user writes:

“If this continues and we can’t leave the house until Golden Week, I’m positive our relationship will hit a new low. If my POS husband keeps being a jerk while lying around the house, I imagine this will become a desperate situation. I want to go home, but Osaka and Hyogo are in bad shape. I give up! It's going to be the worst Golden Week vacation ever."

It seems like COVID-19 has gotten everybody down.

Read more stories from grape Japan.

-- Nightlife workers barred from working during the pandemic fight for government assistance

-- Cherry blossom viewings canceled, Japanese residents turn homes into sakura sanctuaries

-- Japanese service helps victims get consolation money for adultery and sexual harassment

© grape Japan

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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A message to couples: My wife and I are enjoying teleworking together. How? It is simple. Though we are in the same space, work time is work time. She and I both respect each other's space and time. It is as if we are actually at work.

Guys teleworking with a stay at home wife/mother; Based on my student's complaints and advise I give (if asked) During your work time you are at work. If you need to communicate with each other, do the same as if you're at the office. Text each other. And guys, your wife has a daily routine, don't interrupt it. If you want lunch, get it yourself as if you are working at the office. My wife at times would make a bento for me. Nothing has changed. At lunch time, I walk to the refrigerator and open the door and most times a bento is there with my name on it. If not, I make something myself or take a walk to the local convenience store. She is my wife, not my staff!

Hope this helps save a few marriages. I works for me, have been thanked as it helped for others. Best to you.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Bravo, since 1981. Solutions and options such as the ones you describe are logical and simple between mature people. Bonus, they cause no emotional stress to anyone and do not strain the relationship.

If, however, hubby is a narcissistic Botchan with high expectations for servile behavior from his partner, the wife is better off without him. (Speaking from experience.)

9 ( +10 / -1 )


She is my wife, not my staff!

Bravo. A man that gets it.

My husband is the same, he doesn't expect me to derail from my routine just because he is working from home. He doesn't get frustrated and helps out when he can. I'm lucky.

At the same time my in-laws who are both... up there in age... my father in law does next to nothing. Basically since he can't go to his second home and have daily nomikais out in the mountains, he just hangs around and expects my MIL to keep things completely clean, 3 meals a day, find entertaining things for them to do, etc. every day. It doesn't surprise me that people are going insane.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

That’s the problem when people get married for the wrong reasons! More than half my Japanese friends don’t even know why they got married. Common responses given by some are:

All my friends were getting married so I also decided to do so.

I was dating him/her for a long time so it was logical to get married as the next step.

Many people around him/her said that he/she is such a wonderful person so I decided to marry him/her. 4. I felt alone and stressed about it so I got married quickly.

I wanted to quit my job and become a housewife.

I wanted to have children soon.

People cannot find happiness if they get married for stupid reason and will end up irritating their partner. Don’t marry someone that you can live with ( honeymoon period is bound to end ), marry someone that you can’t live without!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Most Japanese married couples I know are only “married” in name. They lead separate lives, but sleep under the same roof. Bizarre.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“Where's the frying pan?' 'How big do I cut the vegetables?' and so on. I couldn't get any work done." Finally, says Eiko, he refused to do any more cooking claiming that it's a woman's job.”

no wonder he said that if she got mad with a few questions.

So the guy tries to make lunch and she can’t handle questions?

nobody in the office ever gets questions??

she obviously hated him anyway.

because usually a man making lunch and checking how the size of veges sge likes isn’t really that unbearable.

if she got upset at that no wonder he gave up and told her to do it.


i wonder what their sex is like...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Lets be more honest folks, the vast majority of men in Japan are barely TOLERATED in their own home at best!!! So after years decades of THAT, now the virus of course it isn't going to go well, aint rocket science.

Most marriages quickly turn into room mate situations, little to no love in the relationships so again with the virus not surprising.

And ladies you TOO are part of the problems.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

You probably never were really compatible and now the confirmation has come.

Unexpectedly, however, there is a significant number of Japanese couples who divorce upon retiring. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the divorce rate in this demographic increased by 300 percent—the reason why is similar to Eiko's.

Case in point.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My wife IS my staff, but also my best companion, friend and advisor. Staying at home more than usual (and I already stay at home a lot) has been great for us!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Eiko's husband sounds like someone with a bloated self-importance who really doesn't know how to do anything, just like a stereotypical Japanese husband/salaryman. Sure he's making lunch, but can't be bothered to open a few drawers, or put a little bit of thought about how big should he cut veggies, doesn't he ever pay attention when he eats them ?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

bowing as opposed to shaking hands, wearing masks, cleanliness, etc.—

And everyone passing Meishi/Business cards back and forth does not mean...possible contamination? sure. Once again the fake cleanliness facade.

For the last two years starting from retirement, I have found I get along even better with my wife because we can share things and trade off.

I do know of a bunch of couples though at each other's throats. Such is life. That blissful first 3-6 months is temporary states of romantic insanity fueled by biology.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Love is that feeling that is , till death do we part. Corona V is just the angel sent to people that do not love each other.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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