Even before Prime Minister Abe declared the initial Covid-19 state of emergency in early April, #コロナ離婚 (#coronarikon), meaning “corona divorce,” was appearing in social media here as people used it to express their frustration toward spouses they were having to spend more time with as the use of teleworking increased.
Now, as Tokyoites pass one month of being urged to stay home–and with the rest of the nation at the most only nine days behind – for many of those people, that frustration has turned into a resolution to separate from partners whose values–the current circumstances have shown them–are incompatible with their own.
It’s a stressful time. Along with the fear of contracting the illness, our movements are restricted and there is no knowing how long those limits will be kept in place. Many people have lost jobs and income, and much more fear the same will happen to them.
Kids are home all day every day. While we keep our distance from the rest of society, we are stuck together with our families 24/7. In this pressure-cooker environment, it’s easy to get angry and dissatisfied with those closest to us.
The first nation to deal with the new coronavirus, and the first to enforce a lockdown was China. Divorce filings surged when confinement ended there. Couples filing for divorce in Shanghai had to wait for up to a month for an appointment they would normally have received within a week.
As lockdowns started in other countries, it was predicted that the same would happen worldwide, and that looks to be coming true. Lawyers in various countries say they are receiving many phone calls from couples seeking divorce as soon as lockdowns are lifted.
One of the main reasons why wives–and it is predominantly women–are rearing for divorce is the unhelpfulness of their partners. This is particularly true for couples with young children.
Under the corona-rikon hashtag, “meneki wo ageru” (meaning “boost immunity”) tweeted about her husband: “You get up, eat lunch, spend a little time with the kids and then go back to bed. If you’re going to stay up at night watching YouTube, at least be up when the kids get up and go to bed.”
Even in households without children, wives who have taken on the housework to allow their husbands to devote themselves to their jobs are finding that when they become the busiest worker in the house, that same consideration is not given to them.
Under the Twitter name “please listen to the stupid things my defective husband does,” one woman writes, “My husband is vacationing under the name of ‘teleworking’ while I continue to go out to work six days a week. When I get home, dinner’s not made and he’s been drinking and is now asleep.”
As in other countries, domestic violence is increasing during the stay-at-home period. A Tokyo-based support organization for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, A+, has told NHK that inquiries have increased since March. Many cases have sighted money worries as spurring violence, as well as the stress of working at home–usually at the dining table–surrounded by family, especially noisy children.
No time to oneself
In a more particularly Japanese conundrum, a 26-year-old woman tells the Lip Pop website for women about the stress she is feeling now that her husband works from home.
“Until now, the time when my husband was out was a time that I had to myself, and I could eat or vacuum whenever I liked. He doesn’t help and the stress has built up and I’ve started thinking about divorce. The biggest burden is having to pay attention to another person’s needs even when I am at home.”
As well as the stress of having no time alone, this woman’s troubles seem to reflect the traditional role of Japanese wives as catering to their husbands’ every need. It’s the leading reason for women to choose sotsukon, or graduation from marriage.
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