Cupid versus COVID: One-quarter of B.C. couples say they have lost the ‘romantic spark’

We’re spending more time with our partner, but it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, according to a recent Leger poll.

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COVID-19 has been hard on the heart, according to a recent Leger poll that found one in 20 British Columbians have experienced a break-up since the pandemic began.

The news is not much better for those who have stuck it out. The poll of 1,000 British Columbians conducted for Postmedia between May 7 and 9 found that 55 per cent of us are spending more time with our partner, but one-quarter feel more irritable toward them or admit they have lost the “romantic spark.”

That’s not surprising to Cindy Stibbard, a certified divorce coach with Vancouver-based Divorce ReDefined.

Stibbard said reports from other countries show divorce rates may be up by about 30 per cent. But Canadian statistics are hard to find; Statistics Canada doesn’t release monthly data on divorces, and in B.C., most couples must be legally separated for a year before they can file for divorce. Anecdotal reports suggest more relationships are on the rocks.


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Sonali Sharma, a Vancouver lawyer who practises collaborative family law, has seen her divorce cases grow exponentially since the pandemic began.

“There’s been a real surge in the number of clients I’m speaking to on a daily basis,” she said.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues, such as the housing and affordability crisis, while also creating new ones, such as the disruption of routines, disconnection from community, or the pressure of caring for young children while trying to work from home.

“Many couples are seeing it all unravel right now,” said Sharma. “For some couples, the key to a successful marriage was that they didn’t spend a lot of time together. Now they’re faced with each other 24/7.”

Stibbard, who helps her clients navigate a daunting and confusing process, has also noticed another pandemic-related phenomenon: The fear of what comes next at a time when it’s difficult to make social connections.

“Many couples are nervous about separating right now,” she said. “How do you move on?”

Both women recommend couples take time to figure out what they want to achieve before moving toward costly and combative litigation.

“It takes time. Don’t panic. Don’t rush it,” said Sharma, adding that her advice changes in cases of domestic violence or a severe power imbalance.

The Leger poll found the pandemic has strained many of our close relationships.

Three in 10 parents say they are spending more time with their children, with one in 10 saying they feel more irritable toward them. In comparison, fewer than a quarter of adults are spending more time with their parents, but two in 10 say they feel more irritable.


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Seven per cent of British Columbians say they have criticized their partner for not following the provincial health officer’s orders, while seven per cent say they’ve been criticized by their partner.

One in 20 British Columbians have experienced a break-up since the beginning of the pandemic, led by those in the 18-to-34 age group.

But B.C. statistics on marriages and births may show that life — and love — always finds a way.

There were 18,493 marriages in B.C. in 2020, compared to 23,866 in pre-pandemic 2019, according to data collected by B.C. Vital Statistics. Marriage numbers took a big dive in April 2020 with only 730 across the province, compared to 1,453 the year before. In addition, there were around 1,000 less marriages in B.C. each month through May, June, July and August.

But so far in 2021, the number of marriages in the winter months has been almost consistent with pre-pandemic numbers, with 1,013 in April 2021 compared to 1,453 in April 2019.

So far this year, there have been 14,050 babies born in B.C. There were 42,732 babies born in 2020, and 43,878 in 2019.

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