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Suddenly Single

National study suggests a shocking 4,673,565 break-ups since start of Covid-19 pandemic

Almost 5 million Canadians have found themselves suddenly single following the pandemic, according to recent research. Finder asked Canadians how their love lives have been impacted since the coronavirus first hit – everything from break-up stats to COVID quirks and major stresses, and the results are downright shocking.

The research uncovered that since the start of the pandemic 15% or 4,673,565 Canadians have experienced a relationship break-up of some kind.

Graphic around number of break-ups in Canada.

Canadians are separating and divorcing at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic. Unfortunately there are no recent national statistics on separations or divorces pre-pandemic as Stats Can stopped tracking divorce rates in 2008 (there were 70,000 divorces in Canada that year). Recent research from Finder has about 900,000 Canadians saying they got divorced since the start of the pandemic, with even more saying they got separated. While it is difficult to make a comparison to statistics that are more than 10 years old, it is fairly safe to say that the divorce and separation rate has at least doubled since the pandemic.

Also important to note, most Canadians aren’t granted a divorce until they have been separated from their spouse for a year, meaning with the high rate of separations in the last year (4%), the divorce rate could be elevated for a few years.

Covid causing couples to come undone

2020 seemed to be the year of the split and COVID firmly established a trend of Canadians reevaluating their relationships or having their partner leave them and finding themselves suddenly single.

So how exactly is the pandemic break-up effect being felt amongst Canadians?

While the state of break-ups is fairly equal across genders, where things really get interesting is age. Canada’s youngest adults are the ones seeing their romantic relationships practically dissolve into thin air during the pandemic.

An astounding quarter (25%) of younger Canadians aged 18 to 24 are breaking up, the most of any age group. And while it’s no surprise those in this age group are experiencing more break-ups with school closures and relocations, young Canadians are seeing more disruption in their ability to socialize and see romantic partners.

Those aged 25 to 34 are also breaking up at a high rate as well with 10% having experienced a break-up since the start of the pandemic and 3% experiencing either a separation or divorce.

Canadians aged 35 to 44 are really struggling to stay happily hitched during the pandemic with 10% of them experiencing a separation (5%) or divorce (5%) and another 8% a non-matrimonial break-up.

This age group is also most likely to have experienced the stress of having young children home from school. Many of these working parents were expected to juggle work and childcare – putting pressure on their marriages.

Overall, 45- to 64-year-olds are splitting at a rate of 11%, while just 5% of Canada’s seniors (65+) are splitting up, which is 10% less than the national average.

Heartbreak nation

Where you find yourself in Canada also seems to play a huge part in whether or not you experienced pandemic-induced heartbreak.

Quebecers have been splitting at a much higher rate than anywhere else across Canada, with nearly one quarter of the population (23%) saying they have experienced a break-up (11%), separation from a spouse (7%) or a divorce (6%), since the start of the pandemic.

A little further east Nova Scotians are second most likely overall to have experienced a break-up (21%). They also had the highest divorce rate (7%) as compared to any other Canadian province.

Canada’s west coast came in third with 17% of British Columbians experiencing some type of break-up. Following B.C. are Albertans with 15% of their population experiencing a break-up.

Provinces with the fewest break-ups can be found in the middle of the country. Coming in lower than the national average were Manitoba and Ontario at 11% each.

Most notably Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta saw the highest rates of marital separation (6-8%), meaning 2021 can expect the number of divorces to ramp up as well in these provinces.

COVID quirks weighing down relationships

Asked which “quarantine quirks” (new behaviours during lockdown) they disliked the most, a whopping 55% (16,800,397) of Canadians in a relationship admit that they have at least one.

Nationally, men (61%) are MUCH more bothered by their partner’s “quarantine quirks” than women (46%).

Canadian men may be a little more concerned with their partner’s quarantine lack of style, with 14% of them citing their partner sporting “track pants” often as the “quarantine quirk” that bothers them the most, versus only 8% of women.

With both partners often working at home together, there seemed to be cases where one partner might have enjoyed this opportunity to spend time more than the other. At 13%, both sexes report being equally irritated about their partner wanting to spend “too much time together”.

Online shopping became all too easy during the pandemic and it seems men (17%) are over twice as irritated as women (8%) about their partner’s online overspending.

Pandemic stress carried into 2021

It’s been a LONG pandemic winter for Canadians and it is showing in our stress levels. 41% or 12,616,206 Canadians say that cabin fever is their most significant stressor heading into 2021. But cabin fever isn’t affecting us all equally, especially for older Canadians, with 52% of those aged 55 to 64 and 47% of over-65s saying they’re finding it hard to cope being locked inside.

Closely following cabin fever, 40% of Canadians report the rise in COVID cases as a primary stressor.

Rounding out our 2020 stressors heading into 2021, 39% of Canadians are feeling financial stress, a surprisingly high 28% are panicked by US political chaos, 24% are stressed by trying to balance work and virtual school, and 19% are restless about their relationships, which is in line with the increased break-ups we are seeing, no doubt in part due to the stresses of the pandemic.

Canadian women are MUCH more stressed across the board

Canadian women are significantly more worried than men about specific stressors, including:

  • Fears of COVID cases rising – 45% women vs 36% of men
  • Finances – 45% of women vs 35% of men
  • Cabin fever – 44% of women vs 39% of men

What to do when you find yourself suddenly single?

Sell or stay? Likely, your home is your primary asset, so most Canadian couples will have to sell. In some cases one partner may want to stay in the family home and buy out their spouse. If your partner wants to stay in the home, be sure to get several expert opinions. This way you can determine a fair market value for the family home to ensure division of assets is truly equitable.

Rent or buy? In a COVID market, does it make more sense to buy a new home or simply rent while you figure out your next steps? There’s a case to be made for both options.

Go it solo? You may be in a tight and unexpected financial situation. In a non-pandemic time, a roommate could make sense, but with COVID it exposes you to more health-related risks. You could also end up quarantined with this person, so choose wisely.

Coordinate a cash out? If you and your partner have joint investments, you’ll have to consider what to do with them. Does it make the most sense to split them up and leave them invested or liquidate them to get badly needed cash to fund your resettlement or costly divorce?

Are the kids alright? If you are divorcing or separating with kids, ideally you and your soon to be ex-spouse can work together to determine a parenting plan that puts the kids’ best interests first. Consult with a family therapist or a mediator as a first step. Taking a collaborative approach could save thousands in legal fees and provide some peace of mind during a stressful time.

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