“Things had been bad for some time, but they got even worse with the lockdown,” says Ana, a 34-year-old beauty therapist. She and Javier (38) had been married for three years when the pandemic struck. “Then when we were able to go out again, we each did our own thing and the situation got even worse. We fought all the time,” says Ana, who ended their marriage last year.
Their story is not unusual. According to Spain's National Institute of Statistics, separations, divorces and annulments in Malaga province increased by 15% last year, which is 2% higher than the national average.
“I have been in this profession for 30 years and it’s hard to think of a situation like this one. Not just because the number of cases has increased, but because it is rare to find one which isn’t contested. Very few couples are divorcing by mutual consent,” says lawyer Ana Ganga.
“What we are seeing now can only be compared with the economic crisis between 1996 and 1998. And there is a great deal of conflict among the couples. Their situation has become very difficult,” she says.
Last year, 3,618 couples divorced in Malaga, and that was almost 1,700 more than the previous year. Ana Ganga says although there were different reasons for the divorces, in many cases they have been young couples with very little money or people aged between 35 and 45. “The number of people divorcing in that age group has been incredible,” she says.
The number of legal separations also went up last year, to 203 in the province. This was an increase of 42%, ten points higher than the national average.
“The lockdown seems to have been very hard for couples in a conflictive relationship and also those on what we call auto-pilot, with highly structured routines who appear to have no problems because they keep so busy all the time. Those two examples suffered a lot, because they lack a moderately healthy intimacy,” says clinical psychologist and sexologist Arun Mansukhani.
“A series of extraordinary circumstances occurred at the same time: the pandemic, the lockdown, the war, fears over the economy. People became very stressed and that affects their decision-making. The more stressed they are, the more likely their relationship is to break up” he says.
Like the more than 3,600 couples in Malaga who divorced last year, for whom the stress in their marriages had just become too much to bear.