Kathmandu, June 7: When Ambika Gautam and Ashish Pokharel got married five years ago, they thought that their relationship would last forever. Having dated each other for nearly eight years before tying the nuptial knot, they were truly in love when Ashish went to Ambika’s parents and asked for her hand. They also had their first child last year and planned to spend the rest of their lives together, but then came the lockdown. “The first week was good,” Ambika said. “But then, we started to get on each other’s nerves. Little habits and quirks that we had never noticed before started to bother us.” Ashish said that the fights have got progressively worse and have now reached a point where something as small as turning on TV can set them off. Seeing the situation, and scared that their fights may affect their child, Ambika and Ashish have decided to gracefully end their marriage and get a divorce after the lockdown ends. Suhana and Rohit (both names changed on request) also discovered their incompatibility during the lockdown. Having been coupled by their parents nearly a decade ago and with two children, they were happy with each other until the lockdown forced them in each other’s constant presence, which brought some trust issues to light. “I am a social person and I like being in touch with friends,” Suhana said. But that being-in-touch made Rohit suspicious, who started inquiring about her activities and demanding to see her phone. Feeling accused, Suhana often retaliated which led to full-blown fights. The verbal disputes have sometimes turned physical as well, which has made Suhana decide towards divorce. “I have no intention of staying with a man who assaults me physically,” she said. While divorce may be an extreme step that not every couple takes, there is no doubt that the lockdown has put a strain on many marriages, according to Pragya Shrestha, a psychologist specialising in couple counselling. “There is a lot of stress and uncertainty right now and people are also turning to alcohol,” she said. “This makes the environment volatile and leads to domestic violence. A spike in domestic violence directly correlates to a spike in divorce rates or damaged marriages.” But quarrels are not the only thing putting pressure on relationships. Preeti Kayastha’s marriage is in trouble because she is the one doing all the chores. “I have to look after the kids and do all the household errands in addition to all my office work while my husband sits around watching TV or on his phone,” she complained. “This is really making me evaluate my relationship with him.” She used to be the one doing most of the things around the house at other times too but seeing her husband not help her even when he is so free right now has made her furious. Relationship counsellor Bidushi Srivastava calls this – resentment. When one partner is overloaded and feels that the other partner is not doing enough to share his/her load, that breeds resentment and turns the relationship sour, she said. She also said that most of the problems couples are experiencing may be old issues that are simply surfacing at this time. “Couples are being forced to confront many underlying issues that they had so far been ignoring,” said Srivastava, who added, “It may also be that the spouses were never really in sync. They survived because they were leading separate lives, but the forced cohabitation that the lockdown has imposed on them is making them aware of their differences.” Whatever the reason, she fears that the lockdown will damage many marriages. However, psychologist Shrestha believes that the lockdown also provides couples with an ideal opportunity to strengthen their bond. “This is a time for dialogue. Couples should sit down every day and be direct about what they seek and what they need. Healthy communication is the key to healing,” she emphasised. Similarly, she also pointed out that a lack of personal space was the root cause of most relationship problems. Before the lockdown, both the husbands and wives had their private spheres, their individual lives and their social circles. Now, the lockdown has compromised that which, in turn, has made people irritable and emotionally distant. “So, I advise couples to understand their partners’ need for space and socialisation and give each other some solitude to indulge in their hobbies and let loose,” she said.