Prolonged Covid lockdowns test marriages

By Dang Khoa, Long NguyenAugust 15, 2021 | 07:21 pm PT
Prolonged Covid lockdowns test marriages
A couple have an argument. Photo by Envato Elements
Economic difficulties, pandemic fears and lockdown anxiety are straining marriages amid the Covid outbreak.

Nguyen Thi Van woke up on a Sunday morning in August to go to a local market and buy groceries for her family, but her husband tried to prevent her from going out.

"Why do you do go out for food amid this raging Covid outbreak?" he asked, exasperated. "We still have food."

Van, who had planned to buy fruits, became angry and told her husband to help instead of complaining.

She told VnExpress International: "Wearing masks, going out, washing hands ... I always take them all very seriously. But he is too much."

They have had a lot of arguments during the lockdown.

"Last week I was tired of watching news related to the pandemic, and I told him to turn off the TV, he got angry."

Van and her husband of Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District are among many couples whose marriages have taken a hit from being cooped up together.

As of Monday, Vietnam has recorded nearly 271,000 Covid cases in the outbreak that started in late April, forcing many localities to impose lockdowns at various levels.

In HCMC, the nation's Covid epicenter, there are new tensions between Le Huu Khoi and Truong Gia Truc, who have been married for four years.

Khoi used to work as a personal trainer and Truc as a kindergarten teacher.

But when city authorities shut down gyms in early May to curb the spread of the virus, the 29-year-old became a delivery driver for a ride-hailing app. Truc became unemployed since her school closed.

The stress increased when Truc’s school stopped paying her basic salary after the virulent fourth Covid wave began, making Khoi the breadwinner.

She lamented: "Sometimes he got tired and told me that I was useless. I do not want to become a burden, and he should have shown his sympathy."

Last week when Khoi told her she was a burden, she burst into tears.

Fears of infection risks are also leading to domestic arguments.

"Whenever he returns home from work and plays with the children without changing his clothes and taking a shower, I cannot help getting angry," Tran Thi Thi Ha, a Saigon housewife, said.

According to the HCMC Center for Disease Control, more than 5,000 areas in the city were locked down as of August 11, and the number was more than 1,500 a month ago.

"At the end of the day, we must protect ourselves and our children. But my husband is negligent, and it annoys me."

The closed confines caused by the lockdown create the perfect environment for issues to surface, from caring for elderly parents who are at risk of getting infected and unequal division of parenting to household responsibilities.

"When he works from home, I realize he is not that busy, but he keeps refusing to do house chores," Van said.

"That is nonsense. Sometimes I felt like we were on a brink of a war."

"Our cleaner has stopped working because of the lockdown, and he is supposed to help me with cleaning the house, but he does not."

Dr Le Thuy Hang of the HCMC University Medical Center said losing jobs, prolonged lockdowns, negative news, and living in confined spaces for months have a negative effect on people's mental health and causes anxiety.

When social distancing began last April, complaints about domestic abuse to the Vietnam Women’s Union hotline increased by 50 percent, and the number of people who needed to be housed at Peace House, a shelter for women survivors of violence managed by the union, increased by 80 percent, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

The Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender - Family - Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) also has a hotline for various issues, including domestic violence, and Vietnam News quoted a representative of CSAGA as saying that calls to complain about domestic abuse "increased greatly... during social distancing."

This corresponds with what other organizations around the world have been reporting during lockdowns and social distancing, UN Women Vietnam’s head of office, Elisa Fernandez, said.

A family leaves a locked-down area in Hanois Hoan Kiem District in the middle of the night, August, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

A family leaves a locked-down area in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem District in the middle of the night, August 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Some couples, unable to sort out their conflicts, have even separated.

Le Thi Thuy Chi of Hanoi's Long Bien District took her children to her mother's house after having an argument with her husband about Covid infection risks.

The 35-year-old said: "He kept saying he was healthy and Covid was nothing, and kept going to work though he could work from home. I could not stand such an irresponsible husband."

But many couples also realize it is a testing time for everyone and try to be measured with their spouses.

Nguyen Thu Huong, a teacher in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, said: "I understand that everyone, including my husband, is stressed out by this pandemic. So whenever I want to raise my voice, I think about that."

She and her husband have taken up new hobbies like growing vegetables on their rooftop garden, watching workout videos on YouTube and practicing and cooking.

Van has also encouraged her husband to do housework.

"It took me many time to convince him to do the cleaning, with support from our children."

She is waiting for her Covid vaccine so that she and her husband can avoid arguments when she goes out to buy food and groceries.

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