Pandemic pushes some couples together, pulls others apart

| Mar 5, 2021 | Divorce

The pandemic made the past year a long and difficult struggle in Orange County, and across the U.S. The nation’s economic challenges – lockdowns, layoffs and the migration of a significant portion of the workforce from the office to the home – has resulted in struggles for many married couples as well, compelling them to spend much more time together.

For some couples, the increased together-time has strengthened their marriage and helped them gain a better understanding of, and appreciation for their spouse. For other couples – often those whose relationships include significant time for individual pursuits – the extra time together can “seem more like a house arrest than a fantasy,” said Steve Harris, a professor of marriage and family therapy at the University of Minnesota.

Temperatures rising

An Ohio psychotherapist who specializes in marriage counseling says the ongoing pandemic has disrupted many spouses’ coping mechanisms.

“For couples who had a tendency to use their business to avoid problems, the pandemic has made things infinitely worse,” Gregory Popcak said. “The lockdown has raised the emotional temperature a few notches . . . things that were provocative before are now catastrophic.”

The absence of the office

The Rev. Russ Berg, who runs a faith-based marriage counseling ministry, said he sees couples “come in saying they’re overwhelmed, fighting over finances, their kids’ education. Without going to work, they don’t have that buffer of being physically gone. They feel they’re on top of each other.”

The AP notes that national statistics on divorce and marriage during the pandemic won’t be available any time soon, but that data compiled thus from several states suggests notable declines in both categories.

A look at the limited data

In Florida, divorces were down 20 percent from March through December of last year compared to those months in 2019, and marriages declined by 27 percent. In Oregon, divorces dropped 24 percent and marriages were down 16 percent.

No California divorce and marriage statistics were included in the AP article.

Attorney Elizabeth Lindsey, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said that in her practice many “people I’ve consulted with were not ready to pull the trigger during the pandemic,” but that expects that to change when the threat of Covid-19 eases.