An author and marriage expert with Focus on the Family says couples need to be intentional if they are to successfully combat the negative effects COVID-19 is having on marriages.
The U.S. divorce rate has spiked amid the stay-at-home orders imposed during the pandemic. The number of people looking to get a divorce between March and June rose 34 points over the same period last year, according to Legal Templates, a service that provides and tracks legal documents.
According to that report, 31% of couples admitted the lockdown has done "irreparable harm" to their marriage; young couples were most susceptible – and 20% of the couples seeking a divorce had been married five months or less.
Family therapist Dr. Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family is saddened by the numbers, but not surprised.
"Anytime that stress is intense and prolonged, that's like the perfect storm," he tells OneNewsNow. "It creates a tremendous amount of exhaustion [and] fatigue, [and] it makes them more reactive in their relationships."
Historically, says Smalley, many couples have been really good "avoiders" – that is, they mask weaknesses in their marriage by piling on outside activities or focusing on the children instead of themselves. But he contends that the stress created by the COVID pandemic could be turned into a positive.
"It does create an opportunity – and it's forcing people to deal with the issues in their marriage," he offers.
For those whose marriage is in real, imminent danger, he advises seeking Christian counseling as soon as possible. But for those whose tepid marriages have been exposed by the pandemic, Smalley suggests getting creative. "Do something new. Do something different," he urges.
If, for example, a couple's normal quarantined night ends with them lying in bed, watching Netflix before turning out the light: "Go watch Netflix in a different part of the house," he says.
"I'm telling you that as ridiculous as that sounds, anytime that we add in a new element into our marriage, it activates the part of our brain that was firing when we were first dating," he concludes.