Consider this common scenario: Mary’s day begins like an empty cup. If she fills the cup with a little water for every stressor experienced throughout the day, she may pour in water for a poor night’s sleep, an accident the puppy had on the carpet or the fact her spouse awoke in a sour mood. She will add more water because traffic delays made her late to work and even more because a coworker kept coughing near her during a meeting.
With an already full cup of water, Mary struggles through the day, returning home to find her spouse left dirty dishes in the sink “for her to clean.” There’s no more room for water in the cup, so Mary loses it with her spouse, who also had a trying day.
Melissa Golden, licensed professional counselor with Transformation Counseling, said the “cup analogy” is a good picture of how the stressors of COVID-19 have impacted some marriages. With “cups” already full from the trauma of the pandemic, Golden noted that for some couples, marital conflict may just be a matter of which “straw breaks the camel’s back” or which “splash of water overflows the cup.”
“In addition to all of the regular stressors of living in a broken world and being a sinner trying to live life with another sinner, COVID-19 has added many stressors to our plates, including disruption of our routines, fear, doubt, limitations, strong opinions, ‘decision fatigue,’ limitations on simple daily routines, separation from support and community and more,” Golden said.
Rhett McKenzie, a licensed professional counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling, said his marriage counseling caseload increased significantly as he watched levels of stress, anxiety and depression increase among his clients since the start of the nationwide quarantine.
“When emotions run high, we tend to take it out on those closest to us, which tends to be our spouse (for those who are married),” McKenzie said. “When we have been cooped up for months with the same people, then things that might not have been issues before are now magnified, and small issues become much bigger issues.”
Rise in divorce
In 2018 the United States registered approximately 782,000 divorces according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people started to think what to include in your estate plan and some experts forecast a post-pandemic rise in marriage splits.
An April survey of divorce lawyers by the American Academy of Marital Lawyers and from the Southfield divorce law firm revealed that 58% of lawyers surveyed had received requests to begin divorce proceedings. Results of a July survey indicated that number had grown to 83%.
According to AAML President Susan Myres, most early pandemic divorce requests stemmed from marriages that were struggling before the pandemic.
By the end of July, couples cited reasons for getting a divorce that included “the impact of being together 24/7 as a result of stay-at-home orders,” “clients have more time to think about their situation” and the “craziness of this pandemic is leading people to more insanity.”
Increased frequency of gaining custody over neglect and intensity of conflict within the relationship signal the need for help, McKenzie said. Unresolved conflict over the same issues is a good sign that communication and conflict resolution have broken down, he added.
And mitigating the trauma of COVID-19 begins with an understanding of how the mind and body react to the pandemic, Golden said. She suggests resources like Transformation Counseling’s video series “Thriving in the Unknown” as a way to help.
Trauma can affect the mind and body of the individuals in a couple, Golden noted. Fear, doubt, debilitating physical symptoms, depression, anxiety, relationship disturbances and other symptoms may accompany trauma.
In some cases, destructive coping skills like thoughts of self-harm may occur. Such thoughts are strong warning signs of serious concerns that need to be addressed. And in no situation is physical, spiritual, mental or sexual abuse acceptable, she said.
Keeping in mind marriage as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church can help in stressful times, McKenzie added.
“Marriage is one of God’s favorite sanctifying tools, and seeking to be dependent on Him to teach us how to be more godly spouses and being molded into the image of Christ will help us, our spouse and everyone around us,” McKenzie said.
As a symbol of the gospel to the world, marriages are worth fighting for and protecting, Golden said. Christ offers love, joy, comfort, healing, restoration, sufficiency and provision, even in difficult times.
“If we, as individuals and as couples, will commit to persisting in our seeking of the Lord, I believe the trauma of COVID-19 will fail in comparison to what the Lord can do in our marriages during 2020.”
To watch “Thriving in the Unknown,” visit tabonline.org/thriving.
Look upward, inward and outward. Take inventory of what’s going on inside you, between you and God and within your relationships.
- Seek a professional to walk alongside you. Many insurance plans offer benefits for marriage and individual counseling.
- Prioritize your marriage. Work on enriching your relationship.
- Subscribe to or follow organizations like iMom, AllPro Dad, Focus on the Family, Dating Divas, etc., which offer a variety of helpful articles, podcasts and videos.
- Aim for balance. Offer grace to your spouse and yourself.
- Prioritize your health. Strive to drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, sleep seven to eight hours per night, volunteer to serve others and connect with loved ones.
- Play. Add more fun to your life with virtual game night, backyard water balloon fights or themed date nights.