By Marc Demetriou, CLU, ChFC, CDLP | SVP of Mortgage Lending/Branch, Manager at Guaranteed Rate, AAML NJ Silver Sponsor
Relationships can be turbulent. Even for the best of couples. According to an article in the National Law Review from last year, relationship counselors routinely rank financial stress, boredom, parenting disagreements and arguments over domestic chores as the most common obstacles to wedding bliss. And that was before the Covid-19 outbreak.
During the early stages of the pandemic, most employees were required to work from home for safety reasons. But if a couple’s relationship was already showing signs of emotional wear and tear, being forced to share the same space twenty-four-seven in a state of perpetual lockdown might not help matters much.
If a marriage was already starting to go bad, the pandemic was almost certainly going to ratchet up the domestic tension. Before Covid, if a couple was having issues, both spouses could probably talk to friends or family members to blow off steam. Once the quarantine began, those pressure values might not have been so easily accessible. In those early days of the lockdown, no one knew exactly how physically close they should get to one another.
The stats are staggering
Being in forced seclusion could create tensions in even the healthiest of marriages. But for ones that were already on the rocks, Covid could create the makings of a powder keg. According to one legal website, 34 percent of couples considering divorce had children under 18 years of age, an increase of five percent from 2019. Here are some other startling stats from that same website:Interest in marital separation spiked to 57 percent in April 2020 from the prior two months.
- 58 percent of those “pursuing a divorce” were married in just the past five years – an increase of 16 percent over 2019.
- Couples who were married for five months or less and then actually got divorced jumped to 20 percent in 2020 – an increase of 9 percent from the year before.
- Divorce rates in the South were two to three times higher than in the rest of the country due to the pandemic.
- Out of fear of a spouse’s sudden death from Covid, 31 percent of divorcing couples increased their life insurance holdings.
Women and Stress
A recent U.S. Census report stated that women were twice as likely to not be working due to Covid-related child care issues. Over two million women left the workforce entirely due to the pandemic.Some experts predict the Covid crisis may have set back women in the workplace for the next decade.
Even couples currently in relationship therapy saw Covid creep into their sessions. One recent article pointed out that some couples would even argue about whether their current counseling environment was Covid-safe. Tina Timm, PhD, associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Social Work in East Lansing, said that one couple’s wife “was going crazy” during one session, worrying about whether her gym was safe to go back to due to Covid instead of focusing on her current therapy visit.
The Good News
The news on Covid and divorce is not all negative. For some, the pandemic has been a learning experience of a different sort. According to Professor Amanda Miller, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis, the pandemic might have the effect of delaying some couples’ decision to marry altogether.At least for a while. The reason? Divorce is expensive. Better not to jump into matrimony in haste.
A recent American Family Survey (AFS) stated that 58 percent of married couples, ages 18 to 55, said the pandemic had made each spouse appreciate the other even more, while 51 percent said their commitment to marriage had only grown deeper. The same AFS data also stated that the share of married couples who said their marriages were “in trouble” fell by 11 percent (from 40 percent to 29 percent) in 2020, from the prior year.
The Washington Post also reported last year that the number of engagements seems to be rising, even in the age of Covid. University of Indianapolis Professor Miller was not surprised. She said that “getting engaged can be a low cost” and “certainly much cheaper than having a baby or getting divorced.”9