Have you been wondering how marriages have been holding up during this weird time when we have been locked down? Me, too! I’ve heard many people throw out the comment that “marriages are crumbling under the pressure.” And an article out of the UK was trending recently, exclaiming that the divorce rates in the United States “soar by 34 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.” That negative perception has made the rounds.
And yet from what we can tell so far, the data doesn’t back that up! Some more rigorous studies are being done right now and we’ll bring you all that information once we receive it. But until then, I want to caution all of us to not spread what might be a dangerous misperception that will discourage those marriages that most need hope!
For those of you who like knowing the real facts, here’s what we know so far.
Where Are The Numbers Coming From?
First, the article referenced above has no information from any real study and doesn’t actually discuss “divorce rates” at all! It references several anecdotal sources, including isolated information from a legal document website (which would financially benefit from bad news!) such as demand for “divorce agreements.” Those downloads peaked in mid-April, after about three weeks of a full US national lockdown. While it makes sense that quarantines might bring existing marriage trouble to a head, we have no idea what happened after a frustrated spouse bought a divorce agreement form. According to other research, such as a 2015 study from the National Divorce Decision-Making Project, most people who think about divorce don’t actually pursue it!
Time Together Can Actually Help Marriages
Second, a wide array of research, including my own, has shown that spending a lot of time together actually builds bonds for most couples. My research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages found that “normal life” schedule craziness can often be dangerous for a relationship, because it prevents a couple from being together. Spouses need to be best friends, and that is largely built through time—whether that is through official date nights, mutual hobbies or just hanging out. And of course, this shutdown has given couples a lot of time together! I’ve conducted dozens of research interviews of married people since the pandemic hit and have heard two trends: yes, the fear and economic uncertainty of this season can put a deep strain on an already strained marriage—but it can also help knit it back together. Because once you’re closer, you’re more able to work through those things that might have been much harder when you were still living two separate lives.
Some Uplifting Numbers
All that said, of course this pandemic has added enormous stressors to even the happiest marriages—from loss of income and personal space all the way to sickness and death. It may seem naïve to think marriage can survive this, but let’s look at what we do already have in the way of more reliable data.
Monmouth Poll surveyed people in relationships in early May 2020 and found some uplifting numbers: “59% say they are extremely satisfied with that relationship and 33% are very satisfied. Another 4% are somewhat satisfied and just 1% are either not too or not at all satisfied.” Nearly three-fourths (74%) of those with a partner commented that the coronavirus had not altered their relationship at all. Just as encouraging, an August 2020 Ipsos poll found a staggering 71% of those in non-married relationships said they wanted to take their relationship to a more committed level since COVID-19 hit.
All that gives me hope! And we’ll have better data soon since my friend and marriage expert, Brad Wilcox, tweeted out that he is addressing the UK article with his own research findings in the next month. So let’s hold our horses, stop saying divorce is going up during this time and anticipate some more scientific data coming soon!
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Thriving in Love and Money, uncovers the issues that cause money conflicts and provide couples with truths that are relationship game-changers. Because you need a better relationship, not just a better budget.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.