The pandemic has put marriages under significant pressure as couples struggle to navigate financial hardships, lack of privacy, stress over medical concerns, and family and professional worries.
While COVID-19 has created new conflicts for married couples, it has also exacerbated existing problems. A website that provides legal documents reported a 34 percent increase in sales of divorce agreements during the pandemic, compared to the same time period last year. A relationship site surveyed its audience and found 31 percent of those couples said the pandemic was damaging their relationships.
Chris Taylor, 51, of Orlando, Florida, sees his own relationship mirrored in those statistics. When the pandemic hit, Taylor and his wife of four years were in marriage counseling, which they were unable to continue in person after quarantine. Taylor opted out of teletherapy but now says he regrets the decision. The couple eventually separated, and Taylor's wife filed for divorce.
COVID-19 exacerbated the couple's communication problems, Taylor says. Too much togetherness, a lack of personal space and the inability to do normal activities, like going to the gym, were damaging, he says.
"It just magnified the problems that we had because we couldn't spend any time away from each other,” Taylor says.
Pandemic divorces may be on the rise
There are some indications that the coronavirus and its related stressors are prying some couples apart. Legal Templates, a website that provides legal documents for free and for sale, noted a 57 percent increase in interest in the company’s separation documents from February to April. Company data showed that couples married in the last five years, those with children under 18, and couples in Southern states appeared to be seeking divorce documents more often than others.
A separate survey of 300 couples, by demographic tool Lucid, found that 41 percent think COVID-19 is likely to increase arguments, and 35 percent think it's likely to increase divorce rates.
Older adults are not immune to these marital issues. A 2020 survey by The Senior List, a website dedicated to studying aging, found that 17 percent of 191 older coupled individuals said COVID-19 had a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” effect on their relationships. In the survey, respondents listed restrictions on activity and travel, family stress, COVID-19 precautions and politics among the top issues causing marital strife.