Major events reshape marriage. Turning points like the Great Depression, war, the 9/11 terrorist attack and hurricanes profoundly changed our country — and our marriages. The COVID-19 pandemic will have a similar impact in the future.
Even as we emerge from quarantine and physical distancing eases up, things won’t return to “normal” or “business as usual.” Life doesn’t work that way. We never go back to the way things were. Marriage as we know it will change — change is inevitable.
But what will marriage be like in the future? The impact of the pandemic stress on couples will either strengthen or weaken their marriage.
How marriages will be stronger in the future
For many couples, being quarantined together has helped them grow closer. They feel more connected and sense a deeper love and appreciation for each other. Healthier couples have communicated more effectively, quickly problem-solved and adjusted expectations, were more responsive to what the other needed to feel loved, were more emotionally supportive around losses, and engaged in enjoyable, intimacy-building activities together.
Being quarantined also gave people a break from the frenzied pace that most of us exist in daily. The isolation gave couples more time for connection and intimacy. Many of these habits could continue. If they do, here is how marriage will become stronger after COVID-19:
Being quarantined together without the typical hectic pace has created stronger and deeper connections for some couples. The uninterrupted time together has recalibrated priorities. Many people have rediscovered that their spouse and kids are more important than the other pursuits that have captured their hearts, and they’ll continue to put marriage and family first.
Turning toward each other and rallying against a common enemy created confidence and grit in some marriages. Some couples think, We can overcome anything because we weathered this storm! These couples now have a strong confidence that they can face difficult challenges and come out closer and stronger as a couple.
Some couples have learned to communicate during these challenging times. It’s overwhelming to consider the sheer volume of tasks and decisions that had to be made each day to keep a family functioning during quarantine. An article from the Association for Psychological Science notes, “[S]pouses who can communicate more effectively when problem-solving, who can be responsive and supportive to their partner, and who can still engage in some positive interactions despite the stress of the epidemic will be more likely to maintain a good relationship.”
Many couples have experienced deeper communication around the big and small losses they’ve experienced during the pandemic. They have intentionally cared about how the coronavirus has affected their husband or wife. The conversations helped them know their spouse’s inner world (worries, disappointments, hopes, fears, needs, dreams). As couples have experienced the power of compassion and empathy, some will continue to pursue these deeper conversations.
For other couples, the pandemic stress weakened or broke their marriage. The added strain on the marriage exacerbated pre-existing problems and forced sheltered couples to deal with these problems on their own — often unsuccessfully. Arguing, domestic violence, substance abuse and pornography use were all on the rise during quarantine.
Before the coronavirus, many couples avoided dealing with their marriage problems by creating emotional and physical distance — buffers that allowed them to stay disconnected but married. Now the disconnection is painfully obvious.
These struggling couples are faced with a choice: Get help from a licensed Christian counselor and build a new marriage that both people are thrilled with or continue doing nothing and allow their problems to harden their hearts.
When a marriage is struggling, people often feel hopeless and helpless. The great news is that God cares about your broken heart and is passionate about your marriage. You can build a new marriage but you have to stop ignoring the problems that have been buried for years. Reach out to your safe friends, family, pastor or co-workers for support and prayer. Focus on the Family has a marriage intensive counseling program called Hope Restored that has a success rate of over 80% for helping couples in crisis stay together.
Your marriage has a sworn Enemy. Satan hates your marriage because he knows what a united couple is capable of doing for the kingdom. He fears your marriage. So when you turn toward God and ask Him for a miracle in your marriage, you must expect Satan to muster all his forces in battle against you. But there is always hope in God.