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How Social Distancing Can Make or Break A Marriage

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

APRIL 19, 2020

Now that we are a month into the coronavirus crisis, many couples have spent more time together than they have for years. The daily relationship distractions are dwindling, you are forced to look at each other, interact, and co-exist every day. In an earlier blog, I wrote about this being an opportunity to strengthen your bond, to use the time to reconnect and reignite your connection. For some it’s a chance for renewal. When you are finally able to pay attention to your relationship, you may be surprised at how much more you have to give and how much you get from your partner in return. Sheltering at home could be an opportunity to feel happier as a couple than you’ve been for a long time.

However, for many couples, this time at home together will produce a different outcome. This much togetherness may make it clear that the marriage is beyond repair. While many people know the truth about their marriage, they push it away. Our normal life is busy and filled with distractions so it’s easy to avoid what you know in your heart. This can go on for years allowing many couples to linger in unhappy marriages until they reach a breaking point. For better or worse, social isolation has become that point for countless couples.

The realization that the will to work on this marriage isn’t there is staring many people right in the face. It may be accompanied by sadness, anger, even shame but the quarantine has broken through denial and avoidance. As a couples’ therapist, I often hear that the difficulties bringing couples to my office have been going on for years but they have avoided dealing with them. The question I always ask is, if you’ve been ignoring or minimizing this for years, why have you decided to deal with it now? For many couples the pandemic and all that comes with it will be the “why now.” The reality is, they have turned away from the marriage to such an extent that there’s no turning back. The time at home has made them admit to themselves and perhaps to each other that they are heading for a split.

Prolonged social isolation, the lack of distractions and ways to keep busy outside of the home, and a general opportunity to go inward and take stock, is revealing the truth about many relationships that may have been just out of reach before the covid-19 crisis.

If you are experiencing the following realizations while socially isolating with your spouse, you may be reaching clarity that divorce could be in your post pandemic future:

  1. Being with your spouse is not soothing or comforting. For many couples, having each other is a refuge, a way to alleviate loneliness, a source of strength, but if you find yourself feeling you’d rather be alone, that your spouse brings about more anger, annoyance and sadness than any connection or comfort, you may be beyond the point of being able to work on your marriage.

  2. You realize you share little in common, don’t make each other laugh, and don’t have much to talk about. All this time together has made it hard to deny the sad truth of the state of your connection. There isn’t much common ground, you’ve grown in different directions and have lost interest in each other.

  3. Lack of motivation. You’ve thought about using this time to work on your marriage and reconnect but you simply can’t do it. The desire to reconnect is just not there– perhaps you have even tried and ran out of gas before you got anywhere.

  4. There is no sexual connection or chemistry and you can’t deny it any longer. Being home together has forced you to admit this to yourself and to acknowledge that you’re not willing to forgo sex and intimacy for the rest of your life. There may have been a time when you thought if you just made the effort you could reignite your sex life but all the time in close quarters has made that feel impossible. Perhaps you never had a great sexual connection and the quarantine has made the lack more pronounced.

  5. Deal breakers. These are the things about another person you just can’t live with. Maybe they were there from the start and you thought they would change, or maybe they are something that have developed over the time you’ve been together, something you didn’t sign up for. In either case, being home together has made it hard to deny that deal breakers exist.

We are all vulnerable and things can change quickly. This crisis has made that abundantly clear. Instead of feeling like a cliché, the idea that we need to make the most of each day because we don’t know what lies ahead now resonates and feels real. This new reality has made it hard to ignore the state of your marriage, but while you may have known that for a long time, there hasn’t been any urgency to act. The current crisis may be just the thing that moves the dial from uncertainty to readiness to move forward.

While it may not be feasible to take much concrete action while socially isolating with your spouse, the time can be used to gather information, find resources, and have conversations with professionals who can help you navigate the process, and develop a plan. This blog was first published on Divorceify.


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