What Will You Learn About Your Marriage?
In China, as coronavirus home quarantine orders have been lifted in certain areas, government offices are open again. And divorce filings have spiked.
I am not surprised. In the United States, divorce rates typically peak twice a year, following the winter holidays and summer break.
Although various reasons have been proposed as to why this happens, the one that makes the most sense to me is that increased time together in closer proximity both exposes and exacerbates existing issues in a relationship.
◾️◾️◾️ What you have previously been able to ignore through distance and distraction becomes unavoidable. ◾️◾️◾️
During the current pandemic, self-isolation and sheltering-in-place are like the holidays and summer break smushed into one and injected with steroids. Even the normal avenues of escape during the holidays or summer (work, bars and restaurants, social events, the gym, travel) are no longer available.
You are just face-to-face 24/7 with the person you at one point chose to marry but you may no longer recognize or even like for that matter. Add into the mix kids who may not be going back to school for a LONG time, and you’ve got a recipe for conflict.
I could use this time to give tips and suggestions for making it through – and I will likely do that in the near future. There are great tools and resources out there to improve (or even just maintain) your relationship in times of stress. I know from my own experience and that of my clients the transformational power of these tools to heal a relationship – things like learning how to dissolve fear, stop feeling so resentful, and trust your own inner guidance.
◾️◾️◾️ But that’s not what I’m doing here today. Instead, I’m going to suggest you lean into the discomfort of this unprecedented time of staying at home and use it to take a good hard look at your marriage. ◾️◾️◾️
Granted, fears around the virus, job insecurity, death of a loved one, and market insanity are high right now. Those stressors should be factored into the equation.
Research tells us that when we experience large amounts of unrelenting conflict and trauma, our judgment can become impaired as our logical brain is hijacked by the limbic system.
The result? Irrational, emotional decisions. When conflict is given a chance to dissipate, however, our logical thinking comes back online, allowing us to use our head instead of losing it.
If things aren’t going well with your spouse at the moment as you are both forced to stay home, this could very well be a fleeting low point in your relationship. Once we are able to return to some sense of normalcy, a little bit of space may provide a release in the pressure cooker created by shelter-at-home mandates. You can then approach your relationship from a much more rational place.
◾️◾️◾️ Stressors or not, however, sometimes you just know that you know that you know, this is not the person you are supposed to be with any longer. That may happen while you’re homebound. And that is okay. ◾️◾️◾️
There may be love in the time of pandemic. But there may also be divorce.
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not an advocate for divorce. But I am also not an advocate for marriage. I am an advocate only for finding and living one’s truth, whatever that is.
◾️◾️◾️ Not the truth of your family’s wishes or church’s opinions or community’s expectations or anything outside of you. The truth of your own soul, the part of you that answers to something so much larger than anything our human minds or institutions can fathom. ◾️◾️◾️
You know that truth. And if you think you don’t, now is a unique time in history to let it surface from the depths.
I have heard quite a few stories during this time of quarantining along the lines of spouses heading out for a “quick walk” or “essential errands” and not returning for several hours because they just needed to get away. I’m sure many can relate. I sure do.
One of the only reasons my high-conflict marriage lasted as long as it did was because [privilege alert here – I am aware of it, but for better or worse, these were our circumstances thanks to my husband’s success] we lived on separate sides of our primary residence, we had a secondary residence I could escape to at any time (which I did frequently), I traveled some part of every month, and I was out boozing it up with girlfriends most nights I was in town.
If separate spaces and existences work for you and your spouse, good on you. It didn’t work in my own marriage because it simply masked what wasn’t working between us. I trust you to be onto yourself and know whether your current arrangement works because of love or avoidance.
◾️◾️◾️ Bottom line: If the only way your marriage can survive is if you have the excuses and distractions of travel and work and distance and social events (all things I used to rely on myself) to keep the relationship afloat, that is information. ◾️◾️◾️
You may be tempted to bury this information under alcohol or Facebook or sugar or weed or online shopping or Ambien or whatever your distractions and buffers of choice are (believe me, I myself had plenty!). Instead, however, I invite you to really take in that information and let it land deep in your being.
Use it to identify your truth. Use it to make changes, whether healing or separating or anything in between that feels appropriate for you and your family. Just don’t let this rare opportunity to really see what you and your relationship are made of slip by without looking at it head-on.
◾️◾️◾️ And if you are scared by what you find? If you suspect it may be time to part ways after quarantine has passed? Just remember the wise words of Martha Beck, which I wholeheartedly believe: “A marriage can succeed as a soul adventure, even if it doesn’t last forever.” ◾️◾️◾️
My own marriage was a soul adventure for the ages. I wouldn’t trade it – or my divorce – for anything. In the time of pandemic, I wish the same clarity for you.
And if you need more clarity? Have a free copy of my book: www.UnhitchedBook.com