A Possible Casualty of Coronavirus: Marriages


‘Till death do we part' was one thing, but constant contact with your spouse, 24/7, quarantined at home indefinitely, could be a bridge too far for some marriages.

“I’ve been saying it for a really long time. Love is not enough.” Dr. Viviana Coles is a Houston Doctor of Marriage and Family therapy, a relationship counselor, her clients often suffering from love on the rocks. “You have to act on it.” Coronavirus is challenging a lot of people in ways they had not suspected, and making peace at home is being tested. “You have got to have the stuff. You have to have the guts. You have to have the ability to work together as a team.”

China, the first to experience Coronavirus and the first to experience its social consequences, is seeing a spike in divorces. It’s hard to get a sense in the U.S. because so many courts are shut down temporarily and statistics haven’t filtered through the pipeline yet. Strong couples, Dr. Coles suggests, will come through the experience even stronger. Like many with pre-existing conditions, marriages wracked with buried grievances and silenced anger could be lost to the virus’ impact. “It depends on the low-blows you’re throwing,” Coles says. “If you’re talking about stuff that is current, within the past couple of weeks or even the past month, which could be just due to the stress you’re under right now. But if you’re talking about things you’ve swept under the rug, and these are habits, or even personality traits that you’ve never been able to overcome, you’ve got reach out and get help.” Cole says she assumes a lot of people could use help right about now, and suggests that marriage counseling can be done effectively virtually. Doctors are seeing clients and are available to help.

It’s the quicksand of quarantining. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing, and those statistics are people, people with marriages that are already strained and are now adding unexpected financial dislocation. Fighting an invisible foe can leave one looking for someone to blame. The loss of an elderly family member can create unforeseen stressers. One brick after another weighs down and breaks what can’t carry the load. Or maybe, when the dust settles, as people start crawling out from the debris of disruption, we’ll find that we’ve learned something about ourselves, about our mate, and about the nature of love and commitment, till death do we part.