One of the biggest areas impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic has been marriage & family relationships. I look at the last fourteen months as a Generational Storm that will take years to fully understand its impact on relationships and family life. This generational storm in many ways has been different from the losses of other storms like WWII, which unified our country in the fight against a nation determined to take away freedom from everyone in its path. The losses of that era were devastating; but as a result, we grew closer as a nation and a people.
Perhaps a closer comparison to the impact on family & friends would be that of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War divided our nation politically, relationally, and spiritually. Parents and their young adult children often clashed over their feelings toward our nation's involvement in Vietnam. These fractures caused a deep rift in families, politics, and faith communities. Once again, our country faces a deep divide between family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors that may take years to heal and restore.
The Pandemic has created a perfect storm, pushing couples toward ending their relationships. The Pandemic is primarily a health risk that has become much more devastating than ever anticipated. However, adding in the colliding factors of job losses, travel restrictions, and social distancing from family, friends, and faith communities has caused even greater stress and adverse effects on relationships and family life. Most likely, we have experienced a generational storm like none other.
Newlyweds were the most susceptible to this storm. Just imagine what it would be like facing all these perfect storm factors and being isolated from your support systems as a couple already navigating the many transitions of being newly married. The Pandemic exposed many undeveloped areas of their relationships all at one time. Every new relationship has cracks in its foundation because it takes years to build a solid foundation that will support a lifelong marriage. Relationship cracks come from self-reliance rather than reliance on the Scriptures, prayer, and commitment to a local church. Self-reliance involves seeking what’s best for self, rather than loving family members sacrificially, and relying on approval from others, rather than God’s approval.
Couples who had been married for 7-20 years suffered as well. Couples in this range have their own challenges to maintaining a healthy marriage. They are often extremely busy with careers, parenting, and home maintenance and management. The pandemic brought up and highlighted areas of repeated conflict in many of these marriages.
On top of all this, the quarantine forced couples into a level of closeness/togetherness that they were unprepared to manage well. On a personal level, spouses were more successful in responding to the changes in their work and family responsibilities, but struggled when working closely as teammates. They often struggled to find equitable solutions to the added duties of daily family life under the pressures of this storm, such as: children’s education, aging or ill parents, balancing working from home & parenting, and being disconnected from faith relationships. Struggling couples were unprepared to spend so much time together when the natural buffers of hobbies, friendships, working outside the home, and supporting their children's extracurricular activities no longer filled the void of unresolved conflict or broken trust.
Although no one should solely blame the Pandemic for their struggling relationship, these factors gave spouses in conflict reason to lose hope:
- Divorce increased 16% between 2019 and 2020 for couples married five years or less.
- The divorce rate doubled for couples married five months between 2019 and 2020.
- The majority of couples report a decline in their sex life during COVID-19.
The most significant loss to a couple is the loss of hope. Psalms 61 says, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I”. Marital counseling is so beneficial. However, relationships experience reconciliation when one or both spouses want to move forward from a restored hope. This type of hope can only come from spending time in God's presence.
We must use our voice and influence to communicate a vital message: Please don't separate or divorce without seeking help from your church. The Christian view of reconciliation may be in the minority, but God will use your voice to help a spouse to slow down, evaluate, take time to heal their heart, find rest for their mind and soul. Vineyard Columbus has committed to supporting struggling spouses in this challenging place.
Exciting News: Free Relationship Resources!
Vineyard Columbus, in partnership with Life in Motion Relationship Resources, is offering free relationship and parenting resources to support couples and families. These assessments are self-guided Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tools that allow couples and parents to work at the best pace for them. We are currently offering free assessments in the key areas of Friendship, Shared Spiritual Life and Parenting. (More information can be found on our marriage & family resources page.) Couples receive growth plans and worksheets that will help them to celebrate their strengths and to find new ways to resolve conflicts and experience God's peace and power in their home. Worksheets and growth plans include scripture, principles, and practical applications. Resources like these are essential in helping struggling couples & parents as they enrich & restore their relationships post-COVID.
These resources are available to bless couples and families in our congregation. As always, we believe that each follower of Jesus is a priest in his kingdom, meaning that you bring God's presence and peace into the lives of people around you – that includes your spouse! You can even introduce your neighbors, friends, family members, or coworkers to these resources as a way to help them discover God’s goodness for their relationship and family. Vineyard Columbus wants to be known as a best friend to couples and families in our community.
1) “Yes, Your Relationship Can Survive the Pandemic, Says a New Study” from Real Simple 2) “These couples may struggle the most as the pandemic ends and we return to normal” from USA Today 3) “Why the pandemic is causing spikes in break-ups and divorces” from BBC 4) “US Divorce Rates Soar During COVID-19 Crisis” from LegalTemplates 5) “How Covid-19 is changing women’s lives” from BBC