Marriage therapist gives advice on how to save relationship amid pandemic

Divorce rate on the rise since March
Posted at 7:12 AM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 10:38:13-05

This pandemic has added unprecedented stress on our mental health and for many, on the health of their marriage.

A marriage therapist gave her advice on why it's happening and what you can do to save your union.

"What I'm seeing right now is that people are exhausted. They're worn out. They're tired of this pandemic," said Erin Smalley, a marriage therapist, author and speaker.

Smalley says the divorce rate was 34% higher from March through June this year compared to the same time last year, especially with two groups.

"They're finding that it's specifically higher among newlyweds and couples with young children," she said.

Smalley blames the high rates on spending endless hours together and what she calls "Quarantine Fatigue."

"We're exhausted. We've become somewhat pessimistic, and we're tired. We're not sure what's happening next. We're all kind of on edge," Smalley explained.

With many parents also acting as a teacher for kids who are virtual, that extra stress is added to the marriage. And that affects your children, too.

"The thing is with kids, they often start internalizing, 'Is it something I did?' They sense when there's tension in the marriage. So it's OK to say, you know this has been hard for mom and dad," she said.

Smalley advises each spouse to truly commit to the marriage by verbalizing it.

"That alone is going to set the tone that this matters to you. It matters to me and just hearing that is going to create a united front that we're going to work through whatever it is that comes our way," Smalley explained.

If you're hesitant about going to couple's therapy, you're not alone, but a licensed counselor can teach you new coping skills.

"Just bringing someone into the relationship to give you both different perspectives to see where we're getting stuck. Maybe we do need some new skills around how we're communicating or maybe it's how we're handling conflict? Go and seek help," Smalley said.

Smalley says couple's counseling can be done in person or virtually if you're worried about the pandemic.

Also, health insurance often covers a certain number of visits or part of the cost, depending on your health coverage.

It's best to get a recommendation from a friend, as you may feel more comfortable seeing a therapist, who's been referred by someone you know.

This story originally appeared on 13 Action News' sister station WFTS Tampa Bay.