While the coronavirus keeps many people trapped in their homes, it’s also putting pressure on marriages and families.
Amanda Deverich, a family and marriage therapist with Williamsburg Counseling, said her clients have been experiencing a range of emotions and issues due to the impact of the pandemic.
“What I’m seeing is whatever was already underneath is intensifying,” she said. “It’s the pressure of being home alone, the pressure of the situation and all the things that come along with the pandemic.”
Many different social researchers and national publications have been trying to predict whether the outcome of this pandemic will include an increase in divorce rates. According to the Association for Psychological Science, there is little information for how pandemics will impact divorce rates but predictions can be done based on other disaster such as Hurricane Hugo in 1989 or 9/11.
Following the hurricane, divorce rates increased but after 9/11, they decreased. That’s because people respond differently to various types of disasters, but the coronavirus pandemic includes elements of both, in terms of loss of life and a feeling of uncertainty.
But so far Brandon Waltrip, a trial lawyer who specializes in child custody and divorce for Waltrip & Campbell in Williamsburg, said there hasn’t been a huge change in the numbers of people seeking out legal resources for divorce. In fact, his number of consultations have gone down which he said could potentially be because people are unable to get away from their spouse in order to make a call for information.
Instead, Waltrip has seen the individuals who have called for a consultation immediately retain his services.
“I think it’s because of the uncertainty of the situation,” he said. “It makes them more earnest in moving forward.”
But the struggle now is how to move forward as legal proceedings have been put on hold for the time being. Waltrip said many couples going through custody battles now have the added pressure of figuring out how to care for their children during a pandemic and how to move forward with their legal issues.
“Litigating custody in the midst of a pandemic makes things extremely difficult,” he said. “I advise people to be flexible and try to work together during this time, and a lot of people are just doing the best they can.”
But even before the pandemic, Waltrip said for most clients, he first suggest they go to marriage counseling before starting the legal process.
Since the coronavirus first caused people to social distance over a month ago, Deverich said marital issues have been both rising and subsiding simultaneously depending on the couple. For some, the situation has created a stressful emotional environment but for others, it has provided the needed time to work on their relationships.
That means more dinners at home with the family or more time to really communicate with each other.
“Some couples are taking it to a new level of intimacy and connectedness,” Deverish said. “They’re slowing things down and really digging into their strengths.”
With her clients, Deverish said the discussion of the pandemic does come up more frequently now but it’s in the context of other issues that were already existing. Most people are discussing how their anxiety or depression is impacted by the pandemic and how that’s affecting their relationships.
Deverish said people are learning how to use this time for healing, discussion and togetherness
“Life is going on beneath the quarantine,” Deverish said.