Divorces expected to climb, but marriages stressed by pandemic can be saved

Ahead of Valentine's Day, experts offer advice
Marriage stock
Posted at 8:18 AM, Feb 12, 2021

Valentine’s Day can be a time to celebrate a successful marriage or partnership but after almost a year since the pandemic began, many relationships have reached a breaking point.

In the fiscal year that ended in June of 2020, divorce filings in Colorado were down 9% from the year before. But family law attorney Rich Harris said he expects 2021 will see a spike in divorce filings.

“I think what has happened is as the pandemic wore on, some of those stressors just reached a breaking point, and sadly we’ve been incredibly busy with new calls for divorce, for domestic violence issues, for child abuse issues,” he said.

If domestic violence is an issue, its important to get out of a dangerous situation. But Harris said for many couples, it’s important right now to try and settle issues out of court. Family courts are backed up and most hearings are happening by video call. He recommends using a mediator first.

“There’s a time when it’s time to move on, and so long as folks can do it in a way that limits the conflict, it’s a process people can get through in a way that’s relatively healthy,” he said.

But Harris added that many couples nearing divorce can find a way to reconcile. Denver marriage and family therapist Lisa Maria Bobby said the biggest mistake some couples make is thinking it’s too late to save the marriage.

“You still have a chance to repair it, but you may need to get help to do it because attachment wounds can be very difficult for couples to repair on their own,” Bobby said.

She said couples that have survived almost a full year in a pandemic may have emerged stronger than ever.

“Successful couples have figured out how to be emotionally available for each other in this time of stress, grief, and loss,” she said.

The isolation from other friends and family members has likely put even more pressure on marriages.

“If the only person you see day to day is rejecting or minimizing your feelings or withdrawing emotionally, it is a dagger to the heart,” Bobby said.

Bobby added that couples who approach disagreements by empathizing with the other person are more likely to reach a compromise.