On April 9, Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., a writer, and social researcher, started a Twitter thread asking therapists if they've noticed an increase in the number of patients talking about getting divorced once the coronavirus pandemic ends, or those thinking about getting out of their relationships. After all, couples in Xi'an have already been filing for divorce in record numbers. Will the United States follow suit?
A few therapists replied that their clients weren't seeking divorces just yet, but that couples were having more arguments than usual. Others claimed they've been advising patients to wait 60 days before making any rash decisions about the future. And one therapist chimed in with a popular prediction: There will likely be a rise in the number of divorces and breakups in the coming months.
"Many couples are spending more time together than ever before," Nicole Arzt, LMFT, a licensed marriage, and family therapist, tells Bustle. And with no external distractions, like being able to stay late at work, or go to the gym to blow off steam, arguments have been explosive.
Arzt has seen her patients complain about growing resentment toward their partners, particularly if one person is taking COVID-19 precautions “more seriously” than the other. She's also picked up on increased boredom, which can result in fighting, as well as an expansion of "escapist" activities, like drinking and watching porn, which can invariably impact the well-being of a relationship.
But their overall goal is to help their clients navigate these difficult situations, or even learn to use social distancing to their advantage.
"Quarantine is an amazing opportunity to better your marriage through therapy," Elisabeth Goldberg, LMFT, a licensed marriage, and family therapist, tells Bustle. "I am trying to teach couples the skills to communicate more effectively, especially with the advantage of forced physical proximity, having nowhere to turn."
However, Goldberg notes that many many aren't willing to put in the work, and thus, also expects divorce rates to skyrocket after shelter-at-home ends.
"All that is happening seems to be unearthing many truths that people have been able to brush aside for some time," Bette Levy Alkazian, LMFT, a licensed marriage, and family therapist, tells Bustle. "This may lead to decisions that end marriages, but it may also shed light on things that needed attention and examination."
When it comes to taking a closer look, at the very least, couples have time on their side.
Nicole Arzt, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Elisabeth Goldberg, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Bette Levy Alkazian, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist