Wedding season has begun in many parts of the world. But, the number of couples tying the knot has fallen this year – mostly due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In the United States, marriage rates were already in decline… mostly due to strained finances and millennials opting to form households without going down the aisle.
But the impact of a global pandemic is also bringing extra stress to the family dynamic.
Chicago, like much of the U.S. remains a city on lockdown. Jobless figures are rising. Many businesses and schools are closed. Families are quarantining together.
And it appears that tension has brought extra pressure on many marriages.
Mitchell Gordon is a Chicago based family lawyer. “If you are not getting along or if you were questioning your marriage before having to be shut into your house with the person that you are questioning. The world is stressed out, and to add that into the marriage that was already strained is really causing a stressful home dynamic.”
Gordon says the lockdown is also exposing lies, affairs and addictions. “A lot of the calls I am getting now are, people who were hiding something are now getting caught, people who are having affairs. It is harder to juggle that and are now getting caught. Or the people who have alcohol or drug problems, it is easier to hide that stuff when you have a place to go.”
The pandemic looks set to heap further pressure on marriage rates. According to recently released data by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the marriage rate fell 6% in 2018, down to six-and-a-half marriages for every one thousand people, the lowest rate since the government began keeping data more than 150 years ago.
But there is some hope. For some couples, this period of isolation has given them a chance to reevaluate and prioritize. Trina Armstrong is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Chicago. “That’s the beauty of this moment, that in the midst of this uncertainty that these couples and even these people that come to us individually are saying you know, let’s work on this stuff that we have been putting off for a few months or a number of years.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has already led to the postponement of some marriages. And with the future economic outlook appearing bleak, weddings numbers may stay down. “People are getting married later. Studies show they are getting married later in life. Later than baby boomers, later than Gen X. I think that trend will continue, particularly with economic uncertainty. They want to feel stable when they get married,” says Gordon.
One question that has been posed is whether we’ll emerge from quarantine with a divorce boom, a baby boom… or maybe a bit of both.