Data Suggests Benton County Did Not Have Pandemic Divorce Spike: Therapist Weighs In
Nationally, the first three weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic hit marriages pretty hard; however, this was not the case for Benton County, which has appeared to stay within its normal averages last year and through March of this year.
Benton County usually has an average of 246 divorces in the county, based on data from the Oregon Health Authority and recent data from the Oregon Circuit Courts. In 2020, there were only 221 divorce cases filed and 219 closed. While this is lower than previous years, it is not significantly lower, statistically speaking.
Even going into this year, the number of divorce cases closed are in their average range.
How can it be that nationally, divorce agreements went up 57% compared to the rate two months prior to the start of the pandemic? Well, newlyweds and the South were particularly impacted, with the latter showing couples divorcing at two-to-three times the rate of other regions.
Aside from those factors, there were quite a few others in play.
When asked about other contributing factors, Jana Svoboda, a local Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Therapist, referenced a COVID-19 relationships survey that found people’s relationships were actually more likely to have gotten better in the pandemic, rather than worse. The study found that people were able to talk more and spend more quality time with their partner, as well as providing more thoughtful gifts to show their care and to provide emotional support.
“For some relationships, extra time together meant they got to know each other again,” Svoboda said. “American life, for most adults, is way too busy. We’re pulled in way too many directions and there isn’t a lot of just kick back leisure time anymore. So, if you are parenting and working [away from home], or even just married and working, a lot of your communication becomes problem focused.”
Things like taking time off for home maintenance or discussing a bill needing to be paid become staples of discussion, Svoboda said. This is especially maximized if the couple has children.
“There’s not much warm, fuzzy, how-are-you-doing, what’s-happening-for-you time. And there’s not much shared experience that is stress free and leisurely,” Svoboda said.
With the pandemic, people staying home weren’t pulled in as many directions from outside.
Even something as simple as having a meal together, something Svoboda used to really push in her early years, was incredibly rare pre-pandemic. For some people, casual, everyday interactions are important. A shared joke, a hand on the arm when you are walking past, things that are not only centered on problems or large-scale moments.
“With that extra time, sometimes people get to know each other, and they actually like each other,” Svoboda said. “They forget that the other person isn’t just an impediment to their happiness. They see them as a human being instead of a scapegoat.”