Marriage Research In A Pandemic

Has the pandemic been all bad news for couples?  Recent research done in the UK and US has suggested that the pandemic has been a positive for many. 

Research into what makes marriages last the distance indicates the impact of having time together and the “little things every day” – such as expressing appreciation – has in helping marriages both thrive and survive.

Recent research conducted in the US[1] suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has promoted relationship stability for some couples, who report feeling closer and stronger.  While there were couples who indicated that their relationship had “stayed the same”, there were more couples who reported a greater commitment to their marriage and more appreciation for their partners than before the pandemic.

Perhaps the pandemic has pushed couples to rely on each other more, spend time together more, giving them more opportunities to be responsive in positive ways and show emotional support in different ways.  “Enduring a pandemic together may have given some couples a new sense they are a ‘team’, and a resilient one at that.” 

Research conducted in the UK by The Marriage Foundation [2] this year is also interesting.  Their research reported twice as many marriages had improved during lockdown compared to those that worsened.  They used the data from two and a half thousand couples with children who responded to the June survey of the UK Household Longitudinal Survey’s Coronavirus study.

Their key findings can be summarised as follows:

  • Twice as many marriages got better rather than worse;
  • A few more marriages than usual experienced high levels of unhappiness or conflict, but those levels were still well below those typically experienced by couples who go on to divorce; and
  • Two thirds fewer fathers and mothers than usual were actively considering divorce.

One other interesting trend observed in the UK research was the impact that commitment had upon those couples – there was a difference between couples who are married and those who are co-habiting, particularly for the women.  At least twice as many married parents said their relationship had got better rather than worse. However more cohabiting mothers said their relationship had got worse rather than better. 


[1]“A surprise Twist: The Pandemic Brings Some Couples Closer” by Theresa E DiDonato, Psychology Today, 15 November 2020

[2] “Has lockdown strengthened marriages?” by Harry Benson & Stephen McKay, Marriage Foundation, November 2020

– by Keith & Sarah Condie

We feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Here are the final four steps we would like to suggest to you to to promote a healthy and strong relationship:


9. Build regular habits of connecting away from your children

Children, small children, lots of small children and babies are a blessing.  Often their needs and demands for attention make it difficult to carve out time for one another.  Here are some helpful ways to connect:

  • Daily – find a time in the day when just the two of you can chat – approx. 15 – 30 minutes. Make sure it’s a child free zone!
  • Weekly – set aside an evening or lunchtime where you can share together.

During COVID both these might be challenging, but can we encourage you to be intentional and give them a go.


10. Look outward together

How might you serve God’s people together?  How might you offer hospitality to another in a “COVID” appropriate way?  Looking beyond your own marriage will be good for your marriage and bring blessing to others.


11. Ask God to grant the Spirit’s fruit

Spending more time together can bring little irritations into focus. Rather than seeing the log in your partner’s eye and wishing that they would change, it may be more helpful to spend time reflecting on things that you could improve within yourself: Search out that speck of dust in your own eye and work on your own Christian character.  Wonderfully, we don’t have to do this alone! You can ask God for his Spirit to fill you with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22). If you are displaying these fruits, you will be an easy person to live with.


12. Do the Building a Safe & Strong Marriage course together

We have just launched an online version of our course, making it easy for you to do from the comfort of your home.  No need to organise babysitters or go out!  This five-session marriage enrichment course draws upon wisdom from the Bible and from some significant research into marriages. 

You can work through each session together at your own pace watching videos of us presenting along with interviews with married couples. The video content is interspersed with couple exercises where you have the chance to talk together through some questions to help guide your conversation and apply what you’re learning to your own marriage. 

One of the key messages in the course is “little things every day” and you will be given lots of opportunity to start to recognise what these things are and how to build them into your relationship.  Here is an opportunity to change that statistic from Relationships Australia and make small but significant changes to your marriage – this will be good for you both, your children and your church community and will help you “weather this current COVID storm” together.


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf

– By Sarah Condie

Keith feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Here are four more steps you can take to promote a healthy and strong relationship. 


5. Move beyond the mundane

In recent months we’ve had lots of conversations around what it’s safe to do and what we are going to eat and therefore what needs to be on the shopping list. But intimacy deepens when we share feelings, hopes, fears and the like.  Next time you sit and have a coffee together or go on a walk try and have a deeper, more intentional conversation about the highs and lows of life since COVID began and share your feelings and thoughts with each other.


6. Remember the good times

What have been the highlights in your marriage?  Remember past holidays or fun connecting times – maybe scroll through some photos together of your last holiday. This will help you reminisce and share the memories you each have.


7. What makes you laugh?

Laughter can be an incredible circuit breaker.  We have had a hard few weeks recently and it was Keith’s birthday.  Sarah was still awaiting results from a COVID test and had to cancel plans we had made to celebrate.  We had no food in the house and an empty day ahead.  Keith went to the shops and bought our lunch and we watched a comedy film together.  In many ways it was a silly, trivial movie, but it made us laugh.   


8. Remembering the benefit of touch

Human touch has all sorts of benefits. It communicates warmth, builds trust, strengthens our bond with each other and the soothing impact is good for our health. But it’s easy to forget to embrace when you are together every day all day. Be more conscious and proactive and make the effort to touch. Hugs are great! And so is snuggling in close while watching tele and holding hands while walking together.


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf

– by Keith & Sarah Condie

We feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity to your spouse nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Each week for the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing 4 steps you can take to promote a healthy and strong relationship. This is part 1.


1. Be alert and sensitive to each other’s differences

You may have heard it said that, “we’re all in the same boat” in relation to this pandemic. But as a friend of ours helpfully reminded us, “No, we’re all in the same storm, but each of us are in different boats.” This means that for each of us, our unique temperament and personal history shapes how we respond to this particular challenge.

In times of grief and stress like what we are all experiencing at the moment, our normal patterns of response are amplified. It’s almost as if we become one and a half times the person we normally are. One of you may withdraw under pressure and have a stronger tendency to crawl into your shell and not want to talk much, while the other of you might be desperate for company and crave together time – walking, talking, watching movies….


2. You still need to check in with each other

Just because you are continually inhabiting the same limited geographical space doesn’t grant power to read each other’s minds. Don’t assume you know how the other is travelling during this unusual time. Be curious! Be a gentle detective who wants to uncover the mysteries of the other so you can stay lovingly well-connected.


3. Don’t take each other for granted

Notice when a meal is cooked and appears magically on the table to eat and say thank you.  When the washing gets done and the house tidied, express your appreciation that these thankless tasks get done. Try and tell each other one thing that you appreciate about them each day.  This will help you notice the positives in your partner.


4. Listen, listen, listen

To listen well is a challenge at the best of times, but during periods of stress and uncertainty … it can disappear out the window. We have both found how easy it is to get distracted, lost in our own thoughts, and fail to pick up on longings and fears that when shared, draw us closer together. When your spouse is sharing something of significance, try to avoid shifting the conversation to yourself or telling them what to do. Stay in their moment and seek to be understanding and empathic. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18:13: “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf