Exploring the Impact of Death on Marriages – Interview Series

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Navigating the Effects of Death on Marital Relationships Through Therapy

Death is a life-changing event that changes people’s perceptions and beliefs, especially concerning a loved one. Many people have lost their loved ones in the last three years because of the pandemic. Most people have lost their elderly parents, friends, and sometimes even young children.  In such a situation, marriages become untenable and challenging to manage. When one of the partners is grieving, and the other cannot empathize or provide support, difficulties within the marriage can arise quickly.  Consequently, couples become less patient with each other and end up associating time spent with each other with lost time. They start associating this lost time with how short life is. With that being the scenario, couples often wonder if they are spending their concise lives with the wrong person and losing precious time.  To understand death and its effects on marriage, we contacted Kasey Scharnett King, LMFT. She is a marriage therapist in private practice in Fort Worth, Texas. She specializes in marital and sex therapy and often sees couples with challenges post-pandemic. Kasey is also an author, speaker and Navy veteran. Kasey services couples in the states of Mississippi and Texas who seek to improve their marriage, rediscover themselves individually and break the cycle of generational trauma and dysfunction. 

What sort of problems and challenges do married couples face today?

There are a few challenges that I consistently see among married couples. They are: patience, children and higher levels of anxiety.  Child birth has been put on hold because one of the partners is not on board. As many feel we are still living in the pandemic, one partner fears bringing children into the world. This has created discord in marriages.  In addition, as more people work from home, it has heightened social anxiety. Earlier, couples were used to date nights and hanging out with friends. 

How has death impacted marital relationships?

So many people have passed away during the pandemic and it has affected millions of families. Due to many sudden deaths, during the pandemic, I have seen couples being impatient. Usually one partner has a “life is short” mentality and does not want to “waste” time on someone who they believe won’t change.  In addition, the pandemic has made them anxious of living a life that was once normal in fear of contracting Covid-19. This death anxiety pours over into the marriage creating a disconnect.

Before the pandemic, what were the most common challenges that married couples faced?

Most challenges prior to the pandemic were related to finances, family concerns and infidelity/lack of trust. Many marriages prior to the pandemic involved family members that did not live in the home. Often, opinions of a mother-in-law, siblings or friends were allowed inside the marriage which caused a disruption within the family unit.  Finances have always been the number one reason for divorce. It has been a longstanding reason couples attend therapy. This is due to mismanaging finances, lying about finances, helping other family members without discussing it with your spouse, etc. This creates a lack of trust between the couple and also their future plans such as having children, purchasing a home or even retiring.  Like finances, marital deceit was another reason married couples largely attended therapy. Couples sought to discover ways to stay married and work through rebuilding trust and forgiving betrayal.

What would you advise to married couples with post pandemic challenges?

I would advise couples to take time reevaluating their marriage. I would urge them to look at how the pandemic has affected their intimacy, and how they can bring fun and passion back into their marriage.

What is the best therapy married couples can get?

“Best therapy” is relative. It depends on the couple, where they are in their marriage, and what style works best for them. I would say it is important to discover what your needs and goals are, then proceed to research what works best for you. Therapy is not just about sitting on the  couch – there are various forms of therapy. I do believe couples should attend some form of therapy at least 2-3 times a year to ensure they have a healthy and thriving marriage.

Mutual support and empathy go a long way in marital relationships

Indeed, death affects everyone differently. When a married couple experiences the death of a loved one, the person most affected by the passing away may become withdrawn and disinterested. If the other spouse does not support or empathize with the grieving partner, it could lead to marital conflicts.  Considering how common death has become after the pandemic, it is essential to help couples grieve together and support each other. In addition, it is crucial to address anxieties related to childbirth, working from home, and socializing. Ironically, the more time couples spend with each other, the more isolated they may feel.  Hence, it is essential to socialize with other friends, go out on date nights, and ensure that they are bringing back a sense of normalcy to their lives. Finally, seeking therapy when needed will help support a marriage that is creaking under the pressures of death, stress, and anxiety. 
Jaiyant Cavale, Clinical Psychologist
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