On March 13—the day my wife informed me that our weekend date night was off because our governor had declared a state of emergency—I had an inkling that big changes were in store for our marriage. A few days later, as we found ourselves barely managing to home-school six children, work two jobs and run a big household on lockdown, I knew that the loss of a regular date night was going to be the least of our marital challenges. Scenarios like ours—and ones much, much harder, with millions of parents losing jobs, heading to the front lines to battle the virus or grieving the loss of loved ones—are playing out in homes across America.

There is no doubt that the fallout of this pandemic will exact a toll on marriage in America. The marriage rate will fall, as fewer men and women have the confidence to head to the altar amid the greatest recession in our lifetime—much as the marriage rate fell in the wake of the Great Recession.

For those who are already married, the stresses and strains of marriage and family life in the time of Covid-19 will send thousands of couples to divorce court. Marital failure will be especially common for husbands and wives under the sway of what I call the “soul mate model” of marriage. The soul mate model—trumpeted in books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” not to mention countless songs and rom-coms—is the idea that marriage is primarily about an intense emotional and romantic connection between two people and should last only so long as that connection remains happy and fulfilling for both parties. This self-centered model gained in popularity for many Americans starting in the 1970s, the “Me Decade.”

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