At the onset of the pandemic, legal experts predicted that divorce filings would break across the country when COVID-19 confinement ends, with financial stress combined with confinement pushing marriages to a breaking point.
To help couples going through a rough patch during the pandemic, "Good Morning America" is kicking off a three-day dating series called "Love Train" to help turn their relationships around.
"If you're experiencing any hardship right now, you're in good company," said celebrity therapist Dr. Viviana Coles and licensed emotional and physical intimacy expert on "Married at First Sight." "But you're gonna have to make sure that you're keeping the relationship at the forefront."
Read on below to see more tips from Dr. Viviana Coles and our "GMA" love experts.
- 1January 11, 2021
Brooklyn McDaniel and Larry “Tre” Rivers
Brooklyn and Tre, a couple from Dallas, have been struggling to find their spark since the pandemic hit.
"We don't really appreciate each other as much, like our presence," Tre told "Good Morning America," explaining that they spend every moment of every day together, and it's sometimes just too much.
"I love you, but I'm used to you," added Brooklyn. "I didn't have a chance to miss you."
To help the couple find that spark again, "GMA" paired them with our love coach, certified intimacy educator, dating coach and relationship expert Shan Boodram.
Brooklyn and Tre told Shan that spending too much time together during the pandemic erased the spark they initially shared and has since made it difficult for the both of them to have those deep conversations and moments.
"You're together 'cause you're spending time together, but you're not connecting -- or we're not connecting," said Brooklyn.
To get the couple back on track, Boodram suggested they each keep a daily journal to remind themselves why they fell in love with the other in the first place.
"Just take a minute to write down one thing that the other person did that really just made you attracted to them," Boodram told Brooklyn and Tre.
After a week of journaling, Brooklyn and Tre were able to start communicating again.
"I thought the journal entries was a good way to kind of express myself and what Brooklyn did that really made me feel good," said Tre. "We can sometimes get caught up in like not ... just pointing out the bad, or what you're not doing instead of what you're doing."
Boodram then challenged the couple to express love through small gestures.
"Just try to be more mindful of, OK quick smiles, that really make a difference," said Boodram. "Little touches, little acts of kindness that do something for my partner."
Thomas and Almarie Caldwell
Thomas and Almarie Caldwell always imagined the perfect love story. The couple has been married for 25 years and have three children together.
But when they recently became empty nesters, Thomas and Marie seemed to forget how to be a couple without kids at the forefront of their relationship. And amid the pandemic, time together put a strain on their relationship.
"It's just together, together, together all the time. The old ways of doing things -- they're not effective anymore," Thomas told "Good Morning America."
"The pandemic has absolutely been a mirror for me," added Almarie. "I pushed things down for so long."
Almarie and Thomas have grown apart for so long that the couple shared that they didn't even have meals together anymore.
To help the couple get past this roadblock, "GMA" paired them with love coach, author and motivational speaker, DeVon Franklin, who gave them some advice about how to bring back communication into their relationship and re-learn what brought them together in the first place before children came into the picture.
"If you all are there and the kids are gone, it's about re-understanding who each one is," Franklin told the couple. "And giving you both an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to each other."
To start, Franklin suggested Almarie and Thomas sit down for an expectation free dinner and emulate the behavior of being on a first date.
After receiving guidance from Franklin on their relationship, Almarie and Thomas have gotten to know each other again and learned new things about each other.
"Just lookin' at her through new eyes and sayin', 'OK, you tell me about yourself' -- it was fun to hear her explain her family and then we actually found new stuff," Thomas said.
"We've decided to stay together. Although we do realize that it's an uphill battle and we still have work to do but it's been three decades for us so we have decided to work through it," Almarie told "GMA."
Thomas added, "I really am excited about the new season, new chapter. I think the skills that Devon gave us -- gave us the opportunity to retalk and recourt and start this next season off brand-new, so I really am excited about the prospects."
Janaisha and Jesus Ulloa
For married couple, Janaisha and Jesus Ulloa, the pandemic took a toll on the couple's relationship as they prepared for the arrival of their baby.
"It was rough going to doctors' appointments alone," Janaisha told "Good Morning America." "You see the screen and it's this beautiful moment. And it's like I have a mask, I can't breathe, I'm by myself, I can't record [the ultrasound], can't be on FaceTime for the ultrasounds -- they consider it private information or something like that. So I couldn't do anything."
"He would get the same pictures the rest of the world saw," Janaisha said of her husband, Jesus. "And it was just that small little photo, black and white, that was it."
"That was very sad," added Jesus. "I would be there almost crying because I just wanted to see my son for the first time and I just couldn't. So that was very hard, at least for me."
While this situation was neither of their faults, but the impact of the pandemic and the safety measures in place during ultrasound visits to keep people safe, Jesus and Janaisha each expressed a sense of guilt for not being present during this important milestone as a couple.
"They need to accept their circumstances and forgive each other for any wrongdoings because honestly, there's nothing else they can do," said Dr. Coles, who worked for several weeks with Jesus and Janaisha on their relationship.
Now, with a newborn, Janaisha and Jesus are faced with the pressure of physically introducing their bundle of joy with their families, even as the pandemic continues.
"Friends say, 'Oh, I wanna come through. I wanna see the baby,'" said Jesus. "And I [say], 'It's still too, you know, early. Let's wait a little bit.' And they feel some type of way and I feel bad because I want everybody to see my baby. I have an amazing kid, so I want everybody to see him. But it's tough. So I would say that's my biggest challenge right now, adapting in that area where I could just let everybody come."
But despite what others may say about handling this situation or the judgment you may receive because of it, Dr. Coles said it's important for the couple to come to a consensus together about what's best for their family.
"In addition to following health and safety guidelines, it's very important for the two of you to be on the same team, especially in front of your families," said Dr. Coles. "And while it may lead to some upset feelings and missing moments with family, your relationships will benefit from being a united front and compromising."