Can Hurricanes Cause Divorce?
Disasters Can Bring Couples Closer or Spark a Divorce if Relationship is Already on Rocks
A natural disaster can destroy your home, finances, and health but will it destroy your marriage? On the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as Hurricane Gustav targets New Orleans again and Hannah follows behind threatening Florida’s East Coast, some families say yes.
Ricky Murry and his wife and children have been living in a FEMA trailer since the disaster, trying to rebuild their lives. But the cramped quarters have caused problems for marriage. And, he told CNN, he’s not the only one: “A lot of people that we grew up with, that I know, have split up, divorced or went on their way because of this hurricane,” he said.
According to CNN, But Louisiana has kept figures on almost everything Katrina-related — 1,800 dead, the number who were injured and the houses that were damaged or destroyed but it hasn’t kept divorce statistics.
Disaster creates a condition of increased arousal. Any emotional state and any emotional challenge can be heightened,” explains Maurice A. Ramirez, founder, and president of Disaster Life Support of North America, Inc. When this emotional overload reaches a crescendo, people either isolate/shutdown or they experience an emotional release –good or bad.”
But disasters don’t have to kill your relationships, according to a study done by Texas A&M University.Studies have contradicted on the topic for years. While a marriage is definitely affected by a natural disaster, the outcome is unpredictable.
Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., relationship expert and Suddenly Single advice columnist for Match.com, suggests that the outcome depends on the couple, Sometimes, a crisis or disaster can bring a couple closer together as they recognize what’s really important in life. And other times, especially if they haven’t suffered many bumps on their road, the first disaster can throw them for a loop and they distance themselves from their partner,” she said.
We lost everything.”said LeeAnn Wiser, a 2008 Tennessee tornado victim. But just coming out of it and seeing each other standing there in one piece seemed like everything in the world to us
Factors that are already in place in the relationship have the most impact on post-disaster marriages, says Jay Granat, Ph.D. and marriage counselor at Stay in The Zone. A crisis/disaster will either strengthen a marital relationship or place it under significant stress. Factors which affect its impact include the personalities of each member of the dyad and the condition of the relationship prior to the event.”
In New Orleans, Pastor Ray Cannata provides couples counseling to try and help, but he told CNN, often couples decide to break up rather than work through the issues that sent them to him. “Pre-existing problems that people are able to sort of ignore and work around come to the surface and have to be dealt with, ” Cannata said.
Kelly Manning and her family were displaced to Texas after Katrina destroyed their New Orleans home. After years of emotional turmoil, she and her family tried counseling. We realized I took the hurricane as a life-changing moment. He took it as just another day. It changed us in many different ways. Made us realize what we really valued and we couldn’t achieve it together,” she said.
Red Cross trauma psychologist, Dr. Rebecca Thomley, chief executive officer of A River Of Hope, a foundation that aids disaster victims like those involved in the tornadoes that ran through Tennessee in 2008, said the most important thing is to be aware that there will be effects from the disaster, and they must be addressed — not ignored.
She counsels couples struggling after a natural disaster to follow these guidelines:
1. Recognize your partners’ natural responses to the traumatic event.
Each person reacts differently. It is ok if your spouses coping style is different than yours.
2. Seek out help. Rely on community resources and government aid.
There are counselors with in-depth experience in disaster-related trauma.
3. Develop a coping style with your partner that works for both of you.
Coping styles as a couple impact the effect of a disaster within a marriage.
4. Be able to recognize and cope with the natural responses to traumatic stress in yourself and your partner.
Realize that it is only temporary and will pass. Recovery from a natural disaster is a long, hard process, experts agree.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See the study:
To a similar study following the Oklahoma City bombing: