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My Gym Saved my Marriage During Lockdown

Jun 14, 2020 by

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Divorce rates since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown began have soared around the world, according to The Telegraph.

Between March 23 and the middle of May, Co-op Legal services experienced 42 percent more divorce inquiries, while “I want a divorce” was searched for online 154 percent more than normal, the article reported.

Not so in our community: The support members received from their gyms, the laughs they shared on Zoom calls, and the sweat sessions themselves, helped them not just tolerate their loved ones, but even bring them closer together.

Darryl Sjerven’s story is a familiar one:

  • “The first couple weeks when it was spring break, being at home with my family was pretty novel, and kind of fun, like a really long snow day,” said 55-year-old Sjerven.
  • “But that ended. And time passed. My kids are 14 and 17. They are still home. My wife is a teacher. She’s at home. I can’t go out. I am chafing at the bit. School goes back in, sort of, and now I have my wife teaching four zoom classes a day from the dining room table, my daughter on Zoom in the den, my son doing homework at the kitchen counter. I’m trying to pass through my house without being caught on screen or on mic like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible dodging laser alarms. And me, the guy who (usually) works from home, can’t work from home anymore. Total recipe for disaster.”

Enter his gym community: “Four mornings a week, I got up at 6 am, had a coffee and went downstairs by myself and joined my gym mates in a Zoom workout. Physically, it helped. Emotionally, it helped. Mentally, it helped. Every morning, I would go down with a furrowed brow, unable to make eye contact with my wife, and I would see my gym members. And we would laugh and sympathize and connect. And then we would work out,” said Sjerven, a client at Madlab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C.

  • “And when it was over, the guy who was ready to implode and really truly did feel like melting down came up and out of the basement and was human again. Could talk to his wife again. Could handle that low grade, yet constant stress of COVID  again.”
  • He added: “My gym saved me a ton of lawyer’s fees and counsellor bills….They saved my marriage.”

In some cases, our communities saved marriages, and in the case of Rebecca and Logan Parker, their community saved their wedding.

Rebecca and Logan, both 37, were supposed to get married on May 30 at a country club with 175 guests. When lockdown happened, their wedding was canceled and they decided they didn’t want to wait to tie the knot. And so, Rebecca threw a surprise wedding for Logan at their gym, Armor CrossFit in Ocoee, FL.

Courtesy of Rebecca Parker

Rebecca told Logan they were meeting at the gym for a small trivia night but had really invited 10 people to witness them get married. What made it extra fitting was that Armor CrossFit is where the couple had met exactly three years before.

  • “As soon as we walked in, the rig was lit up with strands of white lights and all our friends were gathered around. He saw and instantly knew what was happening and kissed me. And I just said, ‘Do you wanna get married?’ Rebecca said.

And for Jaime and Iain McHugh, their gym community during lockdown not only brought them closer together but helped their entire family become more connected.

The truth is, their gym saved their marriage long before lockdown. The couple originally got married in 2009, had three kids, and eventually divorced in 2018 because they just didn’t feel like they had anything in common anymore, Jaime said.

A year later, they decided to try CrossFit together at Compelled Fitness in Wichita, KS. Before they knew it, they felt better physically, emotionally, mentally, and finally had something to be collectively excited about again.

  • “We had things in common again we could talk about, to get excited about. We would talk about the lifts and the movements and started to encourage each other again…Going to the gym was the start we needed to reconnect on a more adult level, instead of just talking about the kids and bills and work,” Jaime said.

In November 2019, the couple remarried.

Heading into lockdown, things easily could have unraveled again, Jaime said, but their gym was there to keep them connected.

  • “It was pretty essential to our sanity. Being able to do workouts together in our garage was a pretty paramount stress relief,” said Jaime, who is a paramedic and has been working on the COVID-19 frontlines.

And it wasn’t just Jaime and Iain who benefited from the community. Their 9, 7 and 5-year-old children did too.

Courtesy of Jaime McHugh
  • “I modified the workouts to be able to include my children. So a good portion of the time, they worked out with me. It helped keep them active and from going stir crazy after the schools shut down,” Jaime said.
  • She added: “So (fitness) helped reconnect our entire family.”

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