(WFXR) — The pandemic has put some serious stress and strains on relationships and marriages.

“I haven’t hugged him or my son in over a year, you know, and now I do feel lonely about that. I get lonely sometimes, but, you know, I stay busy,'” said Roanoke resident Mitzi Oakey.

However, new research shows that divorce rates have been low due to the pandemic.

“The low divorce rate has less to do with what’s happening inside of households and more to do with what’s happening outside of households,” said Dr. Caroline Sanner, Assistant Professor of Family Science at Virginia Tech.

One reason for low divorce rates is money.

“Economic conditions have a lot to do with divorce because divorce is costly, right? In some ways, it’s a luxury to be able to divorce,” Dr. Sanner said.

In the words of another Roanoke resident, Dan Strelka, “There’s a lot of stress around people, and I think whenever you add stress and economic uncertainty to people’s personal lives, that can certainly impact it.”

While divorce rates may be down right now, as economic conditions improve, rates will increase.

“Over the next year, I think that divorce rates will go up. Unfortunately, a low divorce rate sadly doesn’t necessarily equate with happier marriages,” said Dr. Sanner.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of financial stress on couples, which forces them to stay together. As society transitions through the pandemic, experts say more couples will begin to feel confident in making moves to exit their marriages.

Dr. Sanner says communication is key for any relationship.

According to experts, you should devote 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with their partner once a week, just to check-in.

For example, ask questions like, “is our relationship stable?” Experts say these bonding opportunities are a foundation for a solid relationship.