How to Stay Married: In the Economic Downturn
My wife and I aren’t exactly rolling in dough, but the truth of the matter is that neither one of us married for money. And when economic times are hard, as this past year has been for so many, it allows us to consider how much we really do love one another. So this snip from NPR caught my attention. The sociology tells us interesting things that people may want to divorce but not be able to afford it. In those incidences the level of domestic violence increases.
During the Great Depression, the divorce rate went down and domestic violence went up. In the 1970s, when states began to permit no-fault divorces, it had an immediate effect on domestic violence.
In the first five years after the adoption of no-fault divorce, divorce rates did indeed rise, but the domestic violence rates fell by about 20 to 30 percent, and wives’ suicide rate fell by 8 to 13 percent. So we know that divorce actually provides a safety valve.
– Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and women’s studies, The Evergreen State College
“In the first five years after the adoption of no-fault divorce, divorce rates did indeed rise, but domestic violence rates fell by about 20 to 30 percent, and wives’ suicide rate fell by 8 to 13 percent,” Coontz says.
“So we know that divorce actually provides a safety valve.”
And women were not the only beneficiaries: “It’s also reduced the rate at which husbands are murdered by their wives,” Coontz says, “so it’s been a lifesaver for some men as well.”
Coontz predicts that when the current downturn ends, we will see exactly what happened after the Great Depression: “Couples that have postponed this or even one individual in a couple who has postponed seeking a divorce because of the financial recession is going to feel much more enabled to get that divorce afterwards,” she says.
I’d further this point with a secondary one that they didn’t measure or didn’t report. I wonder how many couples who stayed together reported that their marriage was strengthened by working through these economic issues? My guess is that the couples who were considering divorce had many other problems as well and that the economy just accentuated them. That said, disagreements about money is the number one reason that many couples call it quits so I don’t take the report lightly either.
Marion and I see couples during marriage prep to go over their FACET indicator—a tool used to highlight disagreements between a couple before marriage takes place. It gives them a head start into seeing where they don’t immediately see eye-to-eye and the issues that they’ll have to compromise on or work out. It’s an amazing tool. All of the marriage mentors, including us, took it as well so we would know what the couples we’d be mentoring would be going through. While Marion and I scored very high on agreement on most matters the one we scored lowest on was budget/finances. When we were married ten years ago, that was the area on a similar survey like this that we also scored lowest on. So, it seems as if these are life-long struggles for people. We work out our differences but some of our more heated exchanges that I can remember were indeed over money.
And yet, we love each other and believe that even though we sometimes disagree, we’re committed to one another–that we and our marriage are worth (no pun intended) working these things out.
We both came from meager stock. Me, a bit more so, than my lovely wife. And while we’re clearly not destitute, money is not exactly flowing freely. I know I’ve been hurt by others because of my background and I can’t imagine what people who are a whole lot poorer than we were have faced. Class is indeed, a huge matter in the United States that is often overlooked.
Sometimes marriages can’t be saved. And there’s a variety of reasons for that. In the NPR story we hear of a woman who fears for her safety and that of her children, but can’t afford to leave her husband. Money sometimes is a case of life and death. I can see someone staying in an unhappy marriage to hold onto health care for their kids as well.
But I also think that marriage is work. And learning about our differences early is really key. I know it helped my marriage much. And it actually makes me love my wife more because she has an opinion on these things and is willing to work it out with me.
Today I pray that other couples can find common ground on their issues and that they can remind themselves of why they love each other. It probably should be a daily exercise for married couples.
So to my loving wife, who I will be spending a first Christmas in Buffalo with…know that you will always be someone that I can have disagreements with and still remain married to you. You are worth working things out with and despite our differences at times, I will always love you.
And there’s no amount of money in the world (or lack of it) that will ever make me leave.