By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
For the past several weeks we have been pouring over as much data as we can get our hands on to answer a question we are often asked – “How is the current Recession affecting marriage in the USA?” The answer is complicated.
Here’s what we do know. Historically, the divorce rate does go up during a recession. But interestingly enough, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, for the past 25 years or so recessions have had only nominal effects on the divorce rate in the USA. So what seems to be true intuitively does not seem to be supported by the available data. So why, you ask?
First of all, “the divorce rate in the United States is currently at its lowest level in twenty-five years , and has fallen nearly every year since 1979” according to noted marriage and divorce scholar, Justin Wolfers.
Our own analysis of the divorce rate for first-time marriages based upon our review of the most credible data suggests that it is approximately 31-36%, or about one out of three – not the one in two so often reported by the popular media.
Our point in sharing these data is this – the USA divorce rate has been on a steady decline and that should bode well for marriage in the current recession.
Based on our own review of data we have gathered through our many interviews with married couples over the years as well as a review of some of the current literature on the subject, we can proffer several conclusions regarding the question, “How is the current recession affecting marriage?”
Here’s what we have concluded:
1. There is little doubt that tough economic times can put a real strain on marital relationships. In fact, conflict over family finances is one of the leading contributors to dysfunctionality and strain in marriage – oftentimes leading to separation and divorce. It is natural that the strain put on a marriage by the loss of a job, over-extended family budgets, and other recessionary factors, can contribute to a higher divorce rate. On the other hand, it seems clear that there are contributing factors that will cause the divorce rate to increase only nominally during the current recession.
2. Secondly, it is important to point out that there has been a steady decline in the divorce rate in America for the past three decades. The general downward trend in the divorce rate will, we believe, mitigate against more than a small bump in the overall divorce rate during the current recession.
3. We have seen in our interviews and conversations with married couple during the current recession a greater determination to “suck it up” and battle through their current economic woes (loss of a job, loss of income, strained dealings over financial matters, etc.) and work towards strengthening their relationship rather than walking away from it. Let’s face it – many couples discover that it is better and more financially feasible to work it out than move into separate houses or apartments, pay separate utility bills, and the like. Trying harder to make their marriage work seems like a more prudent path to take.
4. In the current recession there seems to be a greater willingness on the part of struggling married couples to seek help from outside sources. We believe this trend is a good thing. For example, many are turning to a marriage counselor. Others are reading self-help advice on the Internet. Many are learning to enjoy a new-shared hobby. And many are reading some of the great books about successful marriage that are out there. Remember what we always say – most marriages are worth saving! Tough economics times provide an opportunity to recommit to your marital relationship, as the stakes are too high to do otherwise.
5. There is room for much optimism in spite of the current economic downturn. We see people discovering all over again the joy of experiencing both the good times and the bad times with someone they love. Going through life with someone to hold on to is one of the great joys of living. It is so much easier in life to share burdens than to go it alone. When you are in love with another human being you have four arms, four hands, and two sets of shoulders to lean on. If the current recession causes people to rediscover the importance of having someone to love and to share their life with, then there is, indeed, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Hold on to the one you love. Sharing your life with another person is one of the greatest gifts of all. Making your relationship work in the bad times as well as the good will bring joy and purpose to your life.
Simple Things Matter in love and marriage. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
For more tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctor’s best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships
As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With 26 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 43-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.
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