The Recession Might Save Your Marriage

Aug 8, 2012 by

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia performs a lot of studies on family issues and divorce is obviously a component of any study that looks at marriages in the United States today. The most recent undertaking published by the Marriage project is the Survey of Marital Generosity, which apparently shows a trend where many couples who had been considering a divorce before the recent recession, changed their minds and postponed their breakup for economic reasons. The survey also showed that a surprising side effect of delaying divorce is often a renewed commitment to marriage that can take divorce off the table altogether.  

The University of Virginia survey looked at 1,200 married people between the ages of 18 and 45 from December 2010 through January 2011. Almost a third of survey respondents said the recession caused them to work harder at saving their marriage, and nearly 40% percent of those who were considering divorce before the recession changed their minds completely and cancelled their plans to divorce.

Other studies have shown that the economic downturn has added financial stress to many already-troubled marriages, increasing the likelihood of divorce. This is the first study to show that the recession encouraged renewed commitment to marriage and also improved the quality and stability of those relationships in the process. It was not surprising that the study also showed that church and education help strengthen marriages too, with couples attending regular religious services having a 4% risk of divorce compared to 15% for non-church goers. Similar numbers reflect that people with college degrees having a 7% risk of divorce compared to a 14% risk for those without a degree.

Not all data supports the Marriage Project’s findings though, with many divorce attorneys seeing their referrals for divorce double in the last two years after a slight dip in late 2009. That data suggests that people may have postponed their divorces for a while, but it seems they do eventually complete their splits as many attorneys are seeing just as many divorces now as two years ago. Some attorneys point to the housing market’s relationship to divorce.  Couples who only owed $30,000 on a house might have had an incentive to stay together, but when a couple is in debt and upside down by $200,000 on a home, they don’t have much incentive to stay married and in the home. The result is often foreclosure and divorce, not necessarily in that order.

The Marriage Project study is not really cause for celebration and shows that Americans today are facing many major financial challenges for the first time in their lives. About a third of those surveyed indicated that they now worry more about paying the bills because they have a lower salary or have become unemployed. Over 12% of respondents reported having difficulty making their mortgage payments or have already gone into foreclosure. One in five married Americans have multiple financial problems today and that is not likely to help their marriages much.


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