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Can the Bad Economy Save Marriages?

Money is a key factor in marriage breakups, but the economy is also keeping some couples from finalizing divorces.
By Scott Williams


January 2009

Tough economic times like what we're going have their way of putting the death squeeze on marriages. So many couples find themselves just like Brenda and Eddie, the couple in Billy Joel's song "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."

They started to fight
when the money got tight
and they just didn't count on the tears.

Unlike Brenda and Eddie, though, who "got a divorce as a matter of course," many embattled couples today are finding that because of expenses, divorce is out of the question for the time being. Trying to sell the house in a depressed market, shelling out big bucks for attorneys, and then the prospect of trying to make it without the benefit of sharing costs on a home, groceries, and other things is often too daunting.

So, many couples are putting off the divorce until times are rosier ... economically, that is. I even heard this week of a separated couple who started living together again, solely for economic reasons.

The same thing is happening on the front end with marriages, apparently. More couples are holding off on tying the knot because of the high cost of weddings (an average of $28,732 nationally). After all, who wants to start off married life with the added stress of being up to their eyeballs in debt?

On the surface, the situation seems pretty discouraging for marriage. But I'm thinking that just the opposite could be true

Believe me, no one who knows me well would ever label me an optimist — in fact, I'm often the first to point out what's wrong in a situation. But that's partly how I've come to this conclusion ... by looking at the reason for today's failing marriages. The current problem with many marriages today is that most people get into and out of them with too little thought.

Perhaps the biggest factor leading to the high divorce rate these days is how easy it is to bail out. Because of no-fault divorce laws and the disappearing cultural stigma on divorce, fewer couples find themselves having to persevere through difficulty. Rather than work through the problems, they bail out.

What about getting married? I'd say the biggest problems couples face in early married life is thatthey're really not prepared for the difficulties in marriage. They think, like Brenda and Eddie, that they'll be that one couple who avoids the trials, when in fact that denial is often the very thing that blindsides them a few years down the road.

Brenda and Eddie were still going steady in the summer of '75
When they decided the marriage would be at the end of July
Everyone said they were crazy
"Brenda you know that you're much too lazy
and Eddie could never afford to live that kind of life."
Oh, but there we were wavin' Brenda and Eddie goodbye.

So, what if the Brendas and Eddies of the world couldn't jump right into marriage or couldn't get a divorce as a matter of course? What if they knew they had to wait, and they used their time wisely to focus on their relationship?

Research tells us the answer pretty clearly.

  • In a recent study of difficult marriages "two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later." On the flip side, "[u]nhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married."
  • Sociologist Scott Stanley found through research that couples who have marriage preparation were one third less likely to divorce, and reported greater marital satisfaction than couples who had no pre-marriage counseling.

A couple who takes time to focus on the relationship and learn skills to navigate damaging behaviors and build strong ones is more likely to have a marriage that will go the distance. One resource that has proved itself over the years is FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Whether a couple is attending before the wedding or they show up at the conference as a last-ditch effort to avoid divorce, they will not only hear solid principles for growing toward marital oneness, but have the opportunity to practically work them into their lives. To find out more about the Weekend to Remember and other FamilyLife resource to help take a marriage to the next level, check out these links.


© 2009 by FamilyLife, all rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.



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