Sunday, April 5, 2009

Recession Takes A Toll On Marriages Too

Normally I have no problem deciding on a topic to blog on, there's usually so much to choose from. Politics, the economy, hot button issues like abortion...often I find myself having to choose just one because I don't want to do four posts in one 24 hour period. Such hasn't been the case the past few days, I've been wanting to write about divorce...and sometimes when an idea takes hold its hard to let go of it.

The difficulty though is this issue hits close to home. Like roughly fifty per cent of Canadians who get married, I am divorced. Marriage breakdowns have a myriad of causes, but often the underlying reason is one of simple economics. Money has a way of making small things big, or big things small. I think in general its easier for a couple to look past each other's obvious imperfections when things are going well. Conversely, when money is tight...small issues take on greater significance. I forget who said it, but an apt quote I recall is: "I've been rich and I've been is better".

With the economy in deep recession, and with no end in stands to reason that the strain of money worries will probably lead many to contemplate life without their partners. If you're looking for a prime example of the cure being worse than the disease, divorce fits the bill to a T. If people think divorce will solve their money problems they're dreaming. Divorce is probably the single greatest threat to net worth, with the ability to destroy even the most carefully laid out financial plans.

As human beings we are born to couple. Most people who divorce eventually remarry, often more than once. According to government data almost 50% of first marriages fail, and 75% of second marriages. For those taking a third kick at the quest for marital bliss, the failure rate climbs all the way to 85% (Statistics Here)

There's one thing I want to make perfectly clear here, I'm not talking about situations where there is abuse. No person, and its overwhelmingly the woman in the relationship who suffers abuse, should have to put up with any threats to their own well being, or that of their children. Ironically, and sadly, women who are abused often stay with their partners. Abusers so diminish a woman's self-esteem that she feels trapped, and stays in the marriage because she's convinced she doesn't deserve better.

But in a lot of cases I think our high divorce rate is due to an inability or a lack of willingness to put up with discomfort. In our society we're conditioned to believe that we should be happy all the time...well, maybe not "all" the time...but periods of pain and discomfort should be short and sweet. Feeling hungry but don't want to cook? No problem, call this number and they'll have food at your door in 30 minutes or its free. Half an hour too long? Then zap this package in your microwave and you can have a hot meal in less than 5 minutes. Feeling depressed, here's a pill, can't's another pill. Having trouble getting Mr. Happy to stand at attention big worries, there's a pill for that too.

Any couple that's gotten past the honeymoon period knows, that when it comes to marriage....there is often pain and discomfort. Everyone knows another couple who has the perfect marriage, they're the pair that always agree with each other and they never utter a harsh word. Of course they don't have the perfect marriage, they're just better actors than most. Obviously some unions are stronger than others, but I have yet to meet a couple who can honestly admit they never fight.

It would be nice to think that times of stress would bring a man and woman closer together, and in some cases it does. But when the problems centre around money, often feelings of anger and resentment get buried...and manifest themselves in other ways. Communication breaks down and instead of being man and wife, partners become more like room mates.

Especially heart breaking is when divorce involves children. Back in the 1960s and earlier, when divorces were much rarer, the popular wisdom was that 'staying together for the kids' was actually doing them more harm than good. That was before divorce rates skyrocketed, giving us statistics which show how damaging divorce can be to children.

Before any decisions are made, and while the lines of communication are still open...even if they're strained...I strongly recommend seeking out counselling. Many churches offer it, as well as various social agencies. And don't be concerned with the costs involved, at the end of the day its far cheaper than living in separate households to say nothing of legal and other associated expenses.

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