Los Angeles, CA–I always thought that economic hardship increased the divorce rate. Apparently I was wrong.
“The reason that the economy has such an enormous impact on divorce is that most people in the middle-income brackets are getting by on whatever income they have. They’re just getting by,” said Bonnie Booden, a family law and divorce attorney in Phoenix.
A major factor in the divorce downturn, Booden said, is that divorced couples have to establish two separate households with current funds — a prohibitive factor when you’re looking at divorce in tough economic times.
The reason I found this story surprising is I constantly hear that money is the biggest cause of marital strife. If money issues cause strife but having less money does not cause divorce, arguments about finances are probably about control. Some people would prefer having autonomous control of less money than having to decide the majority of their spending and budgeting jointly, at least with the person they are married to.
Maybe financial disagreements illuminate incompatibilities a couple may have. Maybe confronting money issues brings too much banality to an institution people thought would be constantly magical and lift them out of the boring things that were part of their lives before marriage. Understandably, these and other reasons to end a marriage are less convincing to spouses when their livelihoods become tenuous.
It makes sense that people would stay with their marriages for financial reasons when times are difficult. After all, marriage has historically emphasized pooling family resources to increase wealth. One hopes that some of these would-be divorced couples are able to work through their difficulties after deciding to stay together, that they are not just miserably riding out an economic storm lashed to a person they will never get along with.