Some couples self destruct during tough times, while others pull together and strengthen their marriages despite serious difficulties. It is important to understand what is happening to families around you, as a result of the economic downturn, so you can protect yours.
When times are tough couples fight more — and domestic violence rises
“The economy is not causing domestic violence,” says Dawn Reams, the direction of Bridges Domestic and Sexual Violence Support in Nashua, New Hampshire, “but it definitely influences it.”
The NY Times reported in New York City, cases involving assault by family members are up 18 percent since the recession started. Philadelphia in 2009 saw a 67-percent increase in domestic homicides. This seems directly related to the economic downturn because incidences of domestic violence had been falling for the 15 years before the recession started. Now the numbers are on their way back up.
Utah is no exception. There is approximately one domestic violence-related homicide in Utah every month. While domestic violence numbers are rising, the number of divorces is falling.
When times are tough many couples postpone divorce — which is not always a good thing
Some couples are staying together because working, to get through the recession, has deepened their commitment to each other but others are staying together because they just can’t afford to leave.
In tough economic times women can become trapped in abusive relationships. They have too much fear about making it financially on their own and many decide to stay, even in unhealthy situations.
Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State University, says, “It’s not uncommon for abusers to keep victims economically enslaved, seizing paychecks and denying access to money. When income shrinks during hard times, the victim becomes even easier to control.”
The downturn in the economy also means less funding for domestic violence shelters and programs. George Sheldon with the Florida Department of Children and Families says their centers are over capacity and it’s the worst he has seen in years.
Still, people are less likely to seek a divorce in times of economic difficulty.
A new survey called "The Great Recession and Marriage," from the National Marriage Project, at University of Virginia, reports that 38 percent of couples surveyed, who were considering divorce or separation, have now put off those plans due to the recession.
Some states have reported divorce filings have dropped by as much as one-third.
Many are postponing divorce until things improve so they can sell their house, afford another one or at least be in a better position to survive afterward.
The average divorce in the United States costs between $1,500 to $15,000 dollars, and that is just for attorney and court fees. Add alimony, child support, changes in tax brackets and the cost of supporting two households, and — unhappy or not — many couples just cannot afford to get divorced.
This can have a negative impact on children who are living with stressed out, depressed parents who don’t like each other but are being forced by circumstances to stay together. This may contribute to the fact that child abuse numbers are also on the rise.
Children are also being affected by another trend...
When times are tough people postpone getting married — or decide not to do it at all
USA Today reported that divorce numbers are significantly down this yer, and surprisingly so are the marriage numbers.
Many couples are waiting until things get better to marry. Some are waiting so they can afford the kind of wedding they want.
Some say they are dating less because of their shaky financial situation. They feel they aren’t financially ready to care for a family. Others appear to be discouraged with the whole idea.
Many have decided living together outside of marriage is a better option. Hence, the marriage rate in this country is steadily declining. While 79 percent were married in 1970, today only 57 percent have chosen to wed.
David Popenoe, a Rutgers sociology professor, says, “Cohabitation outside of marriage is here to stay and it’s not good news, especially for children. As our society shifts from marriage to cohabitation, there will be an increase in family instability.”
Studies show that 40 percent of babies born today are now born outside wedlock. Married couple’s divorce over 50 percent of the time already — but cohabiting couples have twice the breakup rate of married couples. None of this is good news for children.
The United States has the highest divorce rate and the highest number of single parent or unwed parent families — and now the marriage rate is falling.
The family unit, which is the foundation of our society, is in trouble.
Chuck Stetson, CEO of National Marriage Week USA, says, “Marriage is beneficial for both personal and national economic stability.” Marriage breakups cost taxpayers at least $112 billion a year. "In these days of economic hardship, policy leaders and individual Americans need to get serious about our efforts to strengthen marriage."
Sheila Weber, executive director of the National Marriage Week USA, says, “Marriage makes people happier, live longer and build more economic security. Children with married parents perform better in school, have less trouble with the law, less teen pregnancy and fewer issues with addiction.”
Marriage is good for the country and good for you. It is good for you economically, emotionally and socially.
It is a smart financial decision to invest in making your marriage a happy, fulfilling and successful one. The old adage is still true today … it’s cheaper to keep her.
If you are having problems (even small problems) in your marriage — get help and get help now. Don’t postpone doing something proactive to make your marriage work.
When couples wait until things get bad — it is often too late. Hurtful things have been said and there is often no going back. You must learn the skills that create good relationships now.
Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist in Denver Colorado, said to PR Newswire, “Marriage is a very high-skilled activity. If your marriage is failing you must assume your skill set is insufficient.”
If your marriage is struggling, make a call and ask for help. Start learning better communication and relationship skills. Don’t wait. Invest in a stronger marriage for yourself, your children and your community. Even in these tough economic times, counseling is cheaper than divorce.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.