New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, tells us something interesting in his November 6th article, entitled Our Banana Republic. Apparently, new research points to increasing divorces occurring due to the stress of poor economic times. This should surprise no one, but it should alarm us all.
Love makes marriage work, but stress — like a wayward child, mental illness, or the loss of a job — can undermine the glue that holds a couple together. There are a number of reasons for this.
First off, there is the blame game: “I never signed up for this!” Many women are outraged that they may have to support their husband when he cannot come through like he was “supposed to.” You can understand this. We all make assumptions as young people about the roles we play in relationships, and those expectations (like financial stability) can lead to big disappointments. She may look at her friends who are still shopping at fancy department stores and feel wronged. And while this may sound a little one-sided, it’s not limited to women either.
Secondly, there is the depression and anger that anyone may feel when he or she is out of work. Men (as well as some women) forge their identities around their careers. And when it is taken away, they can spin out into grief and anger. If — and when — you take this pain out on those around you, remember that love can only tolerate so much.
Finally, there is the stress of watching every penny, and not knowing when, or even if, things will ever get better. Unemployment or foreclosure is a serious change to anyone’s lifestyle, and it eats away at people like acid over time. The antidote is to accept where things are, make a plan to improve the situation, and, ultimately, love each other and remain a team through such hard times. And while I know this may not be an obvious strength of the baby boomer generation, this is our challenge to accept.
There is wisdom in perspective and awareness. Be aware that you may carry resentment towards an unemployed spouse. Be aware that depression and anger are understandable, but counterproductive if you have lost work. And remember that love can prevail — a love based on supporting each other through thick and thin. Our grandparents and great grandparents had the Great Depression to get through together, and we have the Great Housing Crash of the past three years.
Divorce may be an answer for some. But it isn’t always the answer. Remember that divorce often opens up a whole new set of problems that only add to the economic ones that you already have.