Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Staying Together for the Sake of the Economy (not the kids)?

I just read an interesting article concerning the shift in divorce rates that may be influenced by the economy. The AOL article by Barbara Bartlien claims that divorce filings have remained roughly the same in every single state in the 2006-2008 period. She acquired this piece of information from the Center for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistical Data.

She concluded that since the population is growing that the fact the divorces remain about the same suggests a big drop off in people ending their marriages. She goes on to point out that "divorce filings have been slashed by one-third in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York -- northeastern states with heavy exposure to the financial industry that has been battered by today's credit debacle."

Statistics are only as good as the interpretation applied to them. Some would interpret her findings a flawed in that the measure of successful or failed marriages (primary relationships) may or may not have a direct correlation with the actual number of divorce filings.

Marriages are not the only way people form committed partnerships. Many couples have elected to opt out of marriage for one reason or another yet live together, have kids and run their lives as a committed couple. I see a number of these relationships when they end as clients coming in to establish paternity and request child support from the family law courts.

I've observed the economy expand and contract over the last three decades and in that same time period witnessed the impact these events have on the stability of marital and other primary relationships.

Quite simply, a bad economy does not make a bad relationship any better.

It true that some couples may try to stay together in rough economic times but inevitably if the couple does not invest in trying to fix the relationship (if it can be fixed) then invariably, the relationship must end.

I have spent many hundreds hours counseling prospective clients and clients in bad relationships coming apart in bad economic times. Staying together for the sake of the economy, just like the fable of staying together for the sake of the kids ultimately does not work and in fact can create more problems when you finally get to the point of ending the relationship.

If you have kids in these situations, they suffer directly from the fighting that takes place in the house. Even if the parents think they have their emotions under wraps by speaking infrequently to each other in front of the kids and sleeping in different bedrooms, the children witness this and learn the worst about how to deal with conflict in an unhealthy relationship.

Even without kids, staying together invites the escalation of conflict, damaging management of community credit and resources and the likelihood that once you finally separate and go through the legal process, the hostility driving the separating couple will translate in more attorney fees being spent on getting the case and property issues under control.

Face the facts, if you know the relationship is at an end, do the proper cost benefit analysis that includes the emotional cost to you and to any children by prolonging a relationship that must end.