Friday, December 05, 2008

The Economics of Divorce

The continuing decline of the economy is unfortunately taking a toll on so many different areas of our lives. The news headlines are voraciously tackling every possible angle—each day revealing another area affected by the recession.

This past Sunday, reported on perhaps one of the most unfortunate side effects of this financial crunch. It seems that many couples are opting to remain married instead of divorcing—they simply can't afford to divorce. Nationwide, the numbers of divorce filings are dropping.

Pamela Smock, a researcher at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that this does "not bode well for all sorts of families. It could keep unhappy couples together."

Jeff Grumley, a marriage counselor from Illinois, said he had seen a 25 percent jump in business in recent months as couples tried to save their marriages, and their money. "I think people feel desperate," Grumley said.

The way I see it, the incalculable damage caused by this phenomenon will be long-lasting. Think of all those poor couples who are undergoing marriage counseling: chances are that a good number of them will end up resolving their differences, leading them to stay married long after the economy recovers!

Let's get serious now.

Thinking rationally, it's difficult for most of us to understand people who would divorce, just because "they can afford it," rather than try to patch things up through therapy. But when egos and feelings get involved, many people – even those who are normally wise and intelligent – stop being rational. Sometimes a financial deterrent is what does the trick.

Our Sages recognized this truth about human nature when they instituted the ketubah—the marriage contract. This contract, whose centerpiece is the husband's obligation to financially compensate his wife in the event of divorce, was intended to make divorce a financial trouble on the husband, so that "it should not be light in his eyes to divorce her."

The economy will rebound. It always does. In the famous Biblical story of Joseph in Egypt, the years of plenty served to sustain and feed the years of famine. But just as the booming years provide a nest-egg that cushion the lean ones, the lessons learned during the lean years provide perspective and clarity for the financial good times.

Empathy, financial prudence and prayer. The realization that we are not completely in control over our destiny; we must always have faith in a Higher Being who is the ultimate power. All these positive traits that we cultivate during difficult times—we must make sure they carry over when these times pass.

And, of course, marriage is most sacred. Termination of a marriage should only be considered after every single possible solution has been exhausted.

Maybe you can afford it in terms of dollars. But the destruction of a family has no pricetag.


Secular Heretic said...

I know that it is a hard pill to swallow but I think the west would be happier with less money. From what I have read, countries with higher incomes also have higher suicides. If less money means marriages last then perhaps it is a good thing.

Jesurgislac said...

Wow, you pro-Prop8 people really do think of marriage as a sort of cage to lock a mixed-sex couple into, not as a source of friendship, tenderness, love, and mutual support.

It's amazing how that goes together, doesn't it? People who respect marriage support the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, and the freedom of any married couple to divorce.

People who regard marriage as a breeding cage from which same-sex couples have to be excluded, also want to keep the cage door locked. It's fundamental disrespect for marriage in both instances, as well as for people as human beings.