Is our down-turned economy having an effect on divorce in the United States and other nations around the world? While it's too early for statistical evidence, marriage counselors and divorce attorneys around the globe are in agreement. They're finding many couples who were ready to call it quits are postponing the divorce decision due to financial reasons. In the U.S., with housing values at near-record lows, wide-ranging cuts in salaries and a dramatic rise in unemployment rates, many couples are not divorcing because they are afraid they can't afford it.
Does this mean that couples are finding new ways to get along and reconsider their marriages? In some cases, yes, but for many it just means adapting to continued states of unhappiness and coping with disappointment and frustration. This, of course, does not bear well for the children of these unions. They experience the negative consequences of a distressed marriage whether the couple splits up or chooses to stay together because of economic factors.
Many couples are too financially dependent on one another to make a break, but have lost their emotional interdependence, which helps a couple thrive during outside challenges. Without the affection and emotional connection, these couples are basically house-mates sharing a home and living expenses.
The problem is that they are also parents of children who may be even more confused about life at home. Mom and Dad are still married and together -- but are they? This is a big concern for therapists, school guidance counselors, clergy and others who understand children's emotional and psychological needs during times of high stress.
In the past, it was common for divorce rates to spike during times of financial insecurity. Back in the recession of 1997, the divorce rate rose close to 20 percent. However, economists note that during real tough times, such as the Great Depression in the early 1930s, divorce rates statistically decline because people can't afford the luxury of splitting into two separate homes.
There are no clear resolutions for today's economic crisis or for parents caught up in the whirlwind of the divorce decision. However, staying together in a marriage on paper only can be damaging for the children. That's because those marriages often fail to focus on the emotional safety and security factors that children need in order to thrive, feel self- confident and express themselves.
Parents, whatever you do, stop and ask yourself some fundamental questions before moving ahead, whether in -- or out -- of the marriage:
- Despite economic stress, are we taking the time to give our children the loving attention they deserve?
- Are we as parents providing a loving environment for our children, whether we share the same residence or two separate abodes?
- Are we providing the nurturing, values and personal time we want to instill in our children despite our own challenges as adults?
- Are we creating family time rituals with one or both parents so our children feel that we still are a "family" regardless of the form it takes?
- Should we be seeking outside professional help to make sure our children are feeling safe, secure, loved and peaceful in their home environment(s)?
- Are we being honest with our children about our circumstances without confiding adult details to them that would be confusing and burdensome for them at their age?
- Are we restraining from arguing, badmouthing each other, creating tension, bitterness, sarcasm or other negativity when the children are present?
- Are we reminding our children how much we love them and will continue to love them regardless of changes in where and how we live?
How you answer these questions will determine the quality of life your children experience -- whether they are residing in one residence or two. Always remember, you are parents first and a couple struggling with marital or divorce issues second. Isn't that the way it should be?