09/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Getting Hitched? A Bad Start To A Marriage Can Be A Good Sign

Few couples would choose to marry during periods of severe relationship stress, but then, trials come unexpectedly -- you can't plan for layoffs, illness or a raging wildfire that forces a change in wedding venue 24 hours before the big event. That bad start, however, can have benefits. While an abundance of research shows that stressful life events often amplify a couple's problems -- turning a husband's short temper into abuse, for example -- and increase the likelihood of divorce, studies also show that hardship can have an upside. For some couples, it's protective, helping solidify their commitment into an unshakable us-vs.-the-world resolve. Data from the Great Depression suggest, for instance, that economic adversity held many couples together. "Those families who were cohesive before the Depression, they banded together as a team and really became more cohesive in dealing with the economic crisis," says Gottman -- surely good news for the untold numbers of newlyweds who have faced job loss or foreclosure in the past year.

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