Relationships and the Economy

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We talk a lot about how the current economy is hurting our bank accounts, but what is it doing to our relationships?

The tough times are actually keeping some couples together. In some cases couples who are unhappy are staying together because they can't afford to get divorced and while that may not be the best motivation, it's giving counselors time to help some save their marriages.

Sallie Frederick and her husband of 15 years still live together, but not because they want to. “My husband lives in the guest room, and he comes home on Wednesday nights early to have dinner with the kids, and the other nights he comes home late to give me my space, so it's, it's not perfect. It's been difficult,” Frederick said. She says it's simply too expensive for one of them to move out.

And apparently they're not alone. Colorado Springs Psychotherapist Amanda Franco says in the past year, more and more couples have been coming to her for counseling.

"There are a lot of people who would have normally jumped faster in the divorce direction, who are trying other things because it's so expensive," Franco said.

She says in some ways this can be positive if it helps couples work on their marriages instead of just getting out. "The healthiest ways to get through these times is if you do it as a partnership if you support each other in the hard times,” Franco said.

Resident Psychologist at Focus on the Family, Bill Maier agrees, some good can come out of the bad. "It can cause the couple to delay decision about divorce, can be a good thing, can get help and work on their marriage and prevent divorce in the long run," Maier said.

Across the country divorce attorneys report business is down. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 37% of attorneys polled reported fewer divorces during this economic downturn. But here in Colorado, at least at the offices of Cordell and Cordell, business has been consistent.

"We are still seeing a lot of people come in and really want to start and finish their divorce, it can be a good time to end your marriage," said divorce attorney, Barbara Johnson-Stern. She says that's because during a recession, there's less to divide up.

"If your house value is down, lets say a year ago you had $100,000 you had to share, now you have $10,000, it may be possible for one party to keep a house if all they have to distribute is 10-grand," Johnson-Stern said.

But she admits there can be other worries when money is tight. "A lot of my clients talk about bankruptcy and how am I going to do this and what if she decides to file for bankruptcy, what will that do to me," Stern said.

Even if divorces are down, the courthouse is still bustling with couples choosing the simple way to tie the knot.

Santana and Leah Garcia were married in a matter of minutes at the El Paso County Courthouse.

"First time getting married, rather excited new life," said Santana.

And the decision to come to the courthouse was rather impromptu. "We were going to have the wedding this year but I told her it would be better if we saved up, this is just to hold us over for the big show,” Santana said.

Judge James Patterson says many couples opt for courthouse weddings, which he calls the quick and simple option. In fact he married two other couples the day the Garcia's tied the knot. As for making those marriages last in these tough times. The Garcia’s say they're ready for the challenge.

It’s estimated that roughly 70-percent of marriages end because of financial stress.