How The Recession Forever Changed Relationships

money in relationships
Love, Self

Examining the economic downturn's effects on how we find and show love.

With strapped wallets, tightened belts and the national unemployment rate nearing double-digits, we can only hope that rumors of the recession's demise prove true—and soon. Here at YourTango, we wanted to know how the economic downturn in the U.S. has affected dating, marriage, sex and family already, and which of these changes will stick when the recession's over. 

Getting Hitched

Andrew Cherlin, author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in American Today, says that since people tend to pull together during a crisis, it wouldn't be surprising to see an overall rise in the marriage rate when the recession's waved the white flag. But, the longer the downturn continues, the more people become discouraged and irritable, which takes a toll on 

"The sooner we can bring about an economic recovery, the more American families we can save from potential despair and divorce," Cherlin says.

Pepper Schwartz agrees that the recession could cause an uptick in new coupling. The sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong, says, "People can get distracted by careers and other kinds of ambitions, but when things get tough, they really want a partner—somebody to face life with." 

One thing that's certain: the wedddings taking place in this recessed economy are more modest than they have been in years past. Carley Roney, cofounder of The Knot Inc. (a media company focused on weddings and marriage), says, "With these life events, there's a momentum that goes way beyond what's happening in the economy right now." She points out that couples are finding plenty of ways to cut costs, from hosting smaller weddings to celebrating on Friday nights instead of more in-demand, and therefore costlier, Saturdays. Meanwhile, those putting the wedding off may decide that living under the same roof—sans marriage certificate—is a better option. "Some people are saying, 'OK, it's time to move in together, because it's cheaper,'" Roney says. 

That kind of thinking will be particularly pronounced among blue-collar workers who are seeing their jobs dry up, says Cherlin. 

"Blue-collar men and women are still trying to marry, to live the American dream, so they start more partnerships and eventually enter into more marriages, but many of these relationships fail," he says. He predicts that more children may be born out of wedlock thanks to the turndown, as the number of cohabiting couples rises.

Next: Will There Be A Baby Boom?