Feb 06, 2009

Soured romance in downturn

Posted by: Marian Salzman In: recession| sightings from the zeitgeist| trendspotting

chem20loveWhat happens to commitments of love in a time of economic angst? Watch the classic film “Cabaret,” set in Depression-era 1930s Berlin, for a clue to the mind-set that can occur when romance takes a backseat to survival. The show’s view of love in the song “Money”: “Money makes the world go around … But when hunger comes to rap … at the window… See how love flies out the door.”


It’s been decades since entire societies have celebrated Valentine’s Day in the midst of recession. While gloomy January is typically one of the busier times for divorce proceedings (the holiday pressures of extended time spent with extended family can deepen cracks in unstable relationships), this year’s extraordinary economic woes appear to be trumping that pattern.


In England, divorce lawyers and advisers are seeing caseload increases, stemming from people eager to get their settlements finalized before things get worse.  With an eye on the division of assets, the big question is timing. Virtually all asset classes are worth less now than they were a year ago. Is it better to get a settlement while they’re still worth something, or hang tough and wait for them to recover?


Paradoxically the economic crisis may be convincing couples to stick together, because divorce is expensive. The value of assets may have fallen but lawyer fees haven’t. The longer parties wrangle, the more their asset-value slides and the more the legal fees mount. The net-net is that for most people, the economic crisis is making divorce potentially ruinous option.


So will the economic crisis help reboot romance and marriage? Maybe warring couples will decide it’s cheaper and less painful to invest in a marriage makeover than to split.

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