Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Once I built a railroad, now it's done.

I'm certain you've all heard the cliche about how to cook a frog but I'll cover it quickly for that one person who hasn't: If you plop a live frog in a pot of boiling water it will jump right out again but if you put it in cool water and slowly heat it, the frog won't notice the gradual increase in temperature and will politely sit there and cook. First ... ew. Live frogs being boiled to death and then eaten? Someone having done this in order to think this up? It's like a Valu-Pak of disgusting images. Second, I have my doubts about the whole theory. Frogs, while rarely being on the receiving end of a law degree, have lived in one form or another for millions of years. They have to have developed some survival instincts. I've always suspected that at one point during this evolutionary experiment, a frog would think to itself, "Is it just me, or is it getting warm in here?"

Which leads us to last week. As I have noted before, it's generally understood things aren't going well, economically. I don't think anyone is feeling any better-off financially than they were a year ago this week, when only Bear Stearns had gone under and AIG was just two vowels and a consonant. But within the last ninety-six hours, the water temperature must have gone up again because no fewer than three couples I know have hit an inflection point. These aren't couples who have spent the last few years acting out their own private version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," where the inevitable decline is met with public sorrow and private relief. And these are good couples. Loving couples. Couples who, had there not been once-every-century-financial-ruination-of-us-all forces acting upon them, would be chugging along nicely. But a combination of unemployment, underemployment, monthly four-figure COBRA payments, children constantly outgrowing shoes and a relentless cascade of bared-teeth credit card debt will make adversaries out of allies.

I sense your worry. No, this isn't my way of gently leading into the "Consort and Quinn aren't going to live together any more, but we still love you readers very much and it's not your fault." We're fine and, candidly, I'm grateful. I assume our stability is because only one of us is insane and the other is Consort. But, I feel like getting a pulse-check of the nation and the world (Waving "Hi!" to my readers in Indonesia, Austria and the United Arab Emirate).

Within your sphere, are you seeing marriages and relationships fall apart over the recession?

32 Comments:

Anonymous JAL said...

I'm a paralegal working for a divorce attorney in Maryland. I can't say we've seen an increase or decrease in the amount of clients we're seeing. And as someone that has been doing this for 14 years, my general observation is that more than likely, in the privacy of their own homes, things aren't really chugging along nicely. But some catalyst, like a horrible economy, often brings things to a head and the marriage, unfortunately, comes apart.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

I'm seeing business slowing down a little. I'm not seeing directly the ruin of any lives. There have been layoffs locally at a couple of places. I do live in the midwest, and we are, to some extent, insulated from the economic crisis as well as culture.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Not The Rockefellers said...

Quinn, I have not seen anyone's marriage fall apart. Not yet.

I do know one couple whose cracks in their foundation are becoming more pronounced. Public, ugly bickering.

I take their kids for overnights to give them some alone time to work things out in a kid free environment.

All is can do is hope for the best and that they can work things out.

Peace - Rene

12:40 PM  
Blogger ElleBee said...

A news story was done on this topic by one of the Chicago stations not too long ago. It seems that in many cases, folks who would've normally divorced in better economic times are now staying together because they can't afford the financial costs (both immediate and residual) of acutally divorcing.

12:55 PM  
Blogger preppyplayer said...

I think events and occurences like bad economy, death of a child, or a geographical move can expose the cracks that are already there.

What I do see a lot of are couples whose children have gotten older and more idependent (middle school) and realize that the only bond they had was the partnership of rearing children.

12:55 PM  
Blogger ege said...

You see? That's the nice thing about having been poor all along! We're fine, and so are all our friends. Just call us early adopters...

1:25 PM  
Anonymous The Preppy Princess said...

These are some pretty interesting responses already...hhhmm. We have not yet seen any unexpected spousal/partner struggles as of yet, and we're in Michigan for heaven's sake. As others have mentioned we *have* seen exacerbated tensions or pre-existing escalation of issues, but really only in one case.

Having said this, we are especially fortunate to be two people who very much enjoy working together and we work for ourselves, so we're probably not a good member of any focus group on the topic.

Love the topic,
tp

1:40 PM  
Blogger Char said...

no, but I'm seeing a lot of stay at home mommies starting to look for work...

1:42 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

A few years ago, almost every one of my friends got divorced. It was like a plague. One after the other, men were narcissists, wives were fed up, stuff was split up, and voila, divorced.

And once that little life saga ended, not one of my friends has actually split from her spouse. One friend is on a death watch for her husband who is a rank bastard, abuses her, and has had stage 4 colon cancer for 7 freaking years, but otherwise, marriages seem to be stable around here.

But who knows? We haven't had the chronic unemployment that the rest of the country has, and the recession isn't THAT horrid here...so far.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of couples existed from lack of anyplace else to go, and buying a new pair of shoes or
golf clubs filled in the gaps of what should have been a real relationship, now without the red
"jimmy's" or the new putter they
are realising that they are unhappy
with life as they know it...maybe it is for the best, they were just
putting in time anyway

2:12 PM  
Anonymous jeff said...

A year ago this week I knew I was about to become unemployed any day. I had a high paying job in Manhattan and lived in a "free" corporate apartment. I lost that job and moved to my paid off home in poorer upstate New York. I now have a poopy paying job I love but still it is bad pay. To get to the point of your question, my lower pay does affect my relationship in that I have to say no to so many things my boyfriend and I used to do all of the time without hesitation. I feel tremendous guilt to constantly play the wet blanket. He still has a great job and understands but I have an ego and like to do my part. My part is now a meatloaf or yet another chicken recipe at home when I would rather still be going out to a dress up night on the town and not look at the prices.

5:07 PM  
Blogger bethany actually said...

The only divorce in my sphere lately started when the marriage imploded due to infidelity and long-ignored issues. I don't think we can put that down to the recession.

Sorry about your friends. Even when it's for a good reason, divorce still sucks in some way.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous M Denise C said...

I have heard how the more wealthy couples that want to divorce are deciding to stay together and live as "roommates" until these economic times improve.

Thanks for the link on "inflection point." Not being a math whiz -- who knew? Maybe these couples on riding that point as long as possible.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I haven't witnessed any break- ups, but it is disconcerting to hear that it is happening.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

I haven't. And now is not the time. Two households are not cheaper than one.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi from your regular reader Robin!

I have a job as a writer and editor, but I also have another job in Beverly Hills as a waitress at night. Sigh. I've never seen things quite so slow, even with all the wealth surrounding us and a classic restaurant that's been open for over half a century. Scary. And tips are going WAY down, even among those who regularly treat themselves and aren't cutting back on meals out. Wait, this isn't Bitter Waitress. ;) hehehe

Back to the topic at hand, my own relationship dissolved (although we've been back and forth through all kinds of economies so I don't think that one counts), but I have also noted some around me doing the same.

I personally think the economy can bring things (using your analogy, sort of) to a boiling part. Stress can bring people together or tear them apart....

This coming from someone who's never been happily in a long relationship, but I think the secret to a happy marriage would be for both parties to wake up every day making their soulmate their priority and re-committing to that love every day...(I totally didn't get the pronoun agreement right there, and my editor self is kicking me for not rewriting it. haha)

But that's just my perception from a distance. haha

12:12 AM  
Blogger laura weiss said...

Very interesting question. I will say that, while no one I know is breaking up, everyone I know who is partnered in one way or another is feeling the strain of tough economic times. This has manifested itself in short words, arguments, sighing emails, and tearful phone calls.

1:33 AM  
OpenID catcreek said...

I haven't seen any break-ups, but the slow down has certainly taken its toll, and created issues which have caused moments of great tension in my relationship.

We made plans based on some properties selling, and got into debt thinking we would be out of it in no time, but now we're having to radically readjust to stay afloat, and it's hard not to start blaming each other.

If our relationship were less solid, or either of us less committed...

6:57 AM  
Anonymous KDA said...

I work in the legal field, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that "it's cheaper to keep 'er." Or, him, as the case may be.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Dodi said...

So, I read this yesterday and it made me step back and think. We do know a couple who has recently decided to separate - but I think economic stress only added to other things that were already there. I'm not sure the crisis itself is the marital tipping point, but in some cases the stress of it might be the last straw needed to break the camel's back.

Any kind of stress, even good stress (new baby, new house, job switch), can open cracks in a partnership or marriage that we only tiny irritants to begin with.

Good post, thought provoking.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Andrew and Robert said...

My husband and I got married in September, for the fifteen seconds when it was legal. Having been able to do that, I know we feel (along with 18,000 other married couples) a duty to try and be a shining example of everything that is right and pure and wonderful about gay marriage.

That said, the current financial situation does cause stress- bills from the wedding, my husband finishing up his teaching certification process with a lack of jobs on the horizon, me working for a restaurant company, etc.

I know that if the current economic situation were happening and I was still with my first partner, we would have broken up much sooner than after 15 years. (I wish we had...but that's the topic of another post.)

As many others have said, current global conditions end up filtering down to specific personal stress and can widen any rifts that are already there. Three of my coupled friends are breaking up now. Two of them are surprising, and current conditions are a contributing factor.

11:18 AM  
Blogger MichaĆ©le said...

Things here in Washington State seem to be doing okay, at least in my neck of the woods. My heating bill is triple what it was last year but hey, whose complaining? (knocking on my simulated wood desktop) Marriage seems to be alive and well in Spokane, Washington, this practicaly a miracle given the fact that we got 6 FEET of snow in mid December and were snowbound with each other for about three weeks. I think if hubs and I survived that, we can survive just about anything. But the credit card debt? Yeah, I can do without that, thank you.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Ann Hamilton said...

Great post. I'm a wedding photographer in San Francisco and in my industry I'm seeing first hand how the effects of the economy are hurting both photographers and couples. Bookings have slowed down, clients' budgets have decreased, and booking cancellations occur more frequently. More and more couples are simply putting their wedding on hold until things start picking up.

10:07 PM  
Blogger NJDecorator said...

I have seen cracks but no breaks. People seem to be more insular right now...anyone notice that?

6:15 AM  
Blogger Narya said...

On one hand, I work for an organization that provides services to people who are experiencing homelessness, so we're expecting an upsurge in need. It probably makes my (low-paying non-profit) job a little safer, which isn't the way I'd go about making THAT happen. My Friend and I are both fiscally frugal and we don't live together or join our finances in any way. That said, we've actually been trying to spend at least as much as we usually do on entertainment. We can afford it (because of the aforementioned frugality), and it's not like we're particularly extravagant: some dinners out, some live music, but no big trips or skiing vacations or what have you. What does help is that we have very similar approaches to money. I haven't seen a lot of divorces or strain around me personally, but I have seen other things that tell me things are going to get worse, in general.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

Not yet and I suspect for two reasons. One, although there has been increasing job losses over the past several months, the recession/depression hasn't hit full throttle in Canada yet. And two, that I'm of an age - yikes, just made myself sound about 94, really, only mid-40s - where my friends and acquaintances had begun divorcing anyway. I've seen strain building in the remaining long-term marriages and the second marriages, though and it makes me nervous.

9:19 AM  
Blogger DEMcA said...

The marriages around me are falling apart so fast I was beginning to think it was a contagious virus.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad I discovered your blog Quinn - you have a great sense of humor and keep me smiling as I read! I remember watching you on "Family" as a kid, so I felt a bit nostalgic when I happened upon your blog. As for the marriages around me, so far they're holding up even if their respective bank accounts are not. I look foward to reading more of your blogs. Stay happy and never lose your sense of humor! :)

1:34 AM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

Hmmm...I see my comment went through, though for some reason I remain officially "Anonymous." Not intentional - but I had such a problem figuring out how to get an identity and post a comment (I'm not usually that computer illiterate, Google's blogging site wasn't cooperating with me, or to be more precise was driving me to want to shout obsenities at the screen) that I'm glad something did go through. Anyway, for the purpose of letting you know how much I'm enjoying your blogs, I'll be heretofore "FurBabyMom" - that is if Google lets me have an identity. ;)

5:59 PM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

Hmmm...I see my comment went through, though for some reason I remain officially "Anonymous." Not intentional - but I had such a problem figuring out how to get an identity and post a comment (I'm not usually that computer illiterate, Google's blogging site wasn't cooperating with me, or to be more precise was driving me to want to shout obsenities at the screen) that I'm glad something did go through. Anyway, for the purpose of letting you know how much I'm enjoying your blogs, I'll be heretofore "FurBabyMom" - that is if Google lets me have an identity. ;)

6:00 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Perhaps your friends are bumping in to middle age?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

My marriage imploded for one of the reasons cited ... chronic underemployment on the part of my husband, who regarded me as an ATM. My primary function in our relationship was to pay all the bills. ALL the bills. My secondary function was ... pretty much everything else. It took twenty-five years to collapse under the strain. What can I say: I'm a slow learner. But it was absolutely due to fiscal strain, financial worry.

I don't know, now, that I would do it the same way; he certainly made out better than I did. I'd like to change that, if I could. But I've misplaced my magic wand, so I don't see that happening any time soon.

I do think marriages are breaking under the strain, but people are staying together because they can't afford to leave.

7:47 AM  

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