You hear a lot about the toll the economy is taking on marriages. Both Oprah and Money Magazine are trying to recession-proof your marriage, while the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that divorce filings are down by 40%, a phenomenon the NY Daily News calls "sleeping with the enemy."
I can relate. When my and my partner's real estate investments plummeted, we coped by not talking about it -- or to each other. It wasn't long before we were living like Ernie and Bert. Forget the wing-nuts who claim that gay marriage is causing the recession. The recession nearly caused my gay divorce.
The fact is, the fault lines in my marriage were already there-the economy was just the quake that nearly brought the house down. But like victims of some natural disaster, the crisis has brought us closer together. Being underemployed has given us the time we needed to repair the damage, talking a lot about US and OUR RELATIONSHIP.
And we all know how much fun those conversations are.
Apparently we're not alone. Corinne in Thomasville, North Carolina tells me the stress from her husband Jean-Paul's unemployment got them into marriage counseling.
"He assumed that since he couldn't find a job that I was always angry and that I thought he was letting me down and he was a failure, but I didn't think this at all," she says, adding, "You can see why we needed to work things out with a mediator." Now she and her husband have grown to enjoy having him run their household full-time. "I honestly will be sad when he actually finds a job now," she says.
Manny in Baldwin Park, California, is in a similar situation. Last year he was a single professional. After being laid off in January and getting married in March, he is now the stay-at-home stepdad to two kids. The complete identity shift has not been without its strains. "No husband wants to hear his wife complain about finances and not be able to help her," he says. "Also, I have to deal with the issue of having to ask her for money and consult her before I make large purchases."
While Manny has put his time to good use by creating several web-based ventures like Soccer Universe, a social networking site for fans of professional soccer, he has had to re-evaluate himself: "I am a modern-thinking man, but I never foresaw myself in the role of homemaker. I guess I am going through a lot of the same feelings as a woman who used to have a career, then decided to stay home and take care of the children." With 82% of the jobs lost befalling men due to troubled industries like manufacturing and construction, women are now on the brink of outnumbering men in the workforce.
Meanwhile, according to a survey of 700 mothers nationwide done by myworkbutterfly.com, the biggest obstacle for working moms is finding adequate child care.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Sure, there are plenty of reports showing that women still put in more time for household and parenting duties than their out-of-work husbands, but the whole lazy-guy-with-the-remote thing is so late 20th century. Just ask Manny. Or Jean-Paul. One could also argue that women will continue to dominate the workforce as the Information Revolution favors traditionally "feminine" skills like multi-tasking and relationship-building. Meanwhile, men could provide a refreshing change from the trend in helicopter parenting, which, truth be told, is kind of a chick thing and has created a generation of helpless narcissists endlessly updating their statuses on MyFace. What's more, most dads I know are lax on things like say, hygiene and safety at a time when, according to novelist Michael Chabon, most kids could use some freedom.
So maybe part of the New Economy is that mom will earn the dough and dad will knead it.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
The Upside: The recession and the future of marriage