Rosamund Witcher and her boyfriend of three years, James, began their relationship over a meal of lobster and oysters, and though neither had a ton of money, they used what they had to fly around the world together.
Witcher explains that both she and James were able to live so lavishly because their apartment was cheap, neither had children or a mortgage, and they simply used "disposable income" to enjoy themselves whenever possible. Of course, there's no such thing as "disposable income" for many of us these days, Witcher included: when the economy began to sour, so did her relationship.
"I worried about where my next job was coming from, while James witnessed endless redundancies at work and had to live with the constant possibility that he might be next," Witcher writes, "We had often talked about the future, but now our dreams of moving out of London and starting a family seemed ludicrously far-fetched. As we worried about work, and spent less time having fun together, our relationship turned into a vicious circle of anxiety and grumpiness."
The sudden change in Witcher's lifestyle threw her relationship into chaos; the home that the couple had treated as an afterthought to their luxurious trips and nights out had now become a prison of sorts, and they began drifting apart, feeling trapped and bored and unable to recapture the excitement that the freedom of having more financial security gave them. Apparently, Rosamund and James aren't alone: as Gary Nickelson of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers tells the Associated Press "I don't know that I would say that finances are the number one cause of divorce, but they're right up there with the top causes." An inability to discuss money problems openly and to prepare for the emotional strains that sudden changes in fortune—such as a recession or a job loss—may bring, can be disastrous for a couple.
So how can you avoid a recession breakup? "Experts say couples that deal openly and honestly with money issues early on have tackled one of the toughest topics in a relationship," writes Eileen Aj Connelly of the Associated Press. Connelly recommends keeping track of spending, discussing the possibility of separate accounts, and speaking to a financial counselor: the more open you are, and the more you work together to get your financial situation stabilized, the better off you'll be.
But perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that things didn't work out for Witcher and her boyfriend; in the end, if you can't feel happy with your partner simply because the money isn't there, were you ever really happy at all? Witcher doesn't seem too sure, herself: "If there is an upside to this recession, it's surely that people will begin to realise what's really important in life, and it isn't the availability of a good wine list." I suppose sometimes, when the big things are taken away, you find out that the little things are the things that mean the most. And if they aren't worth anything anymore, either, it might not be the recession alone that's tearing you apart.