National Marriage Week kicks off Monday with some good news: more people are keeping their marriage vows during the recession.
A new survey reveals that 38 percent of couples who were considering divorce or separation have now put aside those plans as a result of the recession, according to the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia.
Though researchers could not estimate the number of marriages that dissolved as a result of the economic downturn, they noted, "It appears that some, at least, have been saved for now."
Churches, pro-family groups and faith-based organizations are being mobilized this week to draw attention to the need to strengthen marriage and to start new efforts to reduce the divorce rate.
National Marriage Week, the brainchild of Richard Kane who started it in the United Kingdom in 1996, is an annual initiative observed in the lead up to Valentine's Day.
"Marriage works," Sheila Weber, executive director of the U.S. initiative, said simply.
"Research shows that marriage makes people happier, live longer, and build more economic security. Children with married parents perform better in school. There are proven ways to repair and restore marriages – but most folks don’t know where to go to get the help they need."
In conjunction with this year's marriage week, researchers at the University of Virginia sought to examine the impact of the latest recession on marriages.
They found that though the downturn has brought considerable stress to many married couples, there were also two silver linings: couples putting aside divorce and a deeper commitment to marriage.
About 29 percent of married Americans said that the recession brought financial stress to their marriage. At the same time, 29 percent agreed that the recession caused them to deepen their commitment to their marriage. Only 13 percent disagreed while the rest neither agreed nor disagreed.
More than half (52 percent) of married Americans who agreed that the recession has deepened their commitment to marriage also reported being very happy.
Still, the survey revealed the negative impact financial stresses have had on marital happiness.
Married Americans who were most likely to be happy were those who have been relatively unaffected by the financial downturn. Forty-three percent of those with zero stressors – or financial worries – reported having a very happy marriage while 27 percent of those with two to three stressors said they had a very happy marriage.
Stressors include worry about not being able to meet expenses, trouble making mortgage payments and unemployment, a pay cut or reduced work hours.
"We want to get the message out that marriage is beneficial for both personal and national economic stability and for raising more well adjusted children," said Chuck Stetson, CEO of National Marriage Week USA, in a statement. "Marriage breakdown costs taxpayers at least $112 billion a year.
"In these days of economic hardship, policy leaders and individual Americans need to get serious about our efforts to strengthen marriage."
Couples most prone to divorce were those who indicated several financial stressors as opposed to those who reported having zero stressors.
Notably, couples who attend religious services together regularly (25 percent) were less likely to report financial stress and more likely to report a very happy marriage (44 percent) compared to couples who don't attend regularly together. Among the latter couples, 31 percent said the recession brought financial stress to their marriage and 35 percent said they were in a very happy marriage.
National Marriage Week is Feb. 7-14. Resources are available at http://www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org/.