Romance in a Recession

How is the economic downturn affecting relationships?

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Tim is an unmarried 29-year-old with a master’s in statistics. He’d like to meet a great woman, get married and start a family, but he says the recession has stalled his progress.

“I don’t have the disposable income to go out on a date,” Tim told me recently. Plus, he said, his self-worth is tied to his career. After a few years of underemployment in jobs that haven’t been intellectually stimulating, even if he did have some more cash on hand he wouldn’t really feel up to dating.

“Manliness is rooted in a career, and it is demoralizing to work in positions that require little to no education and have little to no prospect of upward mobility,” said Tim. “All this leads to a sort of psychology where, while I’m confident I can support myself, I know I cannot support someone else and especially not a child. So instead of dating with the intention to marry and have children I tend to gravitate towards women who do not want to get married and do not want children,” he told me regretfully.

And Tim isn’t alone in feeling this way. The unemployment rate will soon top 10 percent, and it’s men who are bearing the brunt of the layoffs: According to the Labor Department, men accounted for four out of five job losses since December 2007, as jobs in male-dominated fields like construction, manufacturing and financial services have disappeared.

During the Great Depression, my grandfather dated my grandmother for seven years before he proposed because he felt he needed to earn enough money to provide for her, and for a future family. Are we seeing this trend all over again?

Men without college degrees have been most severely impacted, but all guys have been feeling the hit. (Women are being laid off, too, of course, but at much lower rates, and economists predict that by the end of 2009 women will make up more than 50 percent of the labor force for the first time in history.)

Delaying marriage?

Talking with Tim brought back memories of my grandparents’ courtship during the Great Depression. My grandfather dated my grandmother for seven years before he proposed because he felt he needed to earn enough money to provide for her, and for a future family. Are we seeing this trend all over again?

It’s too soon to tell, but early surveys suggest some worrisome news, especially for those who were already struggling financially before the recession: Among young adults who say their economic situation is poor, some 32 percent say they are delaying marriage or having children, according to an April 2009 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey of 18 to 29-year-olds commissioned by Qvisory. And a June 2009 study from FindLaw reports that about 40 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds are delaying marriage, divorce or having children.

Recession Romance Survey
TAKE THIS SURVEY!!

How is the recession is impacting your dating life? Are you going out on different kinds of dates? Planning a wedding, but downsizing a bit? Prioritizing different things in a mate?

Take the Recession Romance survey here and share your comments. In a future column I’ll post the results and responses.

At the same time, I’ve heard some wonderful stories about how liberating it is to date on a budget — a long walk in the park instead of the pressure of a fancy dinner — and how young married couples are finding that staying in (and turning the TV off) can mean more quality time with your spouse than a concert or the theater.

So I put it to you; I’m interested in how the recession is impacting your dating life. Are you going out on different kinds of dates? Planning a wedding — but downsizing a bit? Are you prioritizing different things in a mate? Share you comments by clicking here to take the Recession Romance survey, and in my next column I’ll explore recession romance for young adult Catholics.


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