For richer or for way, way poorer

After all of the ominous forecasts, a writer reports that the financial crisis has been good for some marriages

Published September 25, 2009 7:06AM (EDT)

Soon after Wall Street went bust, we were told the crisis had sent a wrecking ball crashing into romantic relationships. Such tales were spun by many different media outlets, but the most popular one came from the New York Times. It profiled a new support group by the name of Dating a Banker Anonymous for ladies whose romances with high earners took a dive along with the Dow. It was the trend piece that launched a million blog posts; it was also soon revealed that DABA was just a well-executed hoax. Now, another supposed recession trend trotted out by the Times and others is being challenged -- by a writer for the paper's own Vows column, no less!

In a Daily Beast article headlined "Love Trumped Money," Abby Ellin writes: "Sociologists, divorce lawyers and anyone who saw their 401(K) decimated had a field day predicting that financial meltdown would finally reveal the superficial money-for-beauty nature of Wall Street marriages. With the cash part of the equation erased, a divorce boom wasn’t merely predicted, it was assumed." She doesn't mention it, but a Times piece joined in on such speculation in January. It reported on shifting gender roles in Wall Street families and quoted a Manhattan divorce lawyer as saying she had "seen a spate of women seeking to end their marriages after they reentered the work force or expanded their careers to replace their husbands’ income." At the time, I expressed doubt about this supposed trend, which was backed up by that one lone quote from the divorce lawyer -- but who needs evidence to prove that avaricious trophy wives will abandon their sugar hubbies at the first sign of serious trouble? It's such a predictable and sickly satisfying story line.

It's also one that hasn't panned out, Ellin says. "Trying to quantify this phenomenon, I found that the divorce rate among Wall Streeters actually seems to have come down," she writes. Of course, a large part of that might be due to how costly divorces are. "Robert Stephan Cohen, a Manhattan divorce lawyer who has represented high-profile divorcees like Christie Brinkley, Uma Thurman, and Lorraine Bracco, says he has seen fewer Wall Street divorces this year than last. Jerome Wisselman, a family and divorce lawyer in Great Neck, Long Island, concurs," she reports. That isn't exactly rock-solid proof; in fact, it's only twice as much evidence as the Times trend piece offered.

Luckily, though, Ellin doesn't make an overreaching statement about the current state of matrimony amid the financial crisis. Instead, she offers a counterpoint to all the menacing forecasts we've heard in the past year. She tells the stories of two Wall Street couples who have not only survived the recession but have essentially remade their marriages. One of these husbands began bonding with his kids and  grabbing a leisurely morning coffee with his wife -- because without his high-powered gig he finally had the time. Some couples, she says, "are falling in love, either for the second time, or occasionally, the first. This doesn’t happen immediately, but after learning how to navigate life with less money and more time together, many couples are actually bonding their way through the economic downturn." Finally, a silver lining in this dark economic cloud.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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