The XX Factor

Why No One Wants To Marry the Jobless

The website YourTango did a survey with Forbes Woman in which they asked women if they would marry someone unemployed . 75 percent of respondents said they would not marry a jobless partner, while 65 percent said they would not get married if they were the unemployed one. These results don’t surprise me: According to a recent Pew survey, 62 percent of men and women say the ideal marriage is one in with both couples are working . As Meghan Casserly points out in Forbes , it is very important for many couples to feel like they are economically secure before they wed.

But security isn’t the only reason that couples might be putting off marriage if one or the other partner is out of work. For many couples, when one partner is out of work it can lead to increased strife. In my Home Economics series on how couples manage their money , I asked a series of questions about whether respondents fought about money, and why. I just went back through the responses, and dozens of people said that unemployment was a major stressor on a relationship, and sometimes was a relationship ender. “I was living with/talking marriage with a guy who was unemployed and who was living off my paycheck, and who couldn’t wash the fucking dishes,” one woman wrote to me. “People can contribute to the running of the household in different ways, and I am fine with that.  They cannot neglect to contribute to the running of a household at all because they are too busy bitching about feeling emasculated.”

A male respondent said that his second marriage ended because he lost his job. “My wife at that time became very uncomfortable about me not pulling my weight financially,” he wrote. “This led to some terrible fights, and ended with her divorcing me, mostly because she was afraid that I would drag her down into the financial morass that I was experiencing.”

So what are the consequences when people put off marriage or end relationships because their financial lives are unstable? For one, the age at first marriage may continue to rise. For another, as the unemployment rate stays high (and it’s highest among those who are the least educated) it’s possible that the marriage rate among the middle and lower middle classes, which has already been on a steep decline since 1970, will continue to drop.

Photograph of married couple by Thinkstock.