Every new year begins with adopting new resolutions and shedding bad habits. We all tend to identify the same bad habits, which include everything from cigarettes to overindulgence to inactivity. A spouse is not a bad habit. Yet for couples on the rocks, one of the biggest New Year’s resolutions is resolving not to give up on the marriage.
Often referred to as “Divorce Month,” January is a difficult month for many marriages on the rocks. USA Today suggested in a January 2019 article that perhaps the greatest number of divorce filings occur in January in order to avoid ruining Christmas festivities for the children.[i]
MarketWatch corroborates the reality of increased divorce filings in January, noting that in addition to keeping the family together for one last holiday season, it is difficult to get into court due to reduced hours over the holidays.[ii]
But many spouses, instead of heading to divorce court, decide to add relationship reconciliation to their list of New Year’s resolutions. With this worthy goal, a new year can be a new beginning, as both partners resolve to rebuild respect, trust, and relational commitment.
Research reveals the many benefits of a happy marriage, as well as a common source of an unhappy marriage--money.
Kira S. Birditt and Toni C. Antonucci, in their journal article “Till Death Do Us Part” (2012), reviewed the impact of divorce on the well-being of partners and other affected individuals.[iii] They noted that the studies in the research they described illustrated the complexity and diversity of marriage and divorce. Yet they also noted the significance of the marital relationship, describing the bond as “one of the most influential relationships in adulthood, with vast implications for well-being.” They acknowledge prior research indicating that higher quality marriages that produce higher levels of marital happiness are linked with less physical and psychological problems.
But what about unhappy marriages? Couples experiencing marital discord often manage to put up a good front through holiday gift-giving and even a New Year’s Eve toast, only to face the music on January 1st, when an important decision must be discussed.
For many of these couples, the answer is not shedding their spouse along with other “bad habits” in the new year. There are a variety of issues to address in pursuit of saving the relationship. One issue that is frequently linked with relational discord, that is an increased source of stress over the holidays and also a commonly made New Year’s resolution, has to do with money.
In Marriage, Money Matters
Ashley B. LeBaron et al. in an article entitled “Money Over Marriage” (2018), explored the negative relationship between materialism and marital satisfaction.[iv] They adopted a research-based definition of materialism as “the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions.” Recognizing the fact that this association is well established, they sought to dive deeper into the factors that could explain the link.
Based on the “Incompatibility of Materialism and Children Model and Marital Paradigms Theory,” they investigated how perceived importance of marriage potentially mediated the link between marital satisfaction and materialism. In a sample of 1310 married participants, they found materialism to be negatively linked with perception of marriage importance. They explained that this link provided a partial explanation for why materialistic individuals might be less satisfied with their marriage.
Apparently, partners who highly value material goods and money tend to value marriage less. The authors suggest that perhaps the pursuit of materialism decreases the amount of time available for interpersonal communication and intimacy, or perhaps materialism is linked with a self-centered lifestyle that does not prioritize relationship-building or relational maintenance.
In light of such findings, couples might view January as a time to invest in financial New Year’s resolutions, which could mean forgoing some materialistic pursuits, choosing instead increased investment in each other.
Resolve to Reconcile
Whether in January or June, saving a marriage is a resolution worth making. Reviewing the significance of lifestyle choices, which include spending and saving, might reveal habits worth changing in order to rebuild financial stability and relationship quality—both New Year’s resolutions worth keeping.
[iii] Kira S. Birditt and Toni C. Antonucci, “Till Death Do Us Part: Contexts and Implications of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage across Adulthood.” Research in Human Development 9, no. 2 (2012): 103–105.
[iv] Ashley B. LeBaron, Heather H. Kelley, and Jason S. Carroll, “Money Over Marriage: Marriage Importance as a Mediator Between Materialism and Marital Satisfaction,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues 39, Iss. 2 (2018): 337–347.