How the Changing Economy threatens couples

Lockdown and social distancing mean that numerous couples are now spending much time with each other and not much time apart. As couples struggle to care for and provide for their wards, the basic rhythm of everyday life has been turned completely which has undeniably led to couples suffering under the weight of immense strain.

But relationships are not only facing challenges from new social arrangements, they are also under huge pressure due to economic uncertainty. In the past weeks, more than one million people have applied for the universal credit benefit in the United Kingdom. This increase in unemployment will have dire consequences.

Recent data reveals that even under normal circumstances, unemployment is often associated with lower relationship happiness. British heterosexual couples were studied over a period of eight years and it was revealed that those facing unemployment or whose partner was unemployed mostly tend to be significantly less happy with their relationship.

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These issues gradually become worse the longer they are unemployed. It’s not just the immediate impact of losing one’s job but also the long-term psychological and economic hardship that couples face. The current economic issues will lead to far-reaching implications for millions of couples.

Women mostly are less happy with their relationship when their partner is out of work. But the opposite is different; men’s happiness is in no way affected by a woman’s unemployment.

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Women were also revealed to be less happy in their relationship when their partner suffered a layoff in the previous two years even if the partner had recently returned to work. This shows that men’s unemployment can have a long-term effect on the female’s opinion of the relationship.

These findings show the gendered nature of employment and relationships among British couples. Even though attitudes have changed in recent decades, many people are still of the view that it is a man’s responsibility to be the main provider in a relationship.

At the same time, women, especially mothers are often expected to work part-time or stay at home. This traditional pattern may give insight as to why men’s unemployment affects how happy women are in relationships.

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Economic issues are more common among couples who live together without being officially married. The least educated ones are more likely to have a child while staying together and are more susceptible to separation. Unmarried couples living together also have worse mental and health wellbeing. Overall, cohabiting couples are mostly disadvantaged when compared to couples who are married.

Taken in totality, relationships that are less stable along with the increasing economic uncertainty will lead to an increase in uncertain relationships. As the coronavirus crisis puts strains on more families, government policies need to realize the impact unemployment plays on couple’s relationships.

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