A reader writes:
I left a job in journalism last year to focus on my own personal writing. As 2008 wore on, I found it harder and harder to find work until finally the money completely dried up. My wife's salary is small but just enough to keep us chugging along (as we have no kids), but it certainly led to plenty of strain between us. In the fall, I accepted an offer to go and work for the Obama campaign in a state halfway across the country. While I was away, my wife cheated on me. I found out at Christmastime, which made an already spartan holiday even more dreary.
Normally, that's the sort of indiscretion that would end a marriage, but in this case, I could not afford to move out, and it ended up being cheaper to pay for counseling through her health insurance so we could at least live with each other.
The counseling managed to rekindle our friendship and is now rekindling a love that we left untended for far too long. I don't harbor any illusions that this will all be put behind us quickly or that this means our love is here to stay, but it has reminded me what a good thing having a caring partner can be and just how easy it was to let her down in that regard when we were both too consumed with keeping up with the Joneses.
I hear about this from lots of couples our age (late 20s). They got married way too young, found they weren't sure they could make it work and now should probably divorce. But this economy is forcing lots of them to stay together, and many of them are finding out what made them click in the first place. Obviously, there are cases where divorce is the best option, but it strikes me that one of the unintended factors of the "you can have whatever you want, whenever you want" culture I grew up in was that it made EVERYthing disposable, including spouses and relationships one once cared about.
I still only have a part-time census job. All of the writing I'm doing is for purely personal reasons. I can't break back into the newspaper business, even with a stellar resume. We have basically stopped spending money on non-essentials, and we may soon have to shut off the Internet. But, as the saying goes, we still have each other, and in a way that we might not have if not for the economy cratering. The recession has taken away everything, but it has also given me, indirectly, so much more.
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