Staying Married for the Money: Can You Still be Happy?

Divorce rates are down, especially among the educated and wealthy.

But in some marriages, it’s not love that’s keeping a couple together—it’s money.

They hang in there, not because of the stigma of divorce or religious reasons, but because a split is painfully expensive. They don’t want to give up their lifestyle, or they fear that a financial struggle will be hard on their kids.

Gina*, 44, of Highland Park, initiated her divorce. Even though she felt she was “suffocating and drowning” in her marriage, she has regrets. “Now I have no financial security and my kids have been raked over the coals. And he’s still in my life! The only difference is that now he isn’t on my side.”

Caroline*, 43, of Deerfield agrees. “Divorce stinks,” she says. “Unless you’re independently wealthy or have a great job or he’s beating you, I say stay married.”

A loveless marriage isn’t tolerable for everyone, so a woman who decides to leave needs to realistically assess her financial situation and prepare to make big lifestyle changes.

When Diana*, 46, an accomplished mother of three from Wilmette, could no longer bear the emptiness of her troubled marriage, she made a plan. Before she left her husband, she made sure she could support herself. She went to counseling, got in shape and rebooted her career. A year later, Diana has her own place, shares custody of her kids, and is rediscovering herself.

“I decided that even if I never find true love, I would rather be alone than be with him,” she says. “I’m working on giving back, slowing down and being proud of who I am. I want to figure out how to be happy.”

Andrea Gaines, a certified life and wellness coach from Evanston, is on a mission to help women do just that. She says women are so conditioned to put everyone else’s needs first, they begin to lose touch with their own desires, which leads to feelings of resentment and resignation.

“These women lead beautiful lives on the outside,” she says. “They have success, home, kids, they exercise and volunteer, but on the inside they are cut off from their life force. They’re numb to their desires.”

Andrea believes women need to develop an ongoing practice of growth and expansion, and commit to discovering what really turns them on—sexually, and in all areas of life. She sees this work as critical to a fulfilling marriage. “When a woman is turned on, lit up and excited, her man usually comes along. If you love yourself, your man will be inspired.”

Seriously?

Yes, Andrea insists. But men aren’t mind readers; it’s up to women to ask for what they want. It can be scary to open up that way, but she encourages women to keep trying—even if all that seems to be left in the relationship is the bank account.

“If you’ve decided you’re committed to your husband because of the money, why settle for an empty relationship? Why not have it all?”

*Names changed to protect privacy

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