Financial chemistry just as important as love

The recession has unearthed another economic truism: Having a sound financial marriage is as romantic as roses and chocolate.

Money definitely matters for contemporary American marriages, according to findings in an annual survey on “The State of Our Unions” by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project and the Center for Marriage and Families at the New York-based Institute for American Values.

Although studies find that emotional intimacy, sexual satisfaction and individual happiness rank at the top of marital aspirations, the Great Recession that began in 2007 exposed an economic factor, writes W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project.

Wilcox says that the economic downturn reminds us that marriage is more than an emotional relationship. It’s also an economic partnership and social safety net.

“Of course, we would not want to advocate loveless unions for financial gain,” writes Alex Roberts of the Institute for American Values in his essay “Marriage &the Great Recession.” “But a greater societal appreciation of marriage’s financial benefits could be helpful, especially among poor and working-class couples who are drifting farther and farther away from the institution of marriage.”

This year, Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $14.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Instead of spending all those billions on flowers or candy, what if some financial sense (not cents) could be incorporated into the holiday?

We need to start a new tradition for Valentine’s Day, one that includes a focus on personal finances rather than consumerism to demonstrate our love.

Take your sweetheart to see a financial planner or credit counselor before that romantic dinner. (You can find a nonprofit credit-counseling agency by going to Find a planner by going to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors ( or the Financial Planning Association (

Engaged couples could spend a little time between sips of wine talking about how they might manage their money after they wed.

Dating folks could come up with a “How do I love thee?” list that counts the ways they plan to be a better mates when it comes to money if, or when, they marry.

I know what many of you are thinking — this woman has lost her mind.

Won’t people end up fighting following a meeting with a financial planner?

Talk about money on Valentine’s Day? How unromantic.

Well, what I’m suggesting is a lot more romantic then ending up in a relationship or marriage in which the financial fights overshadow the romance.

Couples who report that they disagree over finances at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who disagree about finances a few times per month, according to research by Jeffrey Dew, a professor of family studies at Utah State University.

People may say their divorce was the result of fights over money, but the truth is, it’s rarely about the money — either the lack or abundance of it. More likely, the romance obscured the emotional baggage — at first.

Interestingly, the marriage report found that divorce dipped a little during the first year of the recession.

“Only time will tell if the cumulative economic consequences of this recession redound to the benefit of marriage or to the detriment of marriage, especially among less-advantaged Americans,” Wilcox writes. “But what is not in doubt is that the Great Recession has once again brought into clear relief the enduring truth that marriage and money, the nest and the nest egg, go hand in hand.”

I hope you take the time to read the “State of Our Unions” report, which can be found at One of the goals of the marriage project is to develop strategies for strengthening marriages.

It’s a worthy one because in today’s relationships there’s not nearly enough weight and work given to developing financial chemistry.

Washington Post Writers Group

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.