Instead of buying and bickering, it seems married couples are facing hard economic times by drawing closer to each other. That’s the conclusion of one researcher who cites a slight dip in the spanorce rate since the economy plummeted last year.

In the report “Marriage in America: The State of Our Unions 2009,” (online at University of Virginia researcher W. Bradford Wilcox stated spanorces dropped from 17.5 per 1,000 in December 2007 to 16.9 in 2008. While spanorce itself has not gone the way of Lehman Brothers, the statistic lends evidence to the old saw that tough times tend to bring people closer together.

A couple years ago there seemed to be no limit to what people bought on easily accessed credit. That naturally led to abuses or simply unwise money management perhaps in the belief that good times would always be good and finances would have no affect on one’s marriage. A 2008 study in the journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, said those who feel their spouses do not handle money well “report lower levels of marital happiness,” according to researcher Jeffrey Dew of the University of Utah.

In another study, Dew said, “feeling that one’s spouse spent money foolishly increased the likelihood of spanorce 45 percent for both men and women. Only extramarital affairs and alcohol/drug abuse were stronger predictors of spanorce.”

Hopefully, couples are now learning the value of saving, especially if one or both still hold their jobs.

Together, couples are cutting up credit cards, staying home for meals more often, and enjoying what they have instead of acquiring more of this or that. None of the “luxury” goods, or trips or extras of all kinds really make spouses (or any of us) happy, do they?

What treasure do married couples possess that is more powerful than a federal stimulus or a low interest rate? If your first answer was love, you’d be close. It is commitment. When a man and woman commit themselves to love one another and sacrifice for one another and their children in the sacrament of marriage, aided by God’s continual grace, no hardship can separate them. In fact hardships often make a married couple cling more tightly in the union they set out upon on their wedding day.

Married couples are a public, living sign of God’s permanent loving commitment to His people. Spouses who work together, use their resources wisely and love each other despite any hardship show their children and community the goodness of marriage.