NBC Bemoans Divorce Taking a Hit in Bad Economy

NBC's Dec. 1 Today highlighted an offbeat consequence of the turbulent economy – unhappily married couples forced to stay together because divorcing would be too expensive.

By focusing on one bitter relationship and reducing divorce to a “transaction,” NBC made it appear that divorce is the only option facing unhappily married couples. 

Reporter Kerry Sanders focused on Ken and Kelly, a couple married for seven years and parents of two children.  They currently live in separate rooms in their house and have already waited two years for their economic circumstances to improve so they can formally dissolve their marriage.

Sanders did not address the reasons behind Ken and Kelly's separation, but the bad feelings between the two were clear. Kelly even told Sanders, “I wish he could pack his bags today and leave.” 

Following Sanders' report, psychologist Jeff Gardere and Today financial editor Jean Chatzky discussed couples like Ken and Kelly with host Meredith Vieira.  At no point did anyone bring up the idea that couples could use this forced cohabitation as an opportunity to try to save their marriages.  Instead, they focused on making a clean break of the situation.

Vieira noted, “in these tough economic times, when you get a divorce, it's as much a breakup of a financial partnership as an emotional partnership.” Chatzky agreed and added, “if you can approach it that way you'll be better off in the long run, because you'll take some of the heated emotion out of the transaction.”  Chatzky again referred to divorce as a “transaction” when she stated “you need to look at what it's going to take in order to afford to actually move forward with the transaction.”

Addressing the emotional aspect, Gardere told Vieira and Chatzky that divorcing couples forced to live together “continue the fights they had.  They can't wrap up the loose ends, because face it, divorce is about being able to say good-bye and move on.  And you can't because that person is in your face every day.”   Gardere also mentioned “boundaries get very, very blurred in those sorts of relationships” and that “it's really important to be able to put a structure in place that doesn't confuse the kids even more.” 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute,  a division of the Media Research Center