As the basic marriage deal has shifted, our notions and ideals haven’t shifted with it, and the disconnect explains the astronomical divorce rate in contemporary America. We haven’t figured out a new marriage model that takes into account the greater range of choices for both women and men.

This fits right into the fact that we’re divorcing less in hard times. In the context of this recession, we have fewer choices, and fewer choices means we’re back to a good fit with the marriage model of old. Still — and a little paradoxically — the fact that there are untraditional marriages may also be helping husbands and wives withstand some of the emotional and financial stress of economic hard times. During the Depression, the ego blow to a man who lost his job caused marital problems. Today, if a man loses his job — and his wife is the breadwinner — it’s less likely to create as much unhappiness.

If it’s distasteful to you to look at marriage in economic terms, then it might be easier to consider the economics of divorce. Not only are there attorney’s fees to be paid, but the value of the two biggest assets of most marriages — a home and a retirement plan — has diminished dramatically. Faced with the prospect of halving their shrunken assets, many couples are deciding to stick it out a while.