The possible connection between cash and contentment is a topic which had been considered long before John Lennon and Paul McCartney explored the concept in song half a century ago. Nevertheless, there are many who believe that a couple’s financial health may well have a bearing on their happiness and prospects of remaining together.
They will have drawn comfort from the results of the latest ‘Relationship Distress’ survey by the counselling charity Relate. It has found that although 18 per cent of people in the UK are in what it describes as “distressed” relationships, that’s a slightly healthier picture than when it completed similar research last year - http://www.relate.org.uk/blog/2016/5/23/new-study-shows-18-married-or-cohabiting-couples-are-distressed-relationships.
One reason put forward by the organisation for the improvement is that financial pressures have eased somewhat the further couples have moved from the worst effects of the recession.
Relate reckons that some couples stayed together during the economic downturn because they felt the likely costs of separation, including changes in income and the expense of establishing new households, were “prohibitive”.
So far, so happy. However, dig a little deeper into the figures and a curious development emerges.
For if financial well-being is the key to domestic satisfaction, why is it that the proportion of couples considering divorce or separation is on the rise?
As I’ve been telling John Bingham, the Daily Telegraph’s Social Affairs Correspondent, my colleagues' and my own experience leads me to suspect how perhaps having more money and a settled working life leads those in seriously or even slightly flawed relationships to ponder the merits of making a fresh start.
There are undoubtedly couples who are - for want of a better phrase – opportunistic when it comes to determining when to separate. In straitened times, they consider their likely entitlement to be insufficient and so bide their time until the joint bank balances are well-stocked once more.
They also appreciate that, by waiting, a marriage is that much longer and, therefore, potentially justifies a larger divorce settlement.
Some have used the term ‘divorce poker’ to summarise the process by which spouses keep cards close to their chest until they seize on the financially optimal point to end their marriages and start their lives anew.
There are those in happier partnerships who might regard such behaviour cynically, but it must be remembered that, especially for husbands and wives becoming newly single in middle-age, the outcome of their divorce may well be relied on to see them through the rest of their lives, and so maximising the available resources is entirely sensible.
As The Beatles themselves discovered, being comfortably well-off did not guarantee their longevity as a band.
The saying that “money can’t buy me love” might not just be the catchy central refrain of their 1964 chart-topper but could have more than a grain of truth after all.