The 'better half'is working harder

'For richer, for poorer."

That poetic clause - woven into traditional, Western-culture wedding vows - might not hold up in court.

Too vague a contract.

And court is where quite a few marriages still end up, though a few experts have begun to debunk the popular notion that "half of all marriages" fail.

Government figures actually point to a slight decline in the divorce rate (per 1,000 population) over the past decade.

Whatever the numbers say, this much is seldom disputed: When connubial conflict occurs, it's often about money.

Successful couples work hard at collaborating. For most, pressed for time, that's a growing challenge. Marital finances have grown more complex over the years. Multiple household incomes (often more than two) and a wide array of outflows make it hard to stay stable and, well, have a life.

Women, especially, are rising to the occasion. The chief caregivers, they're also often the partner who ends up balancing checkbooks and handling the comparison shopping - for fresh produce, for long-distance carriers.

The National Endowment for Financial Education reports that women appear "more intimidated by money than men." But women are expanding their comfort zone on money matters. That can mean running a home full time, supplementing household income - or taking the lead in wage earning.

A new Ernst & Young survey of women executives - an expanding pool - says 90 percent of respondents earn more than half their household's income. More important, perhaps, 80 percent were happy with their work/life balance.

That stands to add balance to more marriages.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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