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The frequency of money fights is a huge warning bell: Couples who argue over money every week were more than 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who fought over money a few times a month, the State of Our Unions report said.

As America enters 2010, millions of families are trying to make ends meet with part-time jobs, credit cards, unemployment checks and charity.

Married households are struggling, too. Their doors are often the ones that receive the “knocks of need” from others. How can couples keep their marriages healthy and intact during the days when their fortunes shift from “richer” to “poorer”?

First, they can take advantage of the personal social safety net that marriage usually provides.

“There is nothing like the loss of a job, an imminent foreclosure, or a shrinking 401(k) to gain a new appreciation for a wife’s job, a husband’s commitment to pay down debt, or the in-laws’ willingness to help out with child care or a rent-free place to live,” wrote W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia professor and director of the National Marriage Project.

Second, they can tap into the pro-marriage movement’s vast network of support groups, programs, books and counselors. There are literally thousands of ways to assist couples in getting their finances in order - the winner of Smart Marriages’ Impact Award this year is Syble Solomon’s “Money Habitudes” program.

The bottom line to me, though, is to keep the marriage and family relationships warm and friendly as everyone rides out the economic storm. As Ms. Waite and Ms. Gallagher wrote, “When it comes to building wealth or avoiding poverty, a stable marriage may be your most important asset.”

c Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@