Post-lottery divorces are not caused by the newfound wealth but by pre-existing conditions.
The Daily Mail has been reporting on lottery divorce with the enthusiasm of a Los Angeles divorce lawyer. “Curse of the lottery strikes again,” the UK Daily Mail reported on December 1st, “as huge win wrecks another marriage: Couple who won £45.5m become third to split.” The article proceeds to tell the story of how the lottery winners swore that the money would only change their lives for the better when they first were notified of £45.5m jackpot.
The Scaddings, who are now divorcing may have never dreamed that becoming suddenly wealthy could lead to breaking up their marriage. On the other hand, maybe the divorce is changing their lives for the better, for all the Daily Mail knows. The Daily Mail reported a couple of weeks earlier that Adrian and Gillian Bayford, two other lottery winners, blamed their decision to divorce on the “stress” of becoming multi-millionaires. However, in most divorce proceedings blame is passed around as rapidly as allegations in a political debate.
Studies of lottery winners have shown that a peak of happiness occurs at the time of a lottery win. However, happiness levels return to where they were a few months later. Therefore, if the couple’s life was in disarray before the jackpot, disorder will return once the couple grows accustomed to their newfound wealth. The luxury cars, new house and lack of worry about the bills will not alter normal moods, arguably. Similarly, if a couple is well organized and happy with each other, a stumble upon riches will not put them at each others throats as the Daily Mail implies.
Consequently, despite the Daily Mail sensationalism and slippery slope of logic, winning the lottery does not cause divorce in most marriages. Huge windfalls, no matter how great the amounts, do not alter patterns of relating or ones psyche. However, they can intensify an existing situation. It will not fundamentally change our psychological makeup but sudden wealth can make a couple’s strong points stronger and their weaknesses all that much weaker.
If there is a lack of trust in the relationship or problems with intimacy, these problems will not melt away with newfound wealth. It may intensify these problems but it will not create them. According to one Los Angeles divorce lawyer, a couple with a strong relationship and trusting, cheerful, disposition will find these positive factors only enhanced by not having to worry about the bills every month.