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Recession-proof your marriage

Posted on: April 6, 2009

Photo by svilen001
Photo by svilen001

No doubt, the recession takes an emotional toll on marriages and relationships, says Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Your Man is Wonderful (January 2009, Free Press). The financial strain on those families in which a spouse has lost a job is tremendous. Even if couples are working, job insecurity creates anxiety and so does a shrinking retirement account. Everyone has been affected in some way, she says.

“We’ve seen the result in violent family tragedies across the country,” says Nelson, “but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The heartbreak comes in many forms. One spouse blames the other spouse for their financial predicament. One might say ‘you shouldn’t have gotten us in debt!’ and the other spouse responds, ‘Oh yeah, you’re the one who wanted the bigger house!’ It’s a constant blame game.”
Partners also internalize their troubles, says Nelson. “People lose hope and leave the marriage either emotionally or physically. In extreme cases, they may kill themselves or their family, thinking that is the only way to end the pain,” explains Nelson.
Nelson offers the following five rules to recession proof your marriage:
1) See yourself as a team (“We can get through this together“) – The power of “together” is tremendous. A couple who sees themselves as a team will pool their talents and resources to mutual advantage, give strength to one another, and sustain hope: when one’s down the other can help him or her up.
2) Focus on each other’s strengths and qualities – This is not the time to dwell on your own or your partner’s weaknesses. On the contrary, this is the time to empower each other by taking inventory of your strengths and qualities.
3) Express appreciation to one another, resist the temptation to put down or criticize – Insecurity is rampant, not just in our external lives, but also internally. In times of crisis, we doubt our abilities, we question whether we have what it takes to pull through, we worry about how much worse things can get. Criticizing or putting down your partner just intensifies those fears, not only in them, but in yourself. Instead, let your partner know how much you appreciate them just as they are, and reassure them of your love. Express your gratitude often–for however they contribute to the betterment of your lives–whether it is helping out with the kids, putting in overtime, or sending out yet another resume.
4) Set goals you can work on together; focus on problem-solving, not blaming – The only way there is light at the end of the tunnel is if you see it there. Brainstorm together to figure out what goals you seek, break those down into smaller goals and rough out a plan for getting there. Keep your sights constantly on “How do we resolve this?” not  “You’ll never be able to do that.” Keep that precious “we” front and center, respect your partner’s ideas and input as much as you do your own.
5) Acknowledge and celebrate small victories along the way – The more crisis enters your life, the more difficult it is to sustain positivity and pro-activity. That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge and celebrate every small gain you achieve. Whether it’s figuring out a swap with the neighbor–after school child care in return for computer lessons–or making through the next round of layoffs without losing your job, enthusiastically cheer every bit of progress.
“The economic crisis is not going to change overnight,” warns Nelson. “In an age of instant gratification, it’s sometimes hard to be patient and remain strong and committed within a marriage during trying times. In the end, however, these ordeals can make a marriage stronger as partners truly commit to each other.”

1 Response to "Recession-proof your marriage"

Yep. We can alleviate a lot of our stress if we became part of the solution, not part of the problem. “Till death do us part,” not “Till debt do us part.”

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