Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Supporting Your Relationship Through a Financial Setback

There are a lot of households stressed about money these days. This financial crisis has couples and families of all ages worried. Some fear paying bills, others worry about retirement as they see their savings dwindle. It is often hard to keep the stress and worry from affecting marriages. We often find it harder to be nicer to the ones we love. Here are some suggestions that we have for couples who want to strengthen their marriage, not let it deteriorate.

Acknowledge that this is a tough time. Do not deny the seriousness of the situation. Talk together about your worries, fears, anger and sadness. If sadness or depression hangs around a lot for one or both of you, consider professional help.

Remember that you are on the same team. Both of you have the same wish, to resolve the financial dilemma. Think of this as a puzzle to figure out together. Visualize each other as a team-mate not an opponent and talk with each other in ways that promote good feelings rather than accusations or mistrust.

Share the load. Do not try to solve the problem by yourself. Ask your spouse to handle the bills every other month or be in charge of making sure unwanted lights are put out, clip coupons, walk to the store, etc. Think together about how you can help each other as you look for ways to survive and maybe even thrive.

Plan regular “financial summits”. Plan to meet on a regular basis to talk about money, budgets and bills. Use actual facts and figures to plot your moves. Try to find a way to make them a little less stressful like pouring a cup of coffee and sitting on the back deck or going to McDonalds for ice cream and talking it over away from home. However you do it, though, make sure that you both do it and are open, honest and “scratching your heads” together over how to handle the money.

Set goals. A small percentage in savings? Stretching the paycheck to last throughout the pay period? Paying off one credit card? Monitor your progress on the goal and scratch them off when you have been successful.

Try to keep things as normal as possible. Have date nights and family nights even if you have to be very frugal. Make sure to have fun with each other and promote laughter and play. The more you can generate positive times and put deposits in the emotional bank account, the easier it will be to get through the tough times and difficult decisions.

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