A perfect marriage would be free of financial controversy. But during this economic crisis, the reality is that couples need to learn new money management skills and face tough financial decisions – while at the same time making their relationship work. Not an easy task. When you use these five practical tips, you’ll give yourself and your marriage a better chance:
1. Keep the lines of communication with your partner wide open. In stressful times, incidences of anxiety, depression and suicide ideation increase and rates of marital satisfaction decrease. Research indicates that close to half of all partners who cheat are trying to fill some emotional need. Job loss and financial instability can put tremendous pressure on traditional family life. But trust counters fear. So talk about what’s going on and what you can do about it – you’ll feel less helpless and ready to start the ball rolling.
2. Try to access your money script, which is governed by a process outside consciousness in the part of the brain called the amygdale. By understanding how your family of origin dealt with money, and your emotional reaction, you’ll gain insight into your own financial strategies. This alone can help alleviate some stress, especially if you’re feeling paralyzed or even just stuck. If you’re focusing blame on your spouse, perhaps this process will allow you to look at the part you play in the present situation. You may decide to curb impulse spending if you realize that money and stuff are not necessarily a measure of power or self worth.
3. In troubled times, share the chore of money management, regardless of who has been in charge of the finances in the past. This job may be more than one can handle and the support of putting two heads together can give you clarity about the issues. After listening to each other’s input and being open to compromise, make your major money decisions together. Take small or large steps, depending on your particular circumstances. At this time, taking out new credit cards should be an option rarely used as this is, in essence, living beyond your means. And that contributed to the financial mess in the first place. As difficult as it may be, commit to a simpler lifestyle.
4. The most important money management skill is creating a budget, enumerating what needs to be saved and what can be spent. Set long-term financial goals, as well as short term objectives that will take you in the direction of saving. Any deviations from the budget should be discussed and mutual decisions made. Conventional wisdom speaks to having an emergency cushion – that is, enough savings for living about six months in the event of job loss or extended health problems.
5. As much as you want to help your children and parents, don’t take your eye off the ball. If you’re in the Sandwich Generation, you may be balancing college tuition, elder care housing and your own financial responsibilities. Continue to focus on your health, finances and retirement savings. Doing so will ensure that you have the wherewithal to be an active participant in your children and parents’ lives while still saving for your own long-term needs. And the more your family does for themselves, the better they will feel about maintaining their independence.
Financial events shape how people act – the great depression beginning in 1929 affected entire generations as they adapted to the change in their way of life. If the predictions come true and this is a slow economic recovery, everyone will have to adjust their mental attitudes and create new behaviors around spending. Yet there are hidden gifts in these shifts – by nesting more, you have less stress, the chance to bond with family, more time with your partner.
These are tough times but you can draw on the strength of your relationships to get through. As banks are having a difficult time lending money, this is your chance to make an investment in your marriage – it can turn into a welcome source of security and comfort. And can you think of a better time than now?
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