By Barbara Calvi
Money is a loaded subject for many couples. It is often why marriages end in divorce. It can be a “hot topic” even when couples are doing well in their personal finances. So, how much more difficult might it be for couples to address money issues when the economy is still recovering and no one knows when we’ll be out of this mess? Those relationship issues may become magnified and may be taking a real toll on your marriage now.
Even if you were one of the lucky couples who didn’t fight over money, you may find that money is currently affecting your relationship or partnership.
Read on and discover some tips to help your marriage or partnership survive and even strengthen in 2013.
TALK TO YOUR PARTNER AND SHARE YOUR CONCERNS
Even if your style is to keep problems and concerns to yourself rather than talking with your partner, now is the time to challenge yourself and make some changes. Consider your partner your teammate. That sense of, “we are in this together,” can create an incredible bond. It is like a glue that can keep you feeling close when there is a lot of angst in the air. Being transparent and sharing your worries not only helps you feel closer but will also relieve some of the stress you are feeling. In addition, your partner may actually be able to make you feel better.
When you’re talking to your partner go out of your way to really listen to what he or she has to say. Ignore the temptation to interrupt and add your own two cents. Ignore the temptation to come up with solutions (unless asked for one). Just listen. Make good eye contact. Nod and make acknowledging sounds. Even reflect back some of what you think your partner may be feeling based on what they’ve said. Your partner will probably feel so supported by you when they feel you are taking the time to just listen and be there for them. This is a great technique to strengthen your relationship.
You may have to make some temporary changes in your schedules, roles and lives for the time being. Perhaps one of you is working more hours than usual. Be flexible and help by picking up the slack with the kids, driving or housecleaning. You may need to let go for the time being of what your standards for a clean house are. You may need change the way you and your family enjoy your time together. Know that doing so in a cooperative way will foster good will between the two of you. Supporting each other in this way can also strengthen your commitment to each other and your relationship.
Proper breathing is a well documented strategy for dealing with anxiety and stress. It has been known in other cultures for centuries to be a way to feeling more calm and more at peace. Recent medical research supports this ancient wisdom and now western mainstream health professionals espouse this advice often. Take a few minutes each day (several times a day of possible) to sit quietly and take full and deep belly breaths. (Feel your belly expand and contract as you breath in and out.) Also just stop during the day occasionally and remind yourself to take a few deep and full breaths in the midst of what you are doing.
MAKE TIME TO ENJOY EACH OTHER AND HAVE FUN
Even though it’s a stressful time and finances may be tight, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea of fun. In fact, it is essential you find ways to have fun to reduce stress and help you feel more hopeful. Scheduling fun with your partner can help you feel closer and can help inoculate your relationship against the impact financial stress may be having on the two of you. Take a walk on the beach, ride bikes around in the park, go on a picnic, rent funny and romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story or Bringing up Baby. If that isn’t your style rent Monty Python. Be creative and come up with something inexpensive you both enjoy.
TAKE STOCK AND DEVELOP A PLAN B
Sit down with your spouse or partner and take a realistic look at your finances. If it all seems too overwhelming or you don’t seem to get anywhere sit down together with a financial advisor. See what spending and living changes you can make if necessary. Brainstorm solutions to immediate concerns. Think about altering some plans for the near future. You may think that it is too stressful to try and figure out a plan b and so avoid it altogether. Yet, if you are like most people, once you do develop a backup plan you will likely feel a little liberated and more relaxed knowing you have some options to rely on if you need to.
As stressful as times may be for you right now you can choose to what degree it is going to have on your relationship. You, too, can be one of the couples who makes it through hard times stronger, closer and better. I invite you to follow these tips on how to help your marriage survive the economy now.
Barbara Calvi, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Calabasas California. She specializes in marriage and relationship counseling and helping individuals and couples create better, stronger and more fulfilling relationships. Visit her at Beatthemarriageodds.com.