Keeping Your Marriage Strong In A Weak Economy

 

It is certainly no secret that money problems are among the top challenges that married couples face when it comes to developing and sustaining a healthy relationship.  In tough economic times the potential for marital conflict over financial issues can be greater than usual.  Even among those fortunate enough to remain employed throughout the current economic crisis, many have experienced financial difficulties due to reduced hours, lower pay, cuts in benefits, removal of bonuses or incentives, climbing insurance rates, increased expenses in other areas, and a variety of other issues.  Times are tough!

During times like this it must be understood that permitting money problems to cause conflict in your marriage only serves to compound your troubles exponentially.  What can you do?  Here are some practical tips to help you keep your marriage strong during difficult economic challenges.

(1)  Resolve to protect your relationship.  It is probably not possible to completely insulate your relationship from every single negative influence of financial difficulties.  But, you can jointly determine to do everything within your power to prohibit money problems from devolving into marriage problems.  This process should begin with explicitly and consistently vocalizing your commitment to one another.

(2)  Validate your words with deeds.  It’s one thing to simply make a verbal commitment to one another.  It’s quite another to express dedication in a meaningful way with your daily actions.  Words are meaningless if they are not substantiated with behavior.  In the face of financial stress you should be even more deliberate in ensuring that marital interactions are positive and supportive.  Take extra effort to keep your mood in check, spend time together, and cultivate your relationship in general.

(3)  Do not ignore reality.  Ignoring your financial problems will not make them go away.  Remaining silent and hoping for the best will eventually make things worse.   Unfortunately, research suggests that nearly one quarter of all couples facing financial problems refuse to do anything differently.  That is a disaster waiting to happen.  Be honest with yourself and with your mate and face the future together.

(4)  Be proactive in your approach.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The sooner you address your financial problems together with your spouse the easier things will go – both in terms of getting a handle on the situation and in minimizing marital conflict.  The first thing you need to do is have a calm but serious discussion about your situation.  Positive communication is the key to fixing virtually every marital trouble and money problems are no exception.

(5)  Develop a plan and take action.  Depending on the severity of the situation there are many possibilities.  In any event, your plan must be informed by the data, which means you need to look at all of your expenses and spending and begin to make some tough decisions.  Ideally, this will take the form of a family budget.  Most importantly, don’t just discuss it what to do… do it!  All the planning in the world will be of absolutely no benefit without implementation.

(6)  Schedule time for follow-up.  You will only minimize your losses and make progress financially to the extent that you are willing stick with your plan.  It is simply not feasible for any financial strategy to be successful in the long term without revisiting financial decisions, analyzing effectiveness, and tweaking it when necessary.  Like most things in life this will never happen if you don’t schedule the time to do it.  Maintaining a consistent follow-up agenda will also considerably curtail both financial and relationship stress.  People are generally more at ease facing difficulties when they know there is an appointed time pending to discuss and work on them.

(7)  Be reasonable and realistic.  While it is certain that sacrifices will have to be made you must keep your expectations reasonable.  The quickest way to lose motivation in sticking with a financial plan is to make it so tight and rigid that it is impossible to maintain.  Use some common sense and be practical.

(8)  Make decisions together Many times in a marriage one person seizes unilateral control over all of the financial decisions when money gets tight.  Even if it appears initial progress is being made from a financial standpoint, this type of scenario will usually result in eventual marital conflict.  The best course of action is to make all important financial decisions together.  Ultimately no financial plan will be completely successful unless you and your spouse are both on board together.

Kirk VanOoteghem serves as Executive Pastor of River of Life in Muncie, Indiana.  He has many years of experience as a marriage counselor and educator and is the founder of MarriageMoment.org – an online ministry dedicated to protecting and strengthening marriages.

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