Recession-Proof Your Marriage
Disclaimer: No, I’m not a financial adviser, but you need to read this before you get any numbers.
The first thing you need to do is to tell the truth about how you feel. You’re probably scared. We’re all scared about what this means. I’m certainly scared, and I’ve been through a number of recessions.
Partly I’m scared about giving up the fantasy of safety. I’m also sort of angry about giving up the fantasy that I’m entitled to live the kind of life I have been enjoying.
The truth is we’ve all been participating in an illusion, and when we face the fact that it just isn’t going to be the way it was or the way we wanted to be, we may feel sad and angry as well as scared.
For lots of us, feeling angry isn’t OK. People do various things when they feel angry. It’s best to use it for energy to solve problems, but the problems of a recession are hard to pin down. So you might block the anger out altogether and get depressed instead — or you might let it out in destructive ways.
You could do lots of different things with angry feelings and most of them aren’t good for your marriage.
You could actually get angry at yourself or your spouse for overspending or under-earning. It’s always easier to say, “If it weren’t for you I/we wouldn’t be in this fix.” It feels relieving for a short time — and it may even be true — but it won’t do anything for your marriage if you stay stuck there.
Of course, being angry at yourself won’t help your marriage either. It will just give you an excuse to go and hide and feel like a victim. You might decide to do more for others because you don’t deserve any thing yourself. And then you’ll feel even worse. That won’t make you very attractive or supportive for your spouse.
You could try getting angry at “them” — the Wall Street ripoff artists or the politicians who are bailing them out. Maybe you can even get your spouse to agree it’s their fault. Of course if you just blame them, that might give you an excuse to do nothing about your own financial situation. What will that do to your marriage? Help it? I don’t think so.
So what can you do?
Stop keeping secrets or trying to manage things by yourself. You can start by telling your spouse about how you feel. For example, “I’m so angry about this mess I want to blame somebody — anybody.” Or, “I’m so scared. I am afraid we’ll go through depression like my grandparents did and we’ll lose everything.”
You can ask your spouse, if he or she feels the same way. Often in couples one partner is much more sensitive than the other. Once I had a man say to his wife in a workshop. “I’d be glad to tell you how I feel, but sometimes it takes me a week or so to figure it out.” All the other men in the room nodded in agreement.
If you spouse feels calmer that you do, great. Let him (or her) help you get more centered. Your spouse may believe he or she should make your feelings disappear. That won’t work. Just ask to be heard. You can both share your sadness about lost or delayed dreams.
Your spouse can’t fix how you feel, but by sharing how you feel can begin to fix it yourself. Many feelings don’t need fixing at all, once they get shared.
You’ve heard about “feel the fear and do it anyway.” There may or may not be something you could do.
Now comes the recession-proofing your marriage part in this. After you finish talking about how you feel, it’s time to see if you are in any real danger. This part is really difficult for many of us to face.
Now is the time to look at whether you are overreaching yourself. A talk about money — a really truthful talk — is in order!
Do you know what’s going on in your financial life right now? Do you know how much you have? How much you owe? How much is coming in? How much you’re spending? Is one or both of you in danger of losing your job? Are you safe in your house or are you at risk of losing at? Is someone spending more than he or she should? Do you own extra vehicles? Do you need to repair something important?
Discovering and sharing this information is critical before taking any action at all about financial matters. The situation might be better that you imagined it to be or it might be worse. But you need to know the truth before you can start.
Now, together, you can begin to figure out what you need to do. In lots of relationships both people are in agreement that only one is competent about money — this is rarely the case.
It’s usually more that that one wants to control the situation and the other is willing to let him or her to do so. In rocky financial times two heads are better than one. Maybe even more than two heads are better — if you have teenage children. They can be included in some parts of this discussion. They need to know that you are taking steps to manage the situation. And you may be surprised at what they can contribute to this kind of discussion.
Then check to see how much any or all of you have been infected by the “entitlement germ”. I know I have. I feel like I should be able to have what I want to have. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it’s a lot about the general atmosphere we’ve been living in. “Get it now pay later. You really deserve it.” I haven’t really succumbed to that. I’ve actually been a pay as you go gal — we’ve been a pay-as-you-go family pretty much forever, but I’m infected anyway.
I’m not sure how I figured out that I’m entitled to be so privileged, but I did. My parents certainly didn’t think that way. My childhood life was about working for what you want and waiting until you had earned it.
You can recession-proof your marriage by having a conversation about waiting. I mean a real conversation, not one person trying to make the other behave differently or feel scared. I’m talking about having a realistic conversation about what you need now. And what you can wait for.
Take a look at the difference between what you need and what you want! It’s very easy to get that confused and for most families it’s pretty screwed up. Maybe it would help to think about what kind of damage would actually occur if you didn’t get something you think you’ve got to have right now.
I can’t tell you how to run your finances. That’s not my area of expertise. That’s up to you and your financial advisors. What I can tell you is that your marriage can come through this — come through it strong and vibrant — when you start communicating with each other about all the stress you’re both experiencing.
When you face things together and tell the truth, wonderful things start to happen. You free your energy to solve problems intelligently realistically and most importantly of all, together.
Is this you? “I don’t need therapy, but I could use some advice about…”
[tags]Togetherness, Relationships, Communication, Difficult Communication, Money, Relationship Advice[/tags]