How the Recession Affects Relationships
While investors are still busy trying to recover their losses, many couples are still reeling from the effects the economic downturn has had on their relationships. A survey commissioned by Caron Treatment Centers, one of the nation's leading non-profit addiction treatment centers, has shown that the economy has a profound impact on relationships-from decreasing intimacy to eroding communication.
"Women dealing with stress need to know they are not alone and that they can remain committed to their relationship-but they may also need to step back and look at their relationship from a different perspective," said Ann W. Smith, executive director of Breakthrough at Caron, a five-and-a-half day intensive wellness program specifically designed for adults impacted by family or relationship dysfunction in childhood or adult life. "Often simple changes can help break patterns that may be weakening a relationship."
The poll, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, sampled 1,315 women 18 years and over around the country. Forty-nine percent of women in a relationship said the economy is having an impact on their relationship. Thirty-one percent try not to think about it and hope for the best, 24 percent said their level of intimacy has decreased, and 16 percent admit problems, but believe it doesn't make economic sense to split up.
Women who had children in the home were about three times more likely as women without children in the home to say the stress of a sour economy is driving them apart. During an interview with The Early Show, psychotherapist Dr. Mel Schwartz explained: "There's an uncertainty, there's an unknown. And most people don't deal well with uncertainty. It makes us reactive, it makes us fearful and you're not in a co-operative mode in a relationship."
His point is reflected in other findings from the Caron poll. Among women who have ever been in a romantic relationship, more than half admit they do not talk with their partner about what they need. Whatever their approach is to managing relationships, many also feel some level of anger, resentment, shame or guilt, and try to control or fix the situation or become critical of their partner, or complain about the problem.
"Women often try to control their relationships in hopes of convincing their partner to change, but they don't really have that power," said Smith. "In order to progress in a relationship, women have to take time to think about what they really want and need. Criticism and blame as a communication tactic never works."
On a positive note, nearly a third of the women whose relationships were being affected by the economy say they are more committed to making their relationship work. They also reported that with less disposable income, they have learned to appreciate time at home together.
4 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship in Hard Economic Times
According to the 2011 National Marriage Project, about one in five married Americans have been hit with multiple financial stressors such as unemployment, trouble paying their mortgage, and worry about paying bills. And, for some, the economy has hurt their marriage. But for others, it has renewed their commitment to their relationship.
Here are a few ways to strengthen your relationship when financial stress threatens to tear it apart.
- Keep money separate from the rest of your relationship. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of Financial Fidelity, recommends having a financial discussion once a week. Have an agenda and keep the discussion to 10 minutes. This will help you avoid venting frustrations of your finances, which can increase negativity.
- Make your relationship a priority. Don't place it second to finances, work, or anything else. Make a conscious decision to keep the lines of communication open, maintain intimacy, and support and enjoy each other.
- Have fun. Financial stress can be draining, and many couples are falling victim to depression, anxiety, or the blame game. Find simple, cheap ways to have fun together, whether it's splashing around at a local pool with the kids, or getting a few videos from the local library and having a movie night.
- Focus on solutions, not problems. You can get a bad case of tunnel vision by obsessing about what's wrong. Try to find at least three solutions for any problem you're facing. It broadens your perspective and makes you feel more positive and proactive, which will have ripple effects in your relationship.
University of Virginia. The Great Recession and Marriage Report. Web. February 2011
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