Some economists are predicting we could be pulling out of this recession sooner rather than later, but it’s likely that many Americans will be feeling the affects for quite some time to come. As we as a nation continue to battle through job loss, market dives, etc., individual couples and families continue to need a game plan for dealing with the added stress placed on us by the economy. The American Psychological Association reports that 80% of people say the economy is causing added stress in their lives. A certain amount of uncertainty is likely unavoidable for most, but here are a few suggestions for dealing with it.
Your Relationship And Finances
First and foremost, keep your financial talk separate from other leisure activities. Don’t talk about money stresses during a dinner out, while watching a movie together, or while engaging in another couples activity that typically brings enjoyment.
Instead, schedule a time to talk about finances, so you don’t feel constantly on-edge or bombarded by money talk. If each person knows that an appointment exists where the sole purpose is to discuss the budget, finances, etc., they won’t have to worry about other drama that may arise in between these meetings. Be sure to keep these financial discussions – which I recommend be held about once a week – under ten minutes. Attention spans tend to wane, nerves get frayed and stressors really start to show up when you go beyond ten minutes.
Because of these constraints, you’ll want to make sure you have an agenda so you know what needs and concerns need to be addressed. Be prepared to talk about specifics, and then come up with a game plan of how to deal with these concerns. This may mean assigning each person something they need to deal with during the next week, or it may mean acting on something right then as a couple.
Avoiding Financial Infidelity
Remember during these talks to use what I call “Money Love Language.” I discuss this technique in my book, Make up Don’t Breakup, and provide exercises in Financial Infidelity. It involves providing a place where each person can discuss their feelings without fear of retribution. Money is a heated topic and even when doing all the “right” things – i.e., scheduling a time to talk about it, limiting conversation length, etc – tempers can still flare and stress can still be high. When you have your “money meetings,” each person should have a chance to express any concerns, or suggest new ideas without worrying that the other person is going to over-react. Communicating about money in this way is important as it ensures that these exchanges are healthy and not threatening.
Additionally, after such an exchange, plan to do something fun, so that there’s a positive association made with a money discussion. I’ll talk next week about the reasoning behind keeping each meeting under ten minutes, as well as topics that might be worth discussing with your partner.