Tough economy affecting marriages?

May 19, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Disagreements over money are one of the biggest reasons, perhaps the biggest, for troubles in a marriage. And at a time when the economy is in trouble, it's having a direct affect on many marriages.

But now, Eyewitness News reporter Sandra Bookman has some advice that could save your marriage.

"It's the economy, stupid," is much more than just a political catch-phrase. These days, it's a reality for just about everyone. Whether it's the rising price of gasoline, the escalating cost of food or the growing housing crisis, there are plenty of things to make you sweat.

"Everything, it's all adding up," Manhattan resident Ingrid Hang said. "Every dollar counts."

"I've had my apartment on the real-estate market for almost a year now," Queens resident Vincent Johnson said. "It doesn't look good."

"I try to meditate and take a philosophical approach," Manhattanite Michael Phillip said. "Because worrying doesn't help."

But plenty of people are worried.

One recent survey found that one in seven homeowners is concerned he or she won't be able to make the mortgage payments on time over the next six months.

With numbers like those, it's no surprise that the current real-estate meltdown is taking a toll on marriages and families.

"Economics play a life in families across the spectrum," said Lois Braverman, from the Ackerman Institute for the Family.

Braverman has practiced couples and family therapy for 35 years.

She explains that how economic uncertainty affects couples often depends on other, existing issues in the relationship.

"When things get tight, issues that may be able to be unspoken for some couples, or hidden, may come up," she said.

"There is no romance without finance," divorce attorney Jacalyn Barnett said.

Barnett agrees that money is a major factor in relationships, and in divorces. Its importance is heightened with dramatic shifts in the economy.

"I think all relationships would have a much better chance if people really discussed the hard issues from the beginning," Barnett said. "I think if you wait until a crisis, it's often too late." The American Psychological Association is even addressing the issue on it's Web site.

Among the suggestions for managing stress in tough economic times:

  • Pause, but don't panic.
  • Pay attention to what's happening, but don't over-react.
  • Identify your financial stressors and come up with a plan to manage your money more efficiently.
  • Ask for professional support, financial or psychological, to deal with the money issues and address the emotions it can trigger.

    "Actually naming the problem is a step toward solving the problem," Braverman said.

    For more tips on addressing financial difficulties, click here.