By Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.
Are you and your partner worried about money in these uncertain times? During any economic crisis, couples have to face tough financial decisions. This can lead to an increase in stress and aggravate problems that already exist in your marriage.
As you look back to when you first met, what attracted you to your partner – fierce independence, strong character, a decisive nature? Now, these very same qualities may be getting in the way of getting along. If you want to come to terms with your negative feelings, notice what has changed in your marriage. And try to see your own part in what’s going on. If there’s a glimmer of hope and you want to stay together, accept the challenge of turning it around. Some of these ideas can help you get started:
1. Identify your emotions. As a first step, write down the feelings that now regularly surface. And record what’s happening between you and your partner when you are sad, scared, overwhelmed, embarrassed or frustrated. Chances are you have emotions ranging from disappointment to anger, and these may be constantly changing. Don’t worry – this is normal. Understanding what you feel, and why, can be the first step toward improving your situation.
2. Stop focusing on the past.Identify the hot button issues that are standing in your way and make efforts to resolve them. If you initiate changes, that can be an encouraging sign to your partner. And the sooner you let go of the past, the quicker you can move forward to improve the goodwill in your relationship. It may not be easy to forgive, but it is a gift you can give to your partner and yourself.
3. Limit your arguments. If the situation between the two of you is tense, small annoyances can seem worse than before. When you argue, allowing bad feelings to fester only makes it harder. Don’t turn your quarrel into something more or attach your reactions to another issue. Agree that you will together explore the problems. And spend time learning about conflict resolution, direct communication and active listening skills. There’s information available through relationship workshops, the Internet and the self help section in bookstores.
4. Begin a process of serious talking.Can’t do it alone? If you really want to work out your differences, consider consulting with a marital therapist or joining a couples’ support group. When you understand more about the other’s needs and capabilities, you’ll be clearer about compromises you have to make. Then it will be up to both of you to decide whether you’re willing to do the hard work. That may include efforts to change your current expectations, redefine what marriage means to you and create new goals for the relationship.
5. Support each other.Instead of focusing on the negatives or going your separate ways, spend time discussing what you want from one other. Think about what would demonstrate true emotional commitment to you. Prove that you are on each other’s side by deciding to change your attitude and behavior. Invest in your marriage’s emotional bank account. Create excitement, pleasure and fun together – then take advantage of the dividends.
You and your partner are individuals who each have a mind of your own. What you want may have changed since you first tied the knot. And the present economic meltdown probably adds to the pressures in your relationship. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make shifts that will relieve some of the stress. And you don’t have to accept the possibility of divorce. By taking the first steps, you can help strengthen your partner’s trust in you – and the future of your marriage.
© Her Mentor Center, 2011
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are family relationship experts. Whether you’re coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions. Visit our website, http://www.HerMentorCenter.com to discover practical tips for dealing with parents growing older & children growing up and to learn about our ebook, “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.” Log on to our blog, http://www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com and sign up for our free newsletter, Stepping Stones, and complimentary ebook, “Courage and Lessons Learned.”