Immediately following the Dow crash, we reported that some hookup sites saw major spikes in activity, leading us to speculate that "terror sex" was at play and that in some strange way, perhaps a recession could somehow be good for your love life (see the original post). But now that some time has passed, the decidedly less sexy reality of financial strain and its negative impact on our relationships has become more and more apparent. So, during a time of crisis, when our hands are absolutely tied (and again, this has nothing to do with S&M), what the heck can we do to combat this unfortunate reality? Besides, who can afford a divorce? (ahem)
If you're in a bad marriage you have every right to get out of it and fast, but if you're in an otherwise healthy partnership, you obviously don't want the current economic climate putting cracks in your uh, house of love. People are flailing financially and need to retool the way they approach their household budgets. Because money is associated with power, control and stability, it forces you to look at those issues within the context of your relationship.
The following example illustrates the difference between a healthy, productive response to money difficulties and a blatantly inappropriate one. A male Shine reader recently wrote to me--he lost his job and could no afford the payments on the luxury car he and his wife purchased earlier this year. After explaining this to her, she went bonkers, leaving him feeling understandably frustrated, vulnerable, and scrambling for another solution. I offered him one that seemed quite clear (from a more objective point of view anyway), and suggested that he trade the car in for a used, fuel-efficient model. I said, "Look, it doesn't have to be an old Geo for christsakes, but hey, blame the environment-after all, everyone should be driving such a car at this point anyway." At any rate, when financial problems crop up, it's normal to react with fear, but wiser, for your union's sake anyway, to be open to compromise. Isn't there some clause in marriage vows regarding this? Something about, "for richer for poorer, in sickness & in health"?
[SIDENOTE: Speaking of the environment, I was talking with radio show host Lori St. James about this, and she shared that her husband, the main breadwinner, had also recently lost his job. She explained that keeping focus on "greening" their lifestyles under the auspices of a slashed family budget helped them make the sacrifices. This is not to say that making green lifestyle changes should only occur once you can no longer afford to create waste. Such a statement is obviously appalling. But being green means less waste means being more frugal. So.]
Anyway, it's not finances that can ruin a relationship, it's the consequences of the drain money issues create: stress, anxiety, depression, and resentment. No one likes to have their candy taken away, but as an adult, you are capable of acquiescing and not having a childish temper tantrum. There's no magic anecdote to money woes, but attacking these kinds of problems with solidarity and a measure of creativity can make all the difference in how your relationship is affected. You can no longer afford cable? Get rid of it and start reading books, which you can still discuss, together. Need to cancel the costly gym membership? Take up walking and/or running, together. Love eating out? Learn to replicate your favorite dishes at home, together. In general, most Americans can agree that we've always had the tendency to live beyond our means, which is, pardon the cheesy analogy, sort of like building a house without a foundation. I'm not saying that it doesn't suck, but still, by adhering to your true financial parameters, maybe you, as a couple, can work together to create something infinitely more solid.
Have you found any creative solutions to financial stress? Share them here!
5 ways to date on a budget
Is the recession good for your love life?