Guest blog post from Dr. Rosalind Dorlen, a clinical psychologist in New Jersey
The subject of money in marriage is always a psychologically hot topic, and it’s even more of an issue during tough economic times.
When one partner loses a job, stress can skyrocket and have severe effects on marriage and relationships—not just a couple’s finances. In my practice I see many couples who are dealing with the job loss of a partner and the psychological effects can be cataclysmic, particularly when one of the partners becomes acutely anxious and is unable to manage feelings of fear, rage and helplessness.
What seems to be adding even more stress to marriage in this economy is unemployment is often more than six months and thus becomes a chronic issue rather than acute and short-lived. This ultimately affects the whole family since stress “filters down” to the children.
The loss of a job can create feelings of worthlessness, loss of power, self-esteem and identity. Gender issues have an impact as well since men have been harder hit with job losses and often women are the only ones bringing home the bacon. This can be tough on a male, particularly if his source of identity rests on being the economic driver of the family, which is often the case.
So what can a couple do to keep their relationship on an even keel during this crisis?
- Acknowledge the loss. There is grief when a job is lost. It can be helpful in a marriage to be able to talk about the consequences of this loss.
- Consult experts to find out the best ways to manage your existing finances.
- Focus on communication. It is normal to have fears, uncertainties and anger over a job loss. You need to be able to talk about these feelings without blaming each other. It helps if you can try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and appreciate his or her feelings. Encouraging and supporting your partner will go a long way toward improving communication and sensitivity in your relationship.
- Understand the powerful effect of stress on the body and take good care of yourself. Schedule time with friends, get rest, eat well and try to get exercise. You don’t need fancy gyms to get exercise. If you are able, just get outside and walk.
- Networking is important not just for finding a new job, but for retaining social interactions and feelings of normalcy.
- Strengthen your family relationships by spending fun time with each other. Spending couple and family time doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Try to find ways to stay close to family and friends.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It’s good for your mood, your spirituality and your relationship. Try to focus on appreciating what you have and the many joys and pleasures in life.
- Don’t lose hope. If you find that you can’t seem to move forward with your attitude, or if you are continue to be depressed and overly anxious, consider talking to a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional.
Remember, that sometimes going through a crisis like job loss can actually strengthen your relationship. Many couples I have seen report that their marriages improved through mutual support, understanding and demonstrating resilience during the hard times.
Rosalind Dorlen, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist in Summit, N.J. Among her interests and services are therapy for individuals and couples for many issues, including stress related to finances and money.
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