Everyone knows that money issues can strain a marriage, especially when times are tough. It's even been said that recessions tend to raise divorce rates. But there are ways to keep peace in your house—without drugs or divorce. For advice, we turned to Emma K. Viglucci, a marriage and family therapist and clinical director, supervisor, founder and president of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy in New York City. Here are her tips:
1. Talk. Have a discussion and prioritize your expenses and investment goals. "That can be challenging in and of itself if you have different perspectives or goals," Viglucci says, "but hear each other out and try to compromise as best as you can." Once that's settled, agree on a plan to meet those priorities.
2. Touch base. Weekly, biweekly, monthly—whatever meets your needs—touch base to see how the plan is going. "Typically, one person in the household takes care of all the bills and that creates stress for both people," Viglucci says. "Having a regular meeting will keep both people in the know."
3. Safeguard your connections. When you're stressed out or overwhelmed, you may have difficulty staying emotionally connected to your partner. "Sometimes, even if you're spending a lot of time together, you won't feel a connection," Viglucci says. "Make an effort to stay connected and don't do anything to break that connection." For example, if your partner calls while you're busy at work, keep your frustration in check and don't just hang up on them, she says. Instead say, "I can't talk right now, but let's touch base before dinner."
Also, look for patterns to your fighting. "Most couples fight in the evening, especially on Friday and Sunday nights," Viglucci says. That's because we're either stressed over what to do on the weekend or anticipating the next work week. "Put something in place to ease the transition," Viglucci says. It can be something as simple as checking in at 12 p.m. every Friday to make plans for the weekend, she adds.
4. Find inexpensive ways to have fun. Plan for weekly or biweekly dates, depending on what your needs and schedules are, Viglucci advises. The list of inexpensive things to do is endless: exercise; do crafts or simple household renovation projects; cook together; or go to street fairs, poetry readings and book signings. "One of the best things is for couples to have a project together, because that gives them something else to talk about other than money, work and the kids," Viglucci says.
5. Learn to self-soothe. "This is very important, because a lot times we blame our partners for our discomfort," says Viglucci. Learn to calm yourself down by journaling, exercising or meditating. "Anything to quiet the brain," she says.
In the end, a recession could be the best thing that ever happened to your relationship. "It's more expensive for people to get divorced or separated," Viglucci says. Right now at her practice, she's noticing that people are not rushing to divorce. "Which might be a good thing," she says. "It gives people a chance to work it out."
How do you and your spouse avoid arguing about money? Tell us in the comments below.