Tag Archives: economy

Stimulus Package for Husbands & Fathers

Job stress. Unemployment. Lifestyle changes. The changing role of the breadwinner. Marital stress. These are issues facing a lot of men today, but we are learning what sometimes happens when some men in crisis reach the tipping point with no one to talk to.

I’m sure, like me, you’ve been alarmed at the rash of suicides, apparently perpetrated by fathers who are in financial crisis. What’s even more shocking is that some of these men are so distraught that they also take the lives of their wives and children. I always wonder, did they really think they had no one to whom they could turn?

Author Darryl Cobbin wrote an article recently that shed light on fathers’ roles in this economy. He explains that these incidents, most recently the apparent suicide of Freddie Mac’s acting CFO, demonstrate how the financial crisis has deeply personal implications that we are not talking about enough.

Cobbin shares his own experience as an executive for Coca Cola, a father of two and a husband to a stay-at-home mother. He shares his decision to leave this corporate safety to venture out on his own, due to downsizing and a job reduction. This private man went public with his own story to communicate that men are not alone in feeling at risk, in feeling that their identity or worth is tied to their jobs.

On the other hand, he says, “You also have to remember that when your kids greet you as you walk through the door at the end of a day of work, they don’t care about your title or paycheck. They love you because you are you…Remind yourself of this fact every day.”

That’s not to say lifestyle changes haven’t been hard on his family, but they have found many benefits, including becoming closer as a family, and spending more time together.

You can follow his story at the Huffington Post. Cobbin is a good example of how opening up communication about your own life can help others relate, and possibly reduce their stress and insecurity. Women need to be alert to stress in their partners’ lives, and to encourage and build them up instead of adding to the worry and stress. Also, encourage your husband’s relationships with trusted friends and family. Men, don’t be afraid to reach out to other men, who may be going through many of the same issues as you.

In my interviews with successful married couples, I’ve learned that it is often in crises that couples grow the most and solidify their foundation. How would your spouse describe your stress level today?

Is Money is Dividing Your Marriage?

The Wall Street Journal provided some marriage advice this week for the many couples who argue about money in an article called “Money Matters Can Make or Break a Marriage.” It’s not just marriages writer Jeff Opdyke is aiming to improve, it’s also the financial wellbeing of the households.

The problem: A great many couples are feeling the pinch right now, but even when the economy is flying high, many couples argue about money more than anything else. They argue about how to spend it, save it, invest it and budget it. Frequently, one spouse has more financial prowess than the other, or at least has a greater interest in the topic. The other may find his or her eyes glazing over at the mere suggestion to set a budget together. There are also many marriages in which neither spouse has a great financial understanding, putting them at risk for questionable decisions. If even one of you thinks this is a problem, it’s time to take action.

The solution: Seek help.

Because financial arguments bring emotional baggage, tempers can flare. Deeper issues surface. Spouses feel they and their needs are not understood. Putting a neutral person in the middle greatly improves the chances of making progress. Getting a financial planner or financial counselor involved can greatly diffuse tempers and can keep you from making decisions based on emotions. Let him or her know ahead of time that this is an area in which you have disagreements, and inform the counselor of your specific issues or goals. “With such a strategy, you’re letting the pro absorb the energy that would otherwise fuel a fight, and you’re getting impartial advice that can work to bridge the differences separating you two,” writes Opdyke.

He adds that you don’t have to care about the financial details, you just have to care about the relationship enough to forge a path that meets both of your needs. The resulting plan can hopefully put you on a much better track for financial health as well as marital health.

To find a pro, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a professional they’ve worked with, or call a professional association and explain your needs. You could consider a fee-based financial planner or find someone to offer ongoing support. If you think you can’t afford such services, think about how much a divorce could cost you.

Do you understand your partner’s financial hopes and dreams? Does one of you want to spend the tax refund on a big-screen TV or new sun room, while the other wants to save it for the kids’ college? Is one of you so obsessed about saving for the future, that you haven’t taken a vacation in years? Stop arguing and get a financial checkup, along with advice from a pro.

Preventing Marital Affairs in Today’s World

The slumping economy is apparently causing infidelity and divorce rates to drop. A private investigator reported on CNN that infidelity cases have dropped 75% since the economy took a dive. Economic woes have also put a damper on divorce. Thirty-seven percent of lawyers surveyed by CNN reported fewer divorces in their caseload, but only because the couples couldn’t afford to split at the present time.

Perhaps it’s a good time to build up the good relationships in your life. Not because it’s economically feasible, but because you realize how fleeting much of your life and lifestyle can be.

Marriage counselor and author Gary Newman suggests the following to strengthen your marriage and to “affair-proof” your marriage: 1) Give your spouse admiration and appreciation. 2) Have more sex, and embrace the idea of giving and receiving intimacy and pleasure.  “It’s about bringing out the best (in each other),” he says.

Many marriage experts also advise spouses to guard their hearts and their marriages from the temptation of straying. The vast majority of married individuals will likely admit to either flirting or being attracted to someone of the opposite sex during their marriage. Most of the time, it seems very harmless. But all too often, a friendly relationship turns into one of sharing deeper feelings, hopes and fears, developing an emotional connection, and perhaps leading to an affair. (It turns out emotional connection is the #1 reason for an affair.) If you even feel an attraction, be on guard, and talk to your spouse.

In “Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome,” author Nancy Anderson shares her experience of infidelity with a coworker early in her marriage. The affair began with complaining about her husband at work and having private lunches together with the coworker. It nearly ended her marriage. She and her husband now educate others on growing “affair-proof hedges” around their marriage. For example, all emails and correspondence must remain professional, never flirtatious. Talk about your spouse in positive terms letting others know you are happily married. In the book, she suggests group meetings rather than one-on-one meals with the opposite gender. While she was able to rebuild her marriage, many are not so fortunate. The warning: Don’t place yourself in vulnerable situations.

I believe the best prevention against affairs is maintaining the deep love that brought you together in the first place. Don’t let your job, your busy life, your children—or even the tough economy—divide you. Keep the dreams alive that brought you together.

Is the Government Stimulating Your Marriage?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is funding a new campaign aimed to promote the benefits of marriage to young adults. Benefits being touted include better health, greater wealth and increased happiness for those who marry, and improved wellbeing for their children.  While they aren’t telling anyone to run out and get married, the campaign’s goal is to encourage individuals in their 20s not to underestimate the benefits of marriage.

Declining marriage rates haven’t gone unnoticed by the government. Just released statistics report that in 1986, there were 10 marriages per 1,000 people; in 2008 that declined to 7.1 marriages per 1,000.

The $5 million national media campaign is to launch this month using online ads, YouTube video, radio shows, bus and subway ads. A new web site has also been launched, twoofus.org, which provides relationship tips and advice with different sections for couples who are dating, engaged, married and for parents. The web site compiles advice from a variety of relationship and marriage experts and includes podcasts, articles, video and audio.

Of course there is some controversy over using these funds to promote marriage, especially when our country is faced with so many problems at present. While I sympathize with those who say the money needs to be redirected to help fight poverty, I believe that stronger families can better equip our country for the future and can help us ride out the tough times. Research clearly shows that in general children are healthier, safer, better educated and less likely to live in poverty when raised in an intact married family. It also shows that married adults are more likely to be healthier and happier and financially better off when they are married.  (See previous posts for details.)

The bigger question is will young adults—a fiercely independent group—pay attention to the ads? Proponents say they have used public campaigns successfully to change behavior in the past, such as using seat-belts or avoiding smoking or drugs. Time will tell if the campaign will be effective. The campaign budget is at risk of cuts from the new administration due to the worsening economy, so it may not even have time to work.

What do you think? Should the government stay out of our private lives, or is this investment important? Do you think the campaign is a good use of money, or will it fall on deaf ears?

How Has the Economy Affected Your Family’s Stress Level ?

Almost half of Americans report being more stressed than a year ago, according to this week’s USA Today. One-third of Americans are suffering from “extreme” stress. Unfortunately, the survey was taken before the stock market plunged, so the real numbers are probably worse. That stress is affecting eating and sleeping levels, and inevitably how we relate to others, especially our families.

Since most families are affected by these negative economic trends, it’s important to acknowledge the impact it has on our lives and take action to try to remain calm and provide a sense of normalcy to children. I’ve read how some families have skipped going out to dinner and a movie, and instead have a simple dinner at home followed by game night.

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, turn off the bad news, take a walk or a bath, or call a friend. Appreciate the people you have in your life. One family I know with several young children in the house reports the father’s slow work schedule has allowed him to spend a lot more time with the family. It does create some financial hardship, but they try to look at the positive side as he has always been extremely busy at work. Older children are aware of financial strain, so be honest about any household changes that you need to make. Ask for their ideas in cutting costs, and look for signs of stress in children.

Reach out to others who are facing extreme stress, or if you see signs of abuse or neglect. The USA Today article advises that as stress levels increase, domestic violence and child abuse also rise. Be on the lookout for families in crisis, and help connect them to social service agencies that can help. You may be the only one who sees the signs of a child or adult in need. If you are able, offer to care for a child for a couple of hours while a parent looks for a new job. Or, if you still have a good job, help others who are looking for work network with your contacts.

Be a steady voice amidst the chaos, and remind friends and family that this period will pass, and the relationships they nurture will remain.




Show Me the Money!

This seems to be the mantra of many married couples. Couples report that what they argue most about is money, followed by children. You will find “financial problems” among the top five reasons marriages fail (along with lack of commitment to the marriage, poor communication, a dramatic change in priorities and infidelity).

It seems everyone is talking about financial concerns and struggles due to the economic downturn. Money is causing even more stress in many marriages, with less coming in and more going out. How did we get here and how can we turn things around?

I recently interviewed a couple who have been married more than 30 years and who have been through some incredibly challenging times. Among their many challenges, a financial crisis was one of the easiest things they overcame together. The key was being on the same team, working together to solve the problem. Early in their marriage, arguments about money were really about who had the power to decide how money was spent. Later in their marriage, money was a tool to help them live the life they wanted. When a financial crisis came, they put all hands on deck to solve it. It took many years to get out of debt, but it actually strengthened, rather than weakened, their marriage.

Another couple I talked to has been married more than 60 years. They say money was never a cause of arguments in their long marriage. You see, they were raised during the Great Depression. They know about hard times, and they know how important it is to save. So they worked hard, saved well and lived a very simple lifestyle. We’re a long way from that ideal in today’s America.

How did we get here?

One of the reason so many couples are in financial difficulty is because the rate of savings has declined tremendously in recent decades, from about 11% in 1982 to less than zero today, meaning on average people are spending more than they are making. Of course, debt causes stress in all areas of our lives. Add to the lack of savings weaker job prospects, lower earnings and a steep decline in our retirement accounts. (Reportedly, half of boomers don’t have retirement accounts to worry about.) For more insight about why we can’t seem to save and how our culture has contributed to this trend, read:


What now?

Ask yourself what is really important to you. If money is a constant source of conflict, be aware that it can whittle away at your marriage. I once had a friend who said she couldn’t afford marriage counseling. Less than two years later, she was divorced, losing her house and filing for bankruptcy with two children to care for. Can you afford not to resolve the issue?

The silver lining to the economic downturn is that more people are deciding (by choice or necessity) to adjust their lifestyle and find ways to enjoy family life without spending money. There are tons of resources available to help you do that. Hopefully in a few years, instead of “Show me the money!” more Americans will be saying, “Show me the love!”


 Making Marriage Last,” published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers