Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center, will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to: TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
We've all been hit by the economic crunch. We either have lost our job or know of someone who has. Many of us have overextended ourselves with credit, and are now facing tough consequences. We feel the pinch on our pocketbooks and if we're not careful, this tension can contaminate an otherwise healthy marriage. It can add an overwhelming burden to a marriage already experiencing difficulties.
These are times when it is critical to have healthy coping skills. It is imperative that you understand the stresses you are experiencing, taking precautions to keep everything in perspective. It is crucial that couples sit down and face issues head on, working as a team to overcome problems.
Consider one email I received recently:
Dear Dr. David: My husband is in danger of losing his job. We're already stressed out financially and emotionally, and I'm afraid losing his job would put him and us over the edge. We've not been wise with our finances, and if he loses his job we're going to be even angrier and more frustrated with each other. What can we do to make sure our marriage stays intact? What can we do to make sure that we don't take these pressures out on each other? ~ Financially Frightened
We're all in the same boat. We've all lost money in the stock market, many are uncertain about the future, and many wonder about the security of their jobs. But fortunately, there are answers.
First, remember you and your husband are on the same team. Agree not to fight with each other over these challenges. You need one another now more than ever. Recognize that crises are opportunities to work together to face issues. Difficult times don't have to divide couples, and in fact can bring them closer together. Crises are opportunities to reevaluate how you've been living, facing problems together.
Second, be honest about the nature of the problems and the probable solutions. Every problem, thankfully, has a solution. Face your economic pressures honestly and firmly. Again, together you and your husband can sit down and develop a plan for how you're going to face these challenging times. Agree on a plan for getting out of debt and a specific plan for the possibility of him losing his job. Develop a concrete financial plan that will carry you through these tough times.
Third, tighten your belts. We're all shifting gears as the days of loose spending are over. Make wise decisions for how you will change old habits and still have fun. Simplify, simplify, simplify. There's still plenty of fun you can have without spending a lot of money. Get creative in seeking ways to enjoy life without being tied to finances.
Fourth, focus on the positive. While the pundits may preach doom and gloom, choose to find positive things to dwell upon. Turn off the news. Stop reading the horrific headlines. Follow this Scriptural instruction: "Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
We choose what kind of attitude to bring into our marriage. Remember, emotions are contagious. If you choose to bring positivity into the marriage, your mate will likely respond in kind. If you are critical and angry, your mate will respond accordingly. Choose to dwell on the positive things in your world.
Fifth, surround yourself with support. Gather with friends and family. Maintain habits of fellowship that cannot be shaken during difficult times. Life goes on even during difficult financial times. Don't let these challenges stop you from enjoying friends, family and fellowship.
Finally, maintain your faith. Our problems are always a matter of perspective. A limited, time-oriented perspective will cause distress, while an eternal perspective brings peace. Trusting in the world causes anxiety, while trusting in the Lord brings calm and tranquility to our troubled lives. While we may lose material things, our faith cannot be taken from us. Choose to reaffirm your faith and draw closer to God, and He promises to draw closer to you.
Are you struggling with financial pressures in your relationship? I'd like to hear how you have overcome problems of economic hardship in your relationship, and specifically how you have done it. Please share your concerns with me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com.
Originally published April 14, 2009.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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