Will The Financial Crisis Create Marriage Crises?

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The current financial crisis is putting a strain on marriages. Will there be an increase in divorces and failed marriages because of this? One marriage expert says "yes," but also believes it can be avoided. In fact, Dr. Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D. believes couples can emerge stronger.

The current financial crisis is putting a strain on marriages. Will there be an increase in divorces and failed marriages because of this? One marriage expert says "yes," but also believes it can be avoided. In fact, Dr. Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D. believes couples can emerge stronger.

For 16 years of marriage, it had been a fairytale. Trips overseas, parties with friends and two wonderful children left John and Marilyn feeling successful in their marriage. In just 6 short months, the couple has gone from happily married to bitterly trying to hold onto their marriage. What happened?

In the last 6 months, John and Marilyn's financial situation has changed drastically. John was employed as a mortgage broker for the last 8 years. His company no longer exists, caught in the sub-prime crisis. Marilyn was working as a department manager of a bank. Her bank was folded into another bank and her position was eliminated in the restructuring. Both have found jobs, but their income is now one quarter of what it was.

While their jobs may make them the "poster children" of the financial crisis, John and Marilyn are not alone. Unemployment rates are exceeding 6.7%, with many other workers finding themselves underemployed. This is pinching the financial situation of American families.

For many families, it is more than a pinch, it is a choke-hold. The American Bankruptcy Institute predicts a total 1 million to 1.2 million bankruptcy filings this year, a 30% increase from 2007. This is often seen as a lagging indicator of the financial health of the economy, but those numbers represent the individuals that make up society. Many more people will avoid bankruptcy, but still feel the pain.

For John and Marilyn, it meant adjusting to many new realities. While they have avoided foreclosure so far, a previously manageable debt has become unmanageable. John canceled a family vacation and Marilyn stopped buying new clothes for the family. Still, the drop in income is nearly impossible to overcome very quickly. Their large home has been on the market for 5 months, with little interest from any buyers.

And with the changes in lifestyle came the arguments. Marilyn finds herself more tense and angry as the month wears on. John finds himself irritable and frustrated, reacting too strongly to Marilyn's words. Date nights gave way to budget talks. John observes "in the first couple of months after I lost my job, we were working together well. We cut our budget, and were looking at it as a puzzle. Now, we are just angry at each other."

Some experts have a growing concern about marriages in the midst of the financial crisis. Marriage expert, Dr. Lee Baucom, says that more and more couples are reporting finances as the single most difficult topic. He says, "Finances have always headed the list of reasons for divorce, but now, it is the fodder of fights for many couples." This is backed up by a Money Magazine survey that found 84% of couples fight about finances. But according to Baucom, this is just a symptom. "The real issue is how a couple comes together in the midst of a crisis, any crisis. Today, it is a financial crisis, but there is always some crisis."

Dr. Baucom explains that many couples have never formed the necessary bond to weather a storm. That makes it more difficult to work through the storm. Baucom observes, "Marriage is about creating a unit, what I call a WE. It is an identity that WE will get through this, whatever the 'this' is."

This has been exacerbated, according to Baucom, by the fact that the affluence of the last few decades has affected our self-identity. "It used to be that people would confuse their job with their identity. Lately, it has been confusing their socio-economic status with identity." To put it another way, Baucom observes that it is a real blow to the ego when you "fall behind the Joneses, and the Joneses were you!"

John and Marilyn are learning to talk through their frustrations. Their respect for each other and their relationship is growing, but is still shaky. While they see hope, both are still concerned about their marriage.

Just as there are those who will profit from the financial downturn, not every marriage will be pulled apart by the crisis. In fact, according to Baucom, if approached correctly, this financial crisis could leave marriages even stronger. "Couples can either come together or fall apart," reports Baucom. "A crisis is always an opportunity to grow stronger. It is all about learning to be a team, regardless of the situation."

Dr. Baucom offers 10 strategies for keeping the financial crisis from being a marriage crisis at:
http://www.SaveTheMarriage.com/financialcrisis.html

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LEE BAUCOM
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