1) Talk to your spouse about making a strong commitment to your marriage during these tough times. It's easy for couples to fall into despair and depression when there are money issues, but the worst thing each partner can do is to isolate themselves from the other and to stop communicating or fighting for their marriage. Acknowledge that you're both stressed about the current situation, but that you need to keep a healthy marriage your #1 priority. Hopefully, you didn't only marry your spouse for financial reasons ... write down the other reasons you were attracted to being together and promise not to let this crisis destroy you. Talk about your future and your goals as well as the blessings around you -- kids, good friends, your health. Commit to getting through this together as a team.
2) Communicate your feelings to one another. Both spouses are feeling strong emotions and it's not easy to talk about them. But the only way you'll be able to stay connected and to support one another is to speak from the heart about how you feel. Talk about what you're afraid of, what this crisis brings up for you. For example, a good way to communicate might be: "When you got laid off, I became scared because I have really enjoyed staying home with the kids. This has been really important to me because my mom worked crazy hours and I really missed her a lot when she was gone. I'm afraid I might have to go back to work and leave the kids and it feels so scary for me." This will be so much more well-received than, "You lost your job and now look at the nightmare we're in! Now I have to go back to work!" It's all in the way something is presented that helps us stay connected and avoid resenting one another. Avoid blaming/shaming/pointing fingers. Don't shut your partner down with accusations. He will put up a defensive wall that you won't be able to penetrate.
3) Figure out solutions or compromises -- work as a team. You may decide that because you know what you're spending on the home front, you'll make a list of all the wants versus needs for the household and kids and try to scale back what isn't necessary. Be honest with one another about all expenditures and what the reality of your finances are at the current time. Don't hide information or lie. Your spouse can focus on what he can do to increase income if he is the working parent. Take on specific tasks to help each other and your family to get beyond this crisis. Brainstorm solutions together and work as a team.
4) Find ways to share your appreciation for each other. Let your spouse know what he/she is doing right. Be as specific as possible. "I really appreciated when you offered to help me do the kids' bath and homework last night. It really gave me some space to get a few moments for myself and I really needed that so badly. That was really kind of you!" or "Honey, I wanted to thank you for typing up my resume the other day on the computer. It gave me some extra time to reach out to some prospective employers and that really helped me feel more settled." Human behavior is more strongly reinforced by positive attention versus negative. If you want your spouse to be more helpful, catch each other "being good!"
5) Get spiritual together. Attend church/synagogue to focus on what matters most. Some even find their priorities have been out of whack for a long time and this crisis can help them prioritize what matters most.
6) Create special time together. It is possible to have a Date Night without spending money! When the kids go to sleep, turn off all electronics and play a game. Light some candles. Cuddle up and watch a movie together with popcorn. Go on a walk/hike/beach date -- ask your parents to sit for you or suggest a babysitting co-op with neighbors or other friends with kids so you can take turns having time alone with your spouses.
7) Reach out to social supports. Reach out to other families going through the same thing -- comfort comes from networking with others and realizing you're not so alone.
|Jill Spivack, MSW, author of "The Sleepeasy Solution" and co-founder of Sleepy Planet Inc., is a psychotherapist and mother of two.|
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