Recession Forcing More Married Couples to Seek Counseling Rather than Divorce

With the recession in full swing, more couples whose marriages are struggling are seeking counseling — instead of heading for divorce — as a way to keep their financial footing, according to experts from “I have been swamped with requests for counseling…” said relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle.

Dr. Jay Granat, who counsels couples in the New York area, agreed: “Many couples are under significant stress as a result of the financial crisis. Some couples are remaining together because they can not make it on their own. Some high earners, where one member is a Wall Street banker, are splitting up because of the loss of income. Some spouses are angry about the change of lifestyle.”

California psychotherapist Tina Tessina. Ph.D.,said more couples are turning to her for help. “Hard financial times increase stress, and increased stress tends to cause couples and families to fight more,” said Tessina, author of the book, “Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things that Can Ruin your Marriage.” “Everyone panics and stops thinking, and things begin to go wrong.”

If the economy worsens, Granat thinks he and other therapists “will see an increase in drug and alcohol use, which will place increased stress on relationships.” Also, he thinks “some people will shop more in response to the financial stress, which will also make matters worse.”

As the financial crisis has grown, Tessina said she’s been advising couples “to get advice from knowledgeable financial counselors and not react to the hysterical voices on the TV. And she’s also trying to help them”calm down, think through their options rationally and make good decisions about their finances.”

When couples come to him, Granat said he advises couples to “get on the same page with finances,” sometimes even sitting them down to “work out a budget as a homework assignment.” “This is frequently very useful as it helps me and them to understand what they need to do to communicate effectively about money.”

“The positive that may come out of the recession: more people working on their marriages”, Carle said. “The economy has certainly affected people’s need to re-evaluate what is important in life,” she said.

“…People know that they will no longer be able to take comfort under the guise of their money. No more ‘retail therapy.’ No more taking cover under numbing activities,” she explained.

“Finally, and suddenly, people are finding the necessity to face their mate as s/he really is,” Carle said. “People are asking me how to win with their relationships. They don’t want to be alone, and they don’t want to give up. They want to find a better life together. I believe the money crunch is building what I call ‘merger muscle’ in couples. They are merging in ways they haven’t done before.”

If you and your spouse are having problems at home, here are five tips to help maintain your marriage — and stay out of divorce court — during the recession.


By Dr. Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.

1. Keep the lines of communication with your partner wide open.

In stressful times, incidences of anxiety, depression and suicide ideation increase and rates of marital satisfaction decrease. Research indicates that close to half of all partners who cheat are trying to fill some emotional need. Job loss and financial instability can put tremendous pressure on traditional family life. But trust counters fear. So talk about what’s going on and what you can do about it ““ you’ll feel less helpless and ready to start the ball rolling.

2. Try to access your money script, which is governed by a process outside consciousness in the part of the brain called the amygdale.

By understandinghow your family of origin dealt with money,“ as well as your emotional history — you’ll gain insight into your own financial strategies.This alone can help alleviate some stress, especially if you’re feeling paralyzed or even just stuck. If you’re focusing blame on your spouse, perhaps this process will allow you to look at the part you play in the present situation. You may decide to curb impulse spending if you realize that money and stuff are not necessarily a measure of power or self-worth.

3. In troubled times, regardless of who has been in charge of the finances, share the chore of money management.

This job may be more than one can handle and the support of putting two heads together can give you clarity about the issues. After listening to each other’s input and being open to compromise, make your major money decisions together. Take small or large steps, depending on your particular circumstances. At this time, taking out new credit cards should be an option rarely used as this is, in essence, living beyond your means. And that contributed to the financial mess in the first place. As difficult as it may be, commit to a simpler lifestyle.

4. The most important money management skill is creating a budget, enumerating what needs to be saved and what can be spent.

Set long-term financial goals, aswell as short-term objectives that will take you in the direction of saving. Any deviations from the budget should be discussed and mutual decisions made. Conventional wisdom speaks to having an emergency cushion, that is, enough savings for living about six months in the event of job loss or extended health problems.

5. If you’re in the Sandwich Generation, you may be balancing college tuition, elder care housing and your own financial responsibilities.

As much as you want to help your children and parents, don’t take your eye off the ball. Continue to focus on your health, finances and retirement savings. Doing so will ensure that you have the wherewithal to be an active participant in your children and parents’ lives while still saving for your own long-term needs. And the more your family does for themselves, the better they will feel about maintaining their independence.

Financial events shape how people act, the great depression beginning in 1929 affected entire generations as they adapted to the change in their way of life. If the predictions come true and this is a slow economic recovery, everyone will have to adjust their mental attitudes and create new behaviors around spending. Yet there are hidden gifts in these shifts, by nesting more, you have less stress, the chance to bond with family, more time with your partner.

These are tough times but you can draw on the strength of your relationships to get through. As banks are having a difficult time lending money, this is your chance to make an investment in your marriage — it can turn into a welcome source of security and comfort. And can you think of a better time than now?