Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 15, 2008
Shrinking dollars, debt can shatter a marriage
Couples must sit down and map out their financial path
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The current economic downturn may not be slowing down the number of couples willing to tie the knot but it has the potential to throw a monkey wrench into established marriages.
In the Edmonton Archdiocese there are about 1,000 marriages a year and "I don't think that number has gone down at all," says Paul Quist of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life. "There is no shortage of people wanting marriage preparation."
Parishes such as St. Theresa in Millwoods and Holy Trinity in Spruce Grove/Stony Plain have even experienced an increase in the number of weddings this year.
But in times of economic distress, such as now, many people are going through the added stress of having to find ways to save their marriage.
Indeed, the number one reason for marital difficulties is conflict over finances.
According to financial advisor Dan Roy of St. Albert, the current downturn in the economy could bring more and more married couples into financial conflict and crisis.
The increasing numbers of layoffs, lost jobs, bills in arrears and other factors affect many married couples.
FOOD BANK USE
At St. Theresa Parish, married couples with children are using the food bank and the St. Vincent the Paul store with increasing frequency, said Father James Corrigan.
Corrigan said many immigrants who didn't have secure jobs are now suffering the consequences of the economic crisis.
"There are a lot more people facing financial struggles, which (in the long run) may affect their marriage," he said. "When everything is going well, it is not so difficult to be a husband or wife. But when things are bad, it is not so easy. Financial hardships are one of the main stresses of marriage."
Lack of employment and consequently lack of money can quickly become overwhelming, and friction can develop between the husband and wife over how to deal with the circumstances.
"I've seen a little bit of it and I guess one of the biggest issues is most couples are living on a budget that requires two complete salaries, particularly young couples who are trying to get their financial lives going," Roy said in an interview.
"It sort of brings to mind one couple I know of where the husband is a trucker (now unemployed) because the contract he is working on has been cancelled. His wife is working in the oil industry but the company wants to cut her work down to half until things improve and the couple just bought a new car.
"So this couple has significant commitments and obviously will not have adequate income. We are seeing some signs of (economic) recovery; the question would be whether it comes fast enough for them."
The situation has already begun to affect the couple's marriage by accentuating the "different values they have about spending money," Roy explained.
"In this particular case, the husband spends very little and the wife spends more. That creates stress because she wants the independence to spend the money that she wants to spend and he sees the fact that they are going to be in difficulty.
"She wants to have the flexibility to make those purchase decisions on her own. And that creates tension in the marriage."
Typically, a relationship has one person who tends to want to save money and another who wants to spend, Roy said. "There is often tension between the spender and the saver, regardless of how much money they have."
What can people do?
"By far the biggest requirement is on the communication side," Roy says. "In many cases there will be tension because one is mad at the other. You are mad at the other person because you either want to be able to spend and not to have stress over it or because you want to be able to save and have security."
Roy warns that a financial difficulty can quickly grow into a marital crisis if not dealt with head-on.
"Before you know it, you've maxed all the (credit) cards and you've maxed your line of credit and where do you go after that? When the creditors start calling, the anxiety increases substantially."
The partners start blaming each other and the tension can even lead to separation and divorce, he says.
To avoid this, "I think you've got to keep talking about it and try to get the emotions and the anger out of it until you find some compromise between independence and security," Roy says.
"I think you've to clarify your goals; what's important to you as a couple. On the one side, it's about financial survival and so obviously if you are down to half a salary from two salaries, you really have to focus in on what's important."
MAP OUT A PLAN
Roy recommends putting the numbers down on paper and "see what you have to work with and what do you need to pay."
"Many times when there is marital stress due to this sort of thing, people don't tend to sit down and work it all through. They tend to just polarize the opposites and be angry at each other.
Working together as a team on addressing financial matters can be difficult, but is ultimately worth it, according to Roy. He advises finding someone both partners trust who can moderate the discussions and ask the hard questions.
Corrigan said both husband and wife must share in the responsibility of financial planning.
They need to learn new money management skills and face tough financial decisions, while at the same time making their relationship work. "If one person wants to buy groceries and the other wants to buy toys, there will be trouble."