A perfect marriage would be free of financial controversy. But during this economic crisis, the reality is that couples need to learn new money management skills and face tough financial decisions – while at the same time making their relationship work. Not an easy task. When you use these five practical tips, you'll give yourself and your marriage a better chance:
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. Access your money script, which is governed by a process outside consciousness in the part of the brain called the amygdale. By understanding how your family of origin dealt with money, and your emotional reaction, 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, share the chore of money management, regardless of who has been in charge of the finances in the past. 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, as well 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. As much as you want to help your children and parents, don’t take your eye off the ball. If you're in the Sandwich Generation, you may be balancing college tuition, elder care housing and your own financial responsibilities. 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?
© 2009, Her Mentor Center
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Thanks to the Internet, we all had a chance to learn a lesson from Susan Boyle when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" before judges of the TV show, "Britain has Talent." What a surreal and thrilling moment for her. And what a wake-up call for the rest of us.
Her 15 minutes of fame aren't over yet. So far, almost 100 million viewers have seen her on YouTube. Why the viral nature of this phenomenon? Of course we're all pretty fed up with the media focus on the economic meltdown or vapid teen pop stars, and desperate for a heartwarming story. Or are we really looking for a role model whose character inspires us to follow our dreams?
In some ways Susan Boyle is everywoman. Her initial appearance onstage, with the negative reaction from the audience and judges, taps into insecurities we all have. Who hasn't felt frumpy or unattractive, unsure of ourselves or at a loss for words? Susan has lived a simple life, caring for her elderly mother, singing in the church choir and practicing her music. When you see the instant rejection, it makes you wonder if our society focused on the wrong things.
So what does all this fanfare about Susan Boyle have to do with you? You may not think you have an inner vision or the power and persistence to reach your goals. But here are some ideas that you may be able to use, even if you can't belt out a heartbreaking ballad about unfulfilled dreams:
1. Draw on what is really of value to you. Assess your character strengths and resources, and how they've helped you get what you want before. And figure out how you can build on those assets now. Enlist your staying power as you keep your eye on the goal.
2. Let your creativity run wild so that you see yourself from a different perspective. The initial step is just to begin the process. Then your positive experiences will soon provide the incentive to continue. There may be stumbling blocks along the way, but never give up.
3. Don't be swayed by others and their attitudes, no matter whether they sneer or cheer. Focus inward. Find the internal confidence to move forward on your own steam. Pay attention only to what you're doing. And finish the song, no matter what.
4. The unexpected can come at any time. Be prepared. Try to stay motivated as you practice your skills. And pretty soon, step by step, you'll be able to turn your hopes and dreams into reality.
5. Be happy in your own skin. Take it one day at a time and make the most of your life as it is now. If, by chance, you become a sensation, stay humble and don’t let success go to your head. Appreciate your good fortune.
Susan Boyle had learning difficulties in school and was bullied. She said her classmates' taunts left behind the kind of scars that don't often heal. Can you imagine how the initial negative reactions from the talent show audience felt to her? It seems as if, according to society, you should have the physical ability to seduce if you’re going to be a torch singer. But when she sang about wasted youth and lost dreams, the crowd went wild. Don't we all love a surprise?
She's the classic underdog - shy, portly, middle-aged, nonthreatening and largely misunderstood. It happens to lots of people all the time. She didn't have boyfriends, is a stranger to romance and has 'never been kissed.' Singing was her salvation. On stage, courage could easily have failed her. Yet, in pursuing her long-held dreams, she managed to triumph over many disadvantages.
Susan Boyle is a reminder that it's time we all look a little deeper. As a caring daughter and devoted companion, she's lived an important life. You're probably doing that too in some ways. So don't think of yourself as just one more person with no discernible talent. When life provides a stage, sing your heart out. You deserve the applause.
© 2009, Her Mentor Center
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