Marriage Maintenance When Money Is Tight
Chronic unemployment is putting many couples’ marital vows to the test — particularly the part that refers to “for richer, for poorer.”
With far less money coming in each month, many families have been forced to cut back, borrow money from family and friends and maybe even drain their savings. Millions, too, have lost their homes to foreclosure. And then there is the toll that joblessness is taking on their relationships.
Even Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, expressed concern earlier this week for the ranks of the long-term unemployed, or those out of work for six months or more. Not only do their bank accounts suffer, he noted, but so do their future earnings potential, their health and the prospects for their children. So it’s not surprising that several marital therapists report that more couples are filing into their offices — when they can afford to — to try to work through their problems.
Maggie Baker, a psychologist in the Philadelphia area who focuses on money issues, said the husband in a couple she recently met with had been unemployed for more than a year. And while his wife was initially supportive, she had started to feel the burden of supporting the family on her own.
“She is watching her husband shrivel and feel ashamed and humiliated, yet unable to do anything because he’s lost his motivation,” Dr. Baker said. “When it goes on seemingly forever, that is when people begin to wear. Then it feels like a permanent change, and a permanent change to the negative, and people react very strongly to that.”