Many couples are finding what happens in the nation's boardrooms also affects what happens - or doesn't happen - in the bedroom.
Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist with The Methodist Hospital in Houston, has been counseling more and more couples who find that anxiety over their economic situation threatens the long-range outlook of their lives together.
"The more couples spend and lose in the stock market, the more they fight," Rapini said. "The bickering can put a huge strain on a marriage. Stress and anxiety can erode trust between partners, especially if one misunderstands why the other is acting distant or distracted."
Couples need to remember that money is symbolic, she said. In men, it represents strength, power and self worth. For women, money is more of a sense of security and a feeling of being loved when their husbands provide for the household.
The key to getting through this crisis is to realize that the financial problems are not going to go away overnight and to communicate your fears. Rapini said if you're too angry to talk, write a note, and talk later. Keeping feelings inside only harbors resentment in the long run, and in many cases, leads to cheating and/or divorce.
Rapini suggests some ways couples can get through a bumpy economy:
- Don't panic - If you take your money out now there will be penalties. Consider the long term view.
- Cut family expenses - Sit down with your spouse and find three expenses you can cut back on. This will end up making your bond stronger.
- Eat at home/Exercise together - Eating at home costs less and is healthier. Take a bike ride or walk with your spouse and talk. This is a great way to promote togetherness.
- Spend time in meditation or prayer - Just 10 minutes a day can do wonders for your psyche.
- Set small realistic goals - Take a few dollars from each of your paychecks and start putting away a little money now for a summer vacation.
- Entertain at home - Having friends over, as opposed to going out to a restaurant or club, is much cheaper and, most of the time, more fun. You can relax, talk and share ideas of how to get out of this financial mess.
"Most healing happens when people work together," Rapini said. "Reach out to your spouse and share your feelings with them during this difficult time. It will make it less scary and will help you to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel."