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Economic downturn can erode relationships

June 05, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE

Finances are typically among the top issues over which spouses and partners disagree. An economic downturn or recession can increase stress and anxiety and make things worse.

The economy will improve with time, but relationships don't always recover. A relationship with a spouse or partner (and family and friends as well) can be among the first casualties during an economic downturn.

It's the little things that sometimes get lost in the struggle to make ends meet - like "please" and "thank you," everyday acknowledgments such as "Thanks for cleaning up the kitchen."

Acknowledging a change in circumstances can be the first step in protecting and strengthening relationships. Spouses and partners who agree to face difficult times and choices together can nurture and deepen their relationship in the process.

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Working together to improve financial management skills, to explore options and resources can ease financial and other stresses. Here are some simple stress-reducing tips:

Work together to identify priorities.

Try to focus on the things you can control; let go of the rest.

Explore opportunities to resolve needs. Be creative in researching solutions and, when possible, allow time to consider options.

Be intentional in speaking with others. Speak softly and gently to each other; being harsh or angry isn't likely to produce a positive outcome.

Be practical. Here's an example: A family needs a new stove. Bringing a slow-cooker out of storage can temporarily fill in and free up money to go toward buying an affordable new or used stove.

Be as positive as possible. Children and others around you will pick up on your attitude.

Look for ways to celebrate what you have, rather than focusing on what you don't have.

Working together to resolve issues can be difficult, but doing so reinforces the positive message, "I'm there for you," that almost always can reduce stress and anxiety.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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