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IN DIFFICULT ECONOMIC TIMES, RELATIONSHIPS CAN SUFFER AS MUCH AS YOUR BANK ACCOUNT — SOMETIMES EVEN MORE.

Money challenges unto themselves do not have to be a death sentence for couples. Many couples implode when the money runs out, but generally many of these relationships were never on solid ground to begin with. Money can often be the tipping-over point of an already unstable and unhealthy relationship.

Marriages and relationships of substance can buckle from the strains of an unstable economy. The uncertainty, the possible change in lifestyle and the way we operate from day to day can put tremendous stress on both parties. It’s important to know there are some key things that can make weathering the storm significantly easier until you get back on solid ground. Here are some suggestions for you to consider if you or someone you know is in a relationship that’s being put to the test because of financial hardship.

Be present. That means not obsessing about choices made in the past or endlessly wondering what tomorrow will look like. I didn’t say don’t consider the future — just don’t obsess about it, especially in a negative way. People often get trapped in the present and find themselves stuck when they’re constantly beating themselves up for past choices and worrying about tomorrow.

What will get you out from under requires you to be focused and committed to your present reality and the action required to effectuate a shift.

Feel your feelings. Allow yourself to have moments of anger, frustration, disappointment — whatever is present for you. Emotions need not define you but simply can be a great way to blow off steam and lead you to the real killers, your judgments. I highly recommend a daily or weekly practice of forgiving yourself and others for your circumstances.

Maintain physical contact with your spouse or partner. Financial challenges generally don’t contribute to feelings of sexual desire; yet, kissing, hugging, hand-holding — all the ways in which you and your partner can maintain “touch” — will help remind the two of you that you’re connected. Physical contact can also go a long way toward alleviating tension and anxiety.

Be playful and have fun on a budget

This leads to my next point. Couples tend to pull back on going places and doing things together when money gets tight. Although your wallet may not be flooded with cash, choose to fill your brain with wonder and come up with ideas on how to be playful and have fun on a budget. Play is usually the first thing to go by the wayside in challenging times. Our natural instinct is to punish ourselves for being in this situation and then lock ourselves up and throw away the key. Don’t do it. Play requires creativity, and it’s often in these creative moments that we discover the light at the end of the tunnel in many areas that can be the catalyst for turning things around.

Be respectful that you both are processing your respective upsets and concerns in very different ways. Women tend to want to talk about things more, whereas men prefer to retreat to the war room to quietly devise a strategy. Men especially don’t like to talk about things when there’s no new news or ideas to report. This creates a lot of stress for women, who like updates, even if the update is there is nothing to report. As men, our “fix-it” protocol tends to make us feel as if we’re the problem and the solution, so we tend to hold on to bad news until we can counter it with some good news. I always advise my clients to not take my word for it with respect to the male/female dynamic but to be willing to ask their partners what their experience is and how their mind thinks when unwanted circumstances arise. This takes the assuming and guessing game out and allows the truth in. We all breathe a lot easier when we know what’s going on.

Survival is all about communication

The last piece of this puzzle, and equally important, is to agree to the time of day when you’re going to have your sit-down discussions about what’s going on. In relationships, we tend to ambush our partners with questions and information they may not be ready or willing to hear.

They may be at work, in the middle of another project, or even half asleep. This is a setup and a recipe for disaster; it will only add to the challenges in a negative way. Yes, sometimes things will come up that will require you or your partner to drop what’s going on and engage. Weigh those possibilities wisely before launching them at each other. When both parties know when the party is, they tend to show up on time and prepared to make shifts happen!