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Love and Marriage Article

What To Do To Strengthen Your Marriage
In Tough Economic Times

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

There is an old saying that many attribute to a Chinese proverb that goes like this – “May you live in interesting times.”  To say that is an understatement of our world today is, well . . . an understatement!

We are experiencing unprecedented economic times in the USA today.  Oh, sure, we have experienced higher unemployment rates before.  There is no doubt that the Great Depression of the 1920’s and ‘30’s in our country was a negative economic experience far greater than what we are experiencing today, make no mistake about that.

But the simple truth is, these are very tough times for many of our brethren.  If you have ever been unemployed (we both have), if you have ever wondered where your next meal was going to come from (we have), if you ever wondered how you would feed your children (we have), and if you have ever struggled with paying your monthly bills from time to time (we certainly have!), you understand how gosh-awful it is to be faced with economic uncertainty – without the resources required to maintain your accustomed-to standard of living.

We wake up every morning thankful for the quality of life we have been able to achieve for our family and ourselves over these past 43 years of life together.  And make no mistake about it; our hearts go out to those that are struggling with their finances and with their marriage.  We have been there, done that.

More importantly, however, those struggling marriages – those marriages that are feeling the challenges of economic uncertainty – must rise to the occasion if they are to save their marriage.  And after all, isn’t saving your marriage a highly important thing to do?  We think so.  We think you agree.  So, how do we do it?

Clearly, there are no easy answers.  These are highly complex issues, for sure! 

So, what are the “rules of engagement” in these tough economic times?

It seems clear to us that the most important question of the day for marriage is this – “What can you do to strengthen your marriage in tough economic times?”  Our interviews over these past 26 years with those who have had successful marriages of 30-77 years would suggest the following.

1.  Re-establish your marital relationship.  Say what, you say?  Here is what we mean – take time to “start over” in your marriage.  Spend time to feel the emotions and feelings you had when you were dating way back when.  Hold hands more often.  Kiss more often.  Touch each other more often.  Engage in intimate acts more often.  It is important for the two of you to rediscover the flame that burned when you first started dating, when you first got married.  Rekindling the flame that brought you together will go a long way towards re-establishing your marital relationship.  Our hope is that you will re-establish the parameters of the relationship you had when you fell in love in the first place. Try it, you’ll like it!

2.  Renew your marital relationship.  We think that these tough economic times represent a perfect time to do the sharing exercises that appear in the back of our book, Golden Anniversaries:  The Seven Secrets of Successful Marriage. It is so very important that you regain familiarity with your marital relationship.  This you must understand – renewal of your marital relationship is of paramount importance to the survival of your marriage during tough economic times.

3.  Share the bill paying.  How are you going to handle the bill paying - together or separately?  You must keep your family’s financial house in order as best you can if you are to save your marriage in tough economic times.  Paying your bills together and making decisions about your finances together will go a long way towards eliminating the destructive arguments and disagreements that often occur when times are tough.  In difficult times, you must share decision-making in your marriage like you have never done before!  If you want to preserve your relationship with each other – if you want to stare economic challenges in the face – do it together.  Tell the Lone Ranger to stay home!

4.  Establish parameters of civility in your interactions with each other.  The blame-game doesn’t work very well when it comes to finding solutions to the economic challenges facing you.  Telling your spouse that your financial woes are his or her fault does absolutely nothing to solve the problems that you are facing.  More than ever, you and your spouse must create an emotional environment that encourages conversation, minimizes the blame-game, and encourages open and honest two-way communication.  In a popular movie about the female baseball leagues during the Second World War starring Tom Hanks, the refrain used by the team’s manager was, “There is no crying in baseball!”  As a corollary, there is no crying in marriage during tough economic times.  Leave the blame-game behind.   Leave the hysteria behind.  And more than anything else, bring civility back to your marriage.  You and your marriage have a much better chance of surviving these tough economic times when your interactions with each other are civil, kind, caring, and supportive.

5.  Be honest with your children above all else.  If you have children in the house, they need to understand that Mom and Dad are facing severe economic challenges.  There is no point in hiding this fact from them.  And don’t underestimate your children, especially if they are beyond toddler age – they will understand what is going on.  Your children will understand why the family cannot maintain “business as usual” in a financial sense.   Too many couples hide the realities of life from their children – they hide the harshness of life from them.  Big mistake we think.  You must be honest with your children.  When you have to restrict the expenditure of funds on their behalf, they are much more likely to understand if you have been honest with them.  Tell it like it is!
The simple truth is this – your extra efforts to save your marriage in tough economic times just might lead to happiness, contentment, and long-lasting love.  Isn’t it time to give your best to address the challenges that face you?  Isn’t it time to strengthen your marriage now more than ever? Think about it!

Simple things matter in love and marriage.  Love well.

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