Happy 2012 to all!
January 31st. The last day of the first month of a year filled with expectations.
Without a doubt, what has revealed itself to be right up there on our lists of expectations, is to have some form of job security and the possibility to plan for financial growth and stability, a yearning which has kept us holding our breath for some time now.
This unexpected economic shift and its ripple effect has revealed crucial facts in both men and women sharing intimate relationships.
I’d love to share with you, key common themes that many couples brought to the "couch" and bravely searched for understanding so that their marriages could withstand this crisis.
What couples have found, surprised them, mainly because it elevated their relationships to a new level of intimacy.
This newsletter is aimed to spark some thoughts about what this ongoing unexpected financial shifting has done for your relationship so that you too, can achieve that level and growth from it!
Financial difficulties have often been the topic du jour in different forums in general, but none more notorious than in the past 4 years, in an around-the-globe economic upheaval. Talk about a tsunami; jobs were swallowed by the waves, leaving thousands standing at the shore, dumbfounded, holding cardboard boxes with framed degrees, unpaid bills and half lived careers.
This unforeseen and forced transition, from having to not having, made it’s way to dinner tables and bedrooms, exposing one of the most fragile individual’s vulnerable spots:
Figuring out one’s own value.
In other words, "What am I needed for if not for what I bring to the table?”
And so it began, couples flocking to therapy under the informal and vague case of: "we are under a lot of stress."
However, what they discovered was far more intrinsic that the mere thought of having to live with less and the shock and anger that another job was not around the corner. Couples learned what having the security of money hid and when taken, what it exposed in their marriages.
When money flows in and out, month after month, and there is enough to cover expenses, travel and maintain a comfortable lifestyle, certain vulnerabilities get to stay dormant.
These dormant issues may get played out and weaved in some of these behaviors:
-The insecure partner who may bury his/her head at work, climbing the proverbial ladder and earning handsomely for it, avoiding dealing with intimacy issues.
-The partner who may not know his/her worth, lack in self confidence and overcome it by getting all or almost all his/her validation at work, by the salary earned or the title held.
-"Indiscretions" that may be overlooked, so that the family rhythm does not get disturbed
In the blink of an eye, for many in the middle to upper class strata mostly, this "comfortable" lifestyle or rhythm was shaken with uncertain prospectives and unbeknownst to them, it lingered. The more it lingered the harder it was to keep those vulnerabilities in check, and in our therapy sessions, through conversations between tears and disclosures, those that discovered their fears and felt brave enough to come clean with them, grew. And out of that individual growth, couples witnessed and experienced a new sense of unity and the ability to dare think of restructuring what they once thought of as "normal" but no longer was.
Out of these courageous couples exploring how to accept this new reality, two distinct categories stood out:
1) Those that had lost or decreased their earnings:
found that their stress, came mainly from what they thought of themselves in relationship to their partners-what they thought defined them– and the fear of being "seen" stripped from what had until now, secured a certain lifestyle and put food on the table.
2) Those that relied on their partner’s earnings:
found that their stress, came primarily from having to face their own fears around the loss of security, the uneasiness to have to deal with a situational depressed/angry/ashamed partner, and the fear of having to rearrange roles and routines with no guarantees of financial improvement.
This economic phenomenon, lasting more than the "six month mandatory reserve fund" as financial guru, Suze Orman, suggests, forced couples to stretch past what they thought were their own thresholds of patience, tolerance, understanding and strategic budgeting; it propelled them to explore each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities in a whole new light.
If your relationship has been affected by economic change, what did you learn was exposed or hidden as a result of it?
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Here is to a plentiful and meaningful 2012!!!
(the use of "he", "she", "marriage","relationship", "partnership","spouse","husband" and/or "wife", has been used indiscriminately in this newsletter)