We all know that, in a relationship, men look for beauty and women for security. We also know, however, that money tends to play an important role in love for both men and women. So, when things go awry financially, what happens to love?
Love suffers, as most couples who are going through tough financial times can attest. The first step that begins the shift from being partners and looking up to each other to questioning each others worth comes from lack of positive feedback. And a big portion of positive feedback tends to come in the form of monetary compensation, at least in this country – a good salary; a bonus; a promotion. Because we all seek a relationship where we can feel safe and where we can trust each other, our feelings of love tend to be enhanced by success, competence, self- assurance and confidence, knowledge and social and professional recognition.
Now, what happens when this person loses some or all the traits that before contributed to develop and maintain his or her confidence and self-assurance?
Recent studies about how the current economic recession is affecting couples point to the fact that a lot of partners are struggling to maintain healthy relationships when their lives collapse all around them and, consequently, their views of themselves and their partners change in negative ways, due to these changes. It is these negative changes about how partners see each other that affect feelings of love and shake the foundations of intimate relationships.
When people lose their jobs, get demoted, or cannot find any other source of employment, at first the other partner is supportive and empathic. In fact, for a while, this situation can even lead to increased closeness and support.
However, as time goes by and the unemployed person continues to be unemployed, the other partner typically begins to question why this is happening. While at the beginning external causes were seen as responsible for this situation, after a while the previously supportive partner begins to wonder if there is something intrinsic to THIS person that accounts for his or her continuing struggles.
Gradually, the previously supportive partner begins to shift views of the unemployed partner. Faults, shortcomings, areas of confusion and lackluster are then identified in areas where before success and accomplishments were seen as predominant.
As the situation persists, these areas of weakness become more and more noticeable, and the positive traits decrease to the point of becoming unnoticeable. At this point, can something be done?
Few things are useful to put into practice:
- Become aware of this process as soon as you can, so you can intervene and turn it around before it is too late. If you let it grow for too long, in fact, it will totally destroy feelings of love for one another, and it will be quite difficult, if not impossible, to recapture and feel them again.
You can turn things around by keeping an open communication about what is going on:
- Try to break through the barrier created by shame that the unemployed partner may try to erect around him or herself;
- Be supportive without being intrusive;
- Be caring without being condescending;
- Be available without choking your partner with your constant presence
- and, above all,
- Be fair.
Work at creating situations where the old image of your partner can be recalled and the current difficulties about unemployment can temporarily be set aside. Make sure the two of you keep up with:
- Date nights;
- Short trips;
- Times together that are free of stress and distractions.
And remember that if you address the problems as a couple, you will strengthen the bond between you two.
As you work on these challenges both TOGETHER, not SEPARATELY, you reinforce the areas of commonalities between the two of you and rekindle those feelings that provide a respite from the storm that is shaking the foundations of your relationship.
Daniela Roher, Ph.D.