Putting aside the gender stereotyping, the harsh reality is that the current global recession is putting an immense strain on many relationships, leading to tensions, arguments and break-ups. In short, many couples are at risk of splitting up because of the credit crunch.
The simple fact is that during more than a decade of cheap and easy access to credit, many people lived well beyond their means and were (to quote another source): “spending money they hadn’t earned to buy things they didn’t need,judi bola to impress people they didn’t like.”
It’s now payback time, but for many couples, the realization that the good times are over is difficult to accept. The challenge of paying off debts and cutting back on luxury items which were once considered ‘essential’ – while working under the threat of redundancy – is causing a lot of stress, resentment and frustration. This is a time when relationships are really put to the test. It’s easy when things are good, but how do people cope when things are not going so well?
Virtually every couple in the world has been touched in some way by the global recession, from those who don’t have much money and are worried about how they are going to make ends meet, to those who are much better off, but are concerned about losing what they have. In all cases, actual debt or the potential threat of being in debt can trigger underlying, unresolved issues that may have been swept under the carpet during the ‘fun times’.
The following scenario shows how one couple sank into a spiral of debt. Let’s call them Bola and Femi.
When they met, Bola was a highly-paid IT consultant earning a six-figure income, while Femi was a newly-qualified solicitor taking home a more modest, but better-than-average salary. They were each paying a mortgage on one-bedroom apartments and enjoyed a very active lifestyle, which included frequent overseas travel, live shows, regularly dining out, designer clothes and the latest gadgets.
Then Femi fell pregnant. To please both sets of parents, they decided to get married. The wedding was a showcase event with more than 250 people which, even with a healthy contribution from both of their families, still cost the couple more than £10,000. The newly-weds sold their properties and moved into a three-bedroom home in a ‘nice’ part of town.
The mortgage was more than they’d been paying previously, but with Bola’s salary and the prospect of Femi returning to work, they could easily manage the repayments.
However, a few months after giving birth to a baby boy, Femi fell pregnant again. The couple decided that she should give up work to look after the children and save on childcare costs. Then they were hit by a bombshell: Bola was made redundant. His severance package was good, but due to market conditions at the time, there were very few opportunities for IT consultants and he was out of work for nine months before he gave up job hunting. He then decided to retrain as a teacher which would eventually lead to a new career and an 80% pay cut. House prices had also started to fall, so the couple were soon in negative equity.
With virtually no money coming in, other than a tiny training bursary and child benefit payments, the couple’s savings quickly ran out. To keep up with their financial responsibilities, they were forced to sell their cars, borrow money from the bank and max out their credit cards.
The strain of their financial situation soon led to frequent arguments, a trial separation and ultimately a divorce. It’s easy to see how Bola and Femi went from a stress-free “double income no kids” existence, to a “no income, two kids, no job, no money and big debts” hell.
It could happen to anyone.
So, how do you stop your relationship going into meltdown during the credit crunch? As every couple’s situation is different, there is obviously no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a few useful tips to help couples deal with a ‘debt disaster’ and potentially save their relationship.
Tell the truth, the whole truth…: If you are responsible for putting the household finances in jeopardy, be brutally honest with yourself and your partner about the full extent of the debt you are in. The UK Consumer Credit Counselling Service revealed that women were more secretive than men when it came to hiding their debts; but don’t fall into this trap, no matter how scared you are of your partner’s reaction. Retrieve and deal with those unopened bills. Creditors can sometimes be reasonable.
Avoid the blame game: Some people may immediately react to a bad debt situation by pointing the finger at their partner. However, raising the issue of a loved one’s reckless spending which has benefited both parties is counter-productive and is very likely lead to rows, rage and recriminations. After all, where were the complaints when you were both living the good life?
Plan: With no plan in place to deal with money problems, couples are likely to go round in circles and spend a lot of their time dwelling on the situation and fighting with each other, rather than focusing on the bigger picture. Some hard choices may need to be made, and these are best done with both parties actively engaged with drawing up and executing a plan of action. There are many debt management templates you can download from the internet and work on together.
- Teamwork: If you’re in a loving relationship, you’re not alone when it comes to solving problems. Resist the urge to go it alone or to run away. Work with your partner to to develop creative solutions to improving your financial situation. This will help nurture an ‘us against the world’ mentality, useful when used positively, for dealing with a crisis. Also, seek help (not necessarily financial) from family, friends and debt specialists. If there are no relatives or friends you can speak to confidentially, there are many groups, charities and networks than can provide a discreet service and some very useful advice.
Discipline: In times of stress, people tend to seek the ‘basic pleasures’ of life: drink, drugs, gambling, food and sex. As most of us will appreciate, these activities can be expensive, potentially destructive and the benefits will be short-lived. Beyond that, the consequences of overindulgence may potentially lead to alcoholism, addiction, poverty, obesity and unwanted pregnancies – the last thing anyone needs to solve their money problems.