‘For richer, for poorer’ — managing income loss and your marriage

The money issue often becomes an ugly power struggle among couples, write Mo and Phindi
The money issue often becomes an ugly power struggle among couples, write Mo and Phindi
Image: www.pixabay.com

A staggering 30.1% — that is the unemployment rate in SA.

And that number doesn’t yet include the second and third quarter, even though Stats SA released the figures late in June 2020.

The second and third quarter are most critical, as this was the lockdown period owing to the coronavirus.

However, the third and the fourth quarter would be the most telling.

In other words, the current unemployment rate, bad as it is, will be worse by the end of 2020  due to retrenchments.

And that means more pressure at home.

Marriages and families will take the greatest beating as a result of the national financial downturn.

Save for the reflection in divorce statistics, this beating won’t be reported in the media.

The silent dysfunction in marriages as a result of the effect of income losses will be felt by the children and other dependents too.

This means marital conflicts about family finances, as well as related stressors like fear, anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity, are on the rise.

How you choose to manage the money that’s at your disposal can very well determine the wellbeing, even the future, of your marriage.

Major economic worries affect both individual wellbeing and couple’s relationships.

The apprehension connected with unpaid bills, credit card debt and possible job or home loss generally brings out the worst in people.

Frustration about money spills over into other areas of the relationship.

Communication breaks down, differences in money habits begin to surface and blaming each other erodes affection.

This, unmanaged, corrodes the marriage.

Get professional advice

The money issue often becomes an ugly power struggle.

A financial adviser or a debt counsellor can help couples be more objective about what needs to be done, and can help create a plan to move forward.

Credible debt counsellors are registered with the National Credit Regulator and would generally offer a no-obligation free assessment of your financial situation.

They use established relationships with credit providers to negotiate reduced monthly servicing of your debts until you can resume normal payments or have repaid your debt.

You may also opt to talk to your creditors and suppliers directly, informing them of your financial situation.

Work out a plan to meet your obligations with them.

You’ll be surprised at how understanding they will be, especially during the period of this pandemic.

Cut down on your lifestyle

Sell the valuables you don’t need.

You’ll be amazed at how much money is “hidden” in stuff that you can do without.

At this time, pride is counterproductive, and you can’t afford to hold on to items you’re not even using or can afford to sacrifice.

Cutting down on your lifestyle may also mean relocating to a smaller house until the situation changes.

It’s time to evaluate the needs against the wants.

Cancel unnecessary expenses, and collectively make adjustments.

Be open to your dependants

Loss of income forces us to swallow our pride, and humble ourselves.

Trying to save face and maintain a lifestyle you can no longer afford for your children will sink you into further financial stress.

Sit the children down, and be open about the temporary situation.

For their security and trust in you as parents, don’t sell a hopeless picture that can’t or will never be resolved.

Tell them this is temporary and you are making practical amends to claw your family back into financial freedom.

You’ll be amazed at how understanding they will be.

If as a couple you were maintaining extended family members, it’s important to be open to them about the situation.

It’s even more important for you to know that your immediate responsibility is to your spouse and children.

Stop the blame game

Blame will erode the team spirit you need to overcome the crisis.

You’ll be battling each other instead of battling the problem.

Personally, one of the blessings given to us at our wedding liturgy was to have the experience of “two becoming one” in mind, body and spirit.

We caught a glimpse of what that meant.

We have different ways of handling money, but we wanted a common future together and we both took responsibility for that.

Financial difficulties have a way of making couples shift focus from the real issue, into finding faults with one another.

More than likely, you have different approaches to managing finances.

The wise thing to do is acknowledge that and get the partner who is best in the game to take the lead as the other submits to the process.

For richer, for poorer

Never forget that you are married for richer, for poorer.

This vow essentially states that your relationship is about much more than money and possessions, and no matter what your bank balance looks like, you will work together to face and overcome the challenges.

Being married in or out of community of property should have no bearing on your love and trust for one another.

And while losing an income in marriage can be a real test for the relationship, your love and commitment to one another shouldn’t be determined by your financial position.

This vow means that love and commitment has nothing to do with money or property.

Vowing to love someone “for richer or for poorer”, like all other wedding vows, requires absolute sobriety and a deep sense of what it actually means to truly love someone.

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