Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marriage and Money

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, tells us something interesting in his November 6th article, entitled Our Banana Republic. Apparently, new research points to increasing divorces occurring due to the stress of poor economic times. This should surprise no one, but it should alarm us all.

Love makes marriage work, but stress — like a wayward child, mental illness, or the loss of a job — can undermine the glue that holds a couple together. There are a number of reasons for this.

First off, there is the blame game: "I never signed up for this!" Many women are outraged that they may have to support their husband when he cannot come through like he was "supposed to." You can understand this. We all make assumptions as young people about the roles we play in relationships, and those expectations (like financial stability) can lead to big disappointments. She may look at her friends who are still shopping at fancy department stores and feel wronged. And while this may sound a little one-sided, it’s not limited to women either.

Secondly, there is the depression and anger that anyone may feel when he or she is out of work. Men (as well as some women) forge their identities around their careers. And when it is taken away, they can spin out into grief and anger. If — and when — you take this pain out on those around you, remember that love can only tolerate so much.

Finally, there is the stress of watching every penny, and not knowing when, or even if, things will ever get better. Unemployment or foreclosure is a serious change to anyone’s lifestyle, and it eats away at people like acid over time. The antidote is to accept where things are, make a plan to improve the situation, and, ultimately, love each other and remain a team through such hard times. And while I know this may not be an obvious strength of the baby boomer generation, this is our challenge to accept.

There is wisdom in perspective and awareness. Be aware that you may carry resentment towards an unemployed spouse. Be aware that depression and anger are understandable, but counterproductive if you have lost work. And remember that love can prevail — a love based on supporting each other through thick and thin. Our grandparents and great grandparents had the Great Depression to get through together, and we have the Great Housing Crash of the past three years.

Divorce may be an answer for some. But it isn’t always the answer. Remember that divorce often opens up a whole new set of problems that only add to the economic ones that you already have.

You can view this, and other articles by me, at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Divorce: Taking Care of Yourself

Divorce has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Whether you’re just starting the process or are in the thick of it, rest assured that there will be an end. When you have reached that clearing, you want to be proud that you handled the divorce to the very best of your ability.

Joe and I were married for twelve years. I thought we were solid. We had two beautiful children, Sara and Regan, and lived the kind of life I always hoped we would.
To make a long story short, we started agreeing less and less on even the littlest things. We moved into separate rooms in order to ease the tension. Before I knew it, Joe wanted a divorce.
I found myself totally overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to turn first. I asked everyone for help and advice—my sister, my dad, and my friends who were attorneys.
I researched custody laws and put all of my financial information together.
One day, someone asked what I was doing to take care of myself. It was then that I realized I had taken no time for me. I had gained weight, I was sleeping a lot, and I found myself yelling—all the time. I forgot that my life was not wholly defined by this divorce.
So, I promised myself to do one thing I loved every week. It didn’t change everything, but I felt like I had a better handle on who I was, which allowed me to calm down and work through issues as they arose with more confidence and assurance.
Rena, age 40

Like Rena, when you take proper care of yourself, everything else has a better chance of falling into place. My book, The Intelligent Divorce, is about moving one step forward in the right direction every day. It’s about handling your feelings better, tending to yourself properly, and saying the right things to your kids. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”