October 10, 2008

Your Life: TIL BROKE US DO PART.. ; DON’t LET THE CREDIT CRUNCH WRECK YOUR MARRIAGE Money Worries Will Always Put a Strain on Your Relationship. So As the Economic Misery Goes on, Here’s How to Stick Together Under Pressure.

By Caroline Jones

There's an old saying that "when bills come through the door, love flies out the window" and it couldn't be more relevant than in the current financial climate.

As couples struggle to meet their bills and face the prospect of job losses, even the most stable marriage can start creaking.

So how do you keep love alive? "It's crucial to keep talking," says relationship counsellor Denise Knowles. "Don't blame each other - come up with a plan together for tackling your financial problems and stick to it.

"But don't forget to factor in fun, free stuff together - walks in the park or watching a DVD at home can bring you closer."

Denise adds: "Money worries come and go but your marriage, hopefully, is here to stay."

Remember, it's an even worse time to split up - think of the divorce costs. Here are some common dilemmas and how to deal with them...

We can't juggle our monthly bills

Something has to give - on both sides. It's boring but you need to sit down together and draw up a list of the essentials your money goes on - and what you can do without.

Compromise is the only thing that works - if either feels you've sacrificed more, resentment can set in. For every thing he gives up, offer to give up something, too.

He could have two pints at the pub rather than four. You could ditch your morning shop-bought coffee. Devising a plan together will make you feel like a team.

We're struggling with mortgage repayments

With the housing market unstable, many people worry about paying their mortgage or negative equity.

This is not the time to bury your head in the sand.

Speak to your mortgage provider, explain your problems and ask for advice.

He won't discuss cash

"It's surprising how few couples know about each other's finances," says Denise, "often it is only highy-llighted if money difficulties arise."

But honesty is the basis for a good relationship. one way is to set a joint bank account that you both pay into monthly to cover the bills - so you have cash left to spend, or save.

He's made redundant

It's a devastating blow for anybody, so you will need to offer love and reassurance, as well as helping him by focusing on the practical issues.

Find out what financial package is due - this will depend on his length of service and his contract.

"Spending less has brought us closer.."

Julian and Catherine Hirst, both 35, live in London and have been married for a year. Catherine says:

We've noticed the cost of living going up and have had to tighten our belts. As newlyweds we recently had to rent, decorate and furnish a new flat and found the price of everything from electrical goods to paint much higher than a few years ago.

This caused tension between us - having to make compromises about what we wanted versus what we could actually afford.

A mortgage is out of the question right now. Gas and electricity bills are rising and food is more expensive, so we're trying to save cash by shopping cheaply and buying less at Tesco not Waitrose.

We've cut back on luxuries such as red wine and ready meals, and we're having fewer nights out. The biggest saving we made was giving up our car - we just couldn't justify spending so much on petrol.

Public transport can be miserable at times but we've talked about getting bikes. Some of this has felt like taking a step back after having worked so hard over the years. But after taking it out on each other and griping about not spending too much, we've realised that we're actually spending less time rushing around and more quality time together.

We now end up staying in and cooking together, watching a movie snuggled up on the sofa. We're actually doing more with less.

Then start making plans. See the the pay-out as a security blanket to buy time - not a new car.

Encourage him to start jobhunting straight away, as redundancy may only cover household expenses for a few months.

Stress scuppers our sex life

Financial worries tend to result in a lower sex drive. The only time the population fell last century was in 1976, after 1974's severe recession. It has nothing to do with how you feel about each other.

It's OK to not feel like sex sometimes.

Stay intimate by snuggling on the sofa, cuddling or holding hands. The more love and support you feel at this time, the better.

My husband wants me to work but we'd agreed that I'd be a full- time mum.

Make sure the sums are right - unless your family covers childcare, you might pay the extra income back out to look after your children while you work. And if you work, you'll need more help around the house and with the kids - evenings and weekends.

I've run up credit card bills without telling my husband

Come clean - the longer you leave it, the worse it will get. Sit down to talk when you are both calm and tell him everything.

Apologise for not telling him before and that you'd like his help to come up with a plan to pay it off. Call the free National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 for advice.

Facing debts together is better than doing it alone and will make your relationship stronger in the long run.

"We lost everything.. except each other"

Three years ago, actor Gary Webster and his TV presenter wife Wendy Turner - sister of Anthea - were declared bankrupt and lost their family home.

He has since written a book called Debt Rescue, advising other families on money problems, and says:

My attitude to money was spend now and save later. I was earning good money as a TV actor and we had a fantastic time, living life to the full.

I just didn't think about the consequences of not putting enough money away for tax.

Like so many other people, I thought if I ignored the problem it might go away. But, of course, it didn't.

By the end we were thousands of pounds in debt, the bailiffs were at our door and when my T V show Family Affairs was axed, I had to declare myself bankrupt.

Our home was repossessed the following year. With two kids to support, it was a very tough time.

But Wendy and I had always talked about our money problems, so we both knew what was coming - that's why our marriage survived.

It's crucial to have no secrets, no hidden spending. And we didn't judge each other because we were both guilty of overspending and relying on money we didn't have.

We had to work as a team, face things head on and be positive. We got through it.

And when Wendy had meningitis a few years ago that really put things into perspective. If my kids and wife are happy and healthy, nothing else matters at all.

Now we rent our home and live within our means. Instead of going abroad, we go camping in the UK and have had some of the best family holidays ever. I can honestly say that despite all that's happened, we're happier now than ever.


A redundancy pay-out buys time - not a car

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