Save Your Marriage from the Recession
Marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman says when people start getting anxious, problem-solving skills are the first things to go. "Panic is the biggest obstacle to creativity, and now is the time that people need to look at everything creatively," he says. "When people panic, they become paralyzed and they don't make decisions—and then decisions are made for them."
Making the decision to skip house payments was the beginning of a downhill spiral, Timothy says. "That was when I knew my marriage was maybe going to be hanging by a thread," he says. "There's the potential to lose the marriage [and] my child."
Amy says she stopped wearing her wedding ring when she moved out of the house. "I blame him," she says. "As my husband, he's supposed to be able to take care of a family."
The combination of separation and financial strain has taken a real toll on both Timothy and Amy. "There's shame, there's guilt, there's embarrassment. It's a feeling of failure in every area, and there's no end in sight," Amy says. "There's a definite chance I could walk away from this marriage."
Timothy says if he could do it all over again, he would express his fear to his wife. "[I would say,] 'I'm absolutely 100 percent scared for what the future holds.'"
Amy admits she shares some blame in their problems. "I haven't found time or energy to fight for the marriage yet," she says. "It hasn't been a priority."
Gary says Amy needs to picture explaining to Ella in 15 years that she left Timothy because he didn't make money. "I'm not okay with that," she says.
The problem, Amy says, is that marriage has never seemed like something to fight for. She says that even cancer—she had melanoma three years ago—seemed easy compared to this. "This is much scarier," she says.
Gary says cancer felt easier because Amy made the decision to survive from the get-go. "You both have to decide whether you're going to fight for [your marriage]," he says.
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Timothy and Amy have committed to start looking at their relationship differently. To get the healing started, they each rewrote their vows. "I will prioritize my marriage in the same way that I would protect our daughter or fight cancer. I will join Timothy in the driver's seat," Amy writes. "The word 'divorce' is not in our vocabulary."
Timothy says he vows to communicate better. "I vow to talk about my feelings as far as if I'm scared, I'm nervous [or] I'm anxious, and I will not make you feel those emotions," he writes.
Before getting laid off, Corretta says her marriage was strong. "It seems that once I was laid off and I wasn't able to find another job, the communication [in] our marriage went out the door," she says. "We started bickering and arguing, and it seemed like a real resentment started setting in."
Corretta says she always expected Sean to be her biggest support system and says the changes in her marriage have taken her by surprise. "I was under the impression that money problems would bring us together—not pull us apart, which it's been doing," she says. "When money was good, it seemed like we were a great team and we could conquer anything together."
Gary says Corretta—and many Americans in her situation—are in a state of mourning. "You've got to sometimes give yourself a break. You have to remember that you are much more than your six figures," he says. "You are much more to the world and to your spouse than that. And this is a time when the two of you have to find a way to appreciate each other."
Sean says he thinks Corretta has sunk into a depression since losing her job and says he's trying harder than ever to reestablish their old teamwork. "I try to reassure her, let her know that everything's all right," he says.
Sean says the couple has also been going to church. "Trying to get closer to God," he says. "I try to let her know that even though times are hard, it's hard for everybody right now. It's not just us. ... We just need to work together and try to stay positive."
The adjustment may not be easy, Gary says, but it could be one of the best things to happen to her family. "This will hopefully be one of those spiritual changing moments for you," he says. "You're going to have to realize that, gosh, maybe this is how the universe has come to you, that your child is going to grow with her mother there showing her how to live life."
Nor does Corretta have to leave her professional skills behind. "Maybe you need to come through this and write a book about how you take all that executive experience and translate it to being the best mom in the world for your kid," he says. "Make now work."
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"Fight for your marriage. Make that decision," Gary says. "And once [you] get through this, [you'll] be able to look back and say: 'Wow, we got closer through it. We're closer to our children.'"
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