Relationships in a Recession – Part 1
Don’t let your relationship slide into recession

In this series of articles, I am addressing the effect that the growing recession is likely to have on a couple’s relationship, what stance to take and what action to take to prevent the slide.

In this first of three parts of Relationships in a Recession, we will discuss the research indicators that support the need for caution, leadership and positive action by a couple to keep their relationship strong.


Clearly the political leaders are now starting to acknowledge a global situation that many of us have been aware of for many months – the world is in a deep recession bordering on depression. This malaise is often named a financial catastrophe and referred to generally in financial terms. However, the impact of this has far reaching effects that go much deeper than financial. Although the source is financial, the ill effects push people into poor behaviour toward themselves and their loved ones.

In a recent article on recession, “Recession drives more relationships onto the Rocks” (2008) by LGA Media release, 17% of councils in England have reported that there had been an increase in demand for relationship counselling in the past few months of 2008. Author, LGA Media team, states that mortgage arrears are driving more people's relationships onto the rocks and debt counselling has increased dramatically in recent months, according to a new survey published today by council leaders into the impact of the recession and the credit crunch. Other studies have also found that divorce proceedings in early January each year can be 50% higher than at any other time of the year, with Christmas stress partly to blame, raising fears that there may be even more divorces this January than previous years.

Georgia Cristimilios, vice president of sales and marketing for Corporate Counselling Associates, a human resources consulting firm based in New York City, says the company has seen a 15 per cent increase during the past year in the number of employees looking to take advantage of counselling and assistance benefits provided by their employers.

The figures demonstrate the continuing impact of the recession and the credit crunch on people as they turn to agencies, voluntary organisations and clinical counsellors for financial and personal help.

With the growing stresses on couples’ relationships, each partner has to take on a greater leadership role in combating the threats to the relationship.

Threats to Relationships in a Recession

John Coates, a Deutsche Bank trader turned Cambridge University researcher, measured the naturally occurring steroids in 17 British male traders over time and found high levels of testosterone during bull markets and of cortisol during volatility. Cortisol helps the body deal with threatening situations. But prolonged exposure to it, as during a lengthy downturn, makes people irrationally fearful, so when confronted with neutral situations - say, that their spouse would like the snow shovelled - they react as if threatened. In other words, men can get weird when they're losing money. Even those who aren't traders.

This brings us to cheating. Since no one has yet figured out how to do a National Infidelity Survey, it's hard to track, but experts warn it becomes more likely under stress. "Study after study shows that men deal with stress through escapism and women deal with it by talking," says Jill Brooke, a divorce expert. "Online porn, massage parlours and escort services are cheaper and quicker than therapy, especially if you lost your health insurance." Often, since the men are operating under stress, they get caught. And often their wives can't bring themselves to take the high road.

Apart from the ready access to high-speed online porn, what makes this recession different from others, particularly south of the border in the USA, is that it's centered on real estate and thus on people's homes, which may explain why women may be feeling more anxious about it than men are. In a survey released in October by the American Psychological Association (APA), more women than men reported feeling stress about money (83% vs. 78%) and the economy (84% vs. 75%), and women were more likely than men to say they had symptoms of stress--including irritability and weariness. Plus, their stress levels had risen more sharply over the past six months than men's. So it's harder for women to take up their traditional role as household comforter and easier for the wheels to fall off the whole enterprise.

In summary, you have to look at a recession as an opportunity to regroup, rethink, repair, rework, renew and recommit to being at your best for your family. It starts with your attitude as a couple, and it is translated in action in your relationships and in your future development plans.
In the second part of this series of three articles titled Relationships in a Recession, we will discuss how important it is to take a controlling stance toward threats to your relationship. You need to be in the driver’s seat when threats impact you, rather than being a passive victim to economic circumstance

Remember, be a thermostat, and not a thermometer,for your relationship to survive a recession!!

Author's Bio: 

Registered Clinical Counsellor
White Rock, BC

P: (604) 505-5244

Sean Latimer, B.Comm; CA (SA); MA is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in private practice in White Rock, BC, Canada. His primary areas of practice are: Fast Relief from Trauma (EMDR and OEI) and Healthy Connected Relationships (Gottman Marital Therapy).