The chatter never stops: If it's not the awful unemployment figures or the continuing home foreclosure crisis, it's advice on how to slash your spending or fix your 401(k). And if you're like most couples, too many financial discussions end up heated, personal—and counterproductive. "I've never seen this level of anxiety and insecurity about money in my 25 years of practice," says Michele Marsh, PhD, a Philadelphia therapist. "Even couples who are doing okay worry that the other shoe could drop at any moment."
The problem is, people tend to ruminate on all the possible bad scenarios, says Marc D. Rabinowitz, a marriage counselor in Norfolk, Virginia. "They're walking around upset that they're going to lose their lifestyle and never get it back." Worse, they fear that their ability to provide for their kids—now and in the future—is in danger. And once you're in this anxious survival mentality, it's tough to find energy left for everyday family life, let alone your marriage.
What makes today's situation even more problematic is that few of us are equipped to deal with the depth and breadth of the downturn. "This generation is used to living in an atmosphere of plenty," says Rosalind S. Dorlen, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Summit, New Jersey. "When the good life is threatened or taken away from you through no fault of your own, you can feel ripped off." And guess who's the target of all that frustration? The person closest to you.
But tough times don't have to cut so deeply. There are plenty of ways to mend money woes—and along the way make your relationship stronger and closer.