Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of Make Up Don’t Break Up warns couples that they must “holiday proof” their marriage and family in these economically challenging times.
“Holiday stress coupled with money anxiety is a set up for marital problems,” warns Dr. Bonnie. There is a direct correlation between stress and behavior that can be detrimental to relationships. From drinking too much, over eating, lack of sleep, and a myriad of other stress related behaviors a marriage on the brink can suffer irreparable damage.
According to a 2006 survey by the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/women-stress.aspx) women are susceptible to feeling more stressed and engage in unhealthy behaviors during the holidays.
Dr. Bonnie suggests that both partners engage in activities that counteract the stresses many couples are sure to experience this holiday season. “Kiss more, hold more, and look for activities that create playful fun that aren’t costly.” Dr. Bonnie also recommends that couples tell the truth to their extended friends, family and children about their economic situation. “Don’t write checks you don’t have money for. Send a card with a loving sentiment instead of gifts. Friends and family will understand, and are most likely in similar economic situations.”
Another stress to marriages is unhappy kids who act out. Parents must also realize that their children feel stress, and busy parents miss the cues. “According to a 2009 study, (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2009/11/stress.aspx), teens and tweens were more likely than parents to say that their stress had increased in the last year. Nearly half of the teens surveyed ages 13-17 said that they worried more this year, but only 28 percent of parents think their teen’s stress increased, and while a quarter of tweens ages 8-12 said they worried more this year, only 17 percent of parents believed their tween’s stress had increased. “This has two implications. Children are more stressed than ever, and parents aren’t aware,” explains Dr. Bonnie
Dr. Bonnie recommends that parents have healthy and honest discussions with their children about their fears and concerns, and teach appropriate behaviors to relieve stress, like playing ball instead of video games. Physical activity releases stress, while sitting exacerbates it.
Make Up Don’t Break Up offers communication tips, and assists couples develop skills to stay together when faced with adversity and the stressors of daily life.
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
The New York Times recently ran an article on shoe shopping. Turns out this event hasn’t taken much of a hit, even as we’re more strapped for cash as a nation and spending less. People are still buying shoes left and right. And in October, shoe sales were actually up almost eight percent over what they were at this time last year. If this may seem kind of strange considering many are still feeling the pain of the recession, the NYTimes article offers more than a few suggestions, including:
* with conspicuous consumption being out of fashion nowadays, shoes enable people to update their wardrobes without being ostentatious
* “It’s just fun to shop for shoes. Maybe part of the fun is you don’t feel fat. And you don’t get hot. It’s exhausting trying clothes on”
* Shoes democratize fashion
* You could spend thousands of dollars to go away right now, or you can buy walking shoes
* women’s shoes typically cost half as much as a handbag of similar quality.
* “[Because I walk everywhere] “I use the argument, ‘If I spend $150 to $300 on shoes, this is my car.’”
* consumers were snapping up shoes in bright colors like yellow and red, “something that sticks out and makes you happy” (proving that we’re looking for an emotional lift, or a dopamine high to cancel out the feelings of worry and depression that have become all-too-commonplace.)
As I’ve suggested in earlier articles, many of us are coming to the end of our frugal fashion ropes. We’re feeling “frugal fatigue,” according to the article, and we’re more likely to commit financial infidelity or make a “pent-up” purchase (what I consider to be purchases made out of frustration when a person is tired of being restricted – monetarily or otherwise).
It’s understandable that as the most brutal fear of the recession is seeming to pass for most people, we would emerge on the other side with a pent-up desire to spend. And given some of the reasons above, shoe shopping may actually sound like a good outlet! But consider your motivation, finances – and relationships before you indulge. Don’t seek out spending just for the rush – I tackled this idea of money as related to a dopamine “high” for research for the book “Make up Don’t Break up – as it’s a short-lived thrill and will likely cause even more problems down the road if you’re not equipped long-term to handle the financial pressure of splurge purchases.
Don’t let an innocent desire for the season’s latest style of boots turn into an issue of financial infidelity ~ where one person is dishonest with their partner about finances or purchases something behind their partner’s back. One person shouldn’t feel like they’re less-informed or less-involved in the financial process. This can lead to contempt and revenge spending. The important thing is to engage in what I call in my research “Smart Heart Dialogue” – and explain more in depth in the book “Makeup Don’t Break up. It boils down to this: be honest with your partner about your money management and yes, even the temptation to buy a new pair of heels!
While a recession is painful and frustrating – and restricting your spending because of it can be exhausting! – it can be a good time to get back to basics and realize we don’t need the latest trend to come off the runways or an expensive meal to connect with the things and people we care about!
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Have you had your spending reined in? Do you feel like you’re on a short leash, financially? Have you been unable to indulge in the little splurges for yourself or loved ones that you were used to? The economic climate overall is improving, but that doesn’t mean everyone is rebounding ~ in fact, for some people the sting of financial downturn is still fresh, whether it be from a lost job, a foreclosed house, a lifestyle downsize, or any one of a number of things.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, this recession hasn’t been all bad, as it’s taught many of us what’s truly important: we’re taking pleasure in the little things like eating meals together instead of going out, watching movies at home with friends instead of splurging on expensive outings, doing crafts with our kids instead of buying them the latest gadget, and so on.
But there’s nothing like the holidays to make you feel the pinch of a pinched penny. This time of year has ALWAYS been a hard one for much of American. People frequently go into debt to buy the perfect gift for themselves or a friend or family member. We throw caution to the wind and plan vacations home, eat meals out, host parties … and make things more stressful than they should be.
As many families are in the midst of needing to cut back, it’s even more of a necessity to live within your means this holiday season, but it’s likely to be even more tempting to overindulge. I call this a Pent Up Purchase. It’s related to a typical symptom of infidelity, the Pissed off Purchase, which I describe in my book Financial Infidelity, and can manifest itself in several ways:
Out of denial and anger, Americans have awakened to a new emotional response to the economic collapse. Our brain chemistry is negatively impacted when we suffer adversity. Because of this, the economic downturn we’re experiencing – and the penny pinching many are experiencing – is actually a set-up for irresponsible spending, and an unhealthy replacement for emotional intimacy.
So where does that leave us, as we stare the holiday season in the eyes? Make sure you’re taking advantage of the GOOD things we can learn from this recession, like I mentioned above. It may seem like a vicious cycle: more stress=more tendency to spend=more stress. But doing things to remove stress from your life WITHOUT spending money will help break the cycle! Spending time with your family – which is often at the core of a memorable holiday experience anyway, even after you strip away the gifts and festivities – can be a good place to start. Or if your family is a source of even MORE stress know your limits and boundaries.
Essentially, the advice that is always relevant during this time of year is even more pertinent now: Take time to rest, to enjoy the season, to be with the people that you love, and let the support of all these things carry you through the stresses you may be feeling about finances, money or the economy.
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Check out my post on the subject over on Money Wise Woman.
Here’s an excerpt: Many women have trouble being forthcoming when it comes to talking about money, but now more than ever it is important for us to speak up. Women entrepreneurs specifically can benefit from this advice in the fluctuating economy.
Business coach Veronica Canning admonishes that, “In a recession women business owners can’t afford to be shy. But if you’re a woman in business, the chances are that you don’t like negotiating and try to avoid it.”
In an uncertain economy negotiating and talking about money is becoming more and more important as someone who’s self-employed, or as a small business owner. But that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Canning admonishes business women to sharpen up their negotiation skills in order to survive.
This advice is important for women and is applicable in good economies and in bad. Although more and more women are out-earning men (whether that be in their own business or in the corporate world), they tend to suffer from generations of traditionally held ideas – one of which dictates that women aren’t the ones to be in charge of money, and it’s rude for them to talk about it. Canning suggests that “If you are not negotiating all the time, then you need to start at once. As things get tougher in the economy, you will need to be focused on getting what you need.” This bit of advice is appropriate and applicable for many women, not just entrepreneurs. Whether you have difficulty talking about money in business relationships or with your significant other in a personal relationship, it’s a pattern that can be broken.
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
A new gene discovered by scientists is being called the “infidelity gene,” but what does that actually mean, and is the name truly rooted in the scientific discovery?
Scientists at Karolinska Institute have found a link between a specific gene and the way men bond to their partners. This is the first time that a specific gene variant has been associated with male bonding, but the effect of this variation is relatively small, and it cannot be used to predict with any real accuracy how someone will behave in a future relationship.
Hasse Walum, postgraduate student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and his team found that men who carry one or two copies of a variant of a particular gene linked to hormone receptors — allele 334 — often behave differently in relationships than men who lack this gene variant.
According to the study, the incidence of allele 334 was statistically linked to how strong a bond a man felt he had with his partner. Men who had two copies of allele 334 were also twice as likely to have had a marital or relational crisis in the past year than those who lacked the gene variant. There was also a connection between the men’s gene variant and how happy their partners were with their relationship.
“Women married to men who carry one or two copies of allele 334 were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship than women married to men who didn’t carry this allele”, says Hasse Walum.
A related study was carried out several years ago, in which researchers focused on women who were twins and found that if one of a pair of twins had a history of infidelity, the chances her sister would also stray were about 55%. It found the tendency for both twins to be either faithful or unfaithful was strongest in identical pairs – who have identical genes.
The executors of the study stressed that genes alone did not determine whether somebody was likely to be unfaithful – much could be boiled down to social factors as well.
I’ve found similar things throughout my years as a therapist and believe that certain people ARE genetically predisposed to have a more difficult time being faithful. Of course there are other factors at work here – like if you grew up in a home where one of your parents was unfaithful, or if you move in circles where discreet infidelity is somewhat accepted. But some people must fight against infidelity like others fight against alcoholism or anger.
This doesn’t mean they get a free pass. The key is to acknowledge this about yourself and keep fighting AGAINST however you have to – through therapy, support groups or counseling.
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
First the bad news – Unemployment rates are high, peoples’ life savings and retirement investments are still depleted, home values have tanked. Now the good news: Surprisingly, Americans are feeling less stress from debt these days.
The gist of a study, conducted by the Associated Press is that people are optimistic that they’ll eventually be able to get out from under a mountain of bills, a major factor behind the decline in stress from last year.
According to the poll: Debt-related stress was 12 percent lower this year than in 2008. “People now have some optimism that the worst is behind them,” said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the results of the survey.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, staying in has become the new going out, which – in spite of the fact that people and families are dealing with depleted finances – has had some positive effects. Families are connecting. People are viewing their budget as a team effort. Couples are saving more. All these things are also likely factors in the increase in positive debt perception that the study reveals. People feel like they might be gaining control of their lives again.
In my book, Financial Infidelity, I encourage people to talk about their money history – both in their own lives, and as a reflection of what they learned growing up, or in their past. It seems like more people may have started to do this, and subsequently have gotten on the same “financial page” and are willing to make a few sacrifices whereas before they may not have been as open to the idea.
Of course, this has had somewhat of a negative effect on the economy as a whole – if Americans were to sharply cut back spending, that could prolong the recession and hopes of recovery this year.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and as such, Americans aren’t dealing with record-high gas prices as they were last summer. Credit and financial problems, which reached a crisis point last fall, have shown some signs of easing.
It would be naive to think that because overall debt-related stress is down from this time last year, we’re out of the woods. Obviously our habits continue to have potentially dangerous repercussions both in our personal lives and in our economy as a whole, but people are definitely thinking more about their finances and their spending. And I would say that’s a net gain!
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Anyone who watched Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, give her un-planned speech at her dad’s funeral can see how much she loved him and what kind of relationship she had with her father. Unfortunately for she and her brother Prince Michael, the sadness may be far from over, and battles over finances are just the beginning. Of course, the question still stands – who will get the kids and how will that be determined? In the apparent absence of a will, would the kids go to their biological mom, Debbie Rowe? It seems as though that won’t argument won’t hold up in court – I hope that continues to be the case, since allowing Rowe custody of the kids would be a type of Financial Infidelity.
Not only that, but it would NOT be in the best interest of the kids, and could present them with attachment disorder later in life. As Anna Freud explained with her extensive research into the subject years ago (which was the basis of courts beginning to take into account what the child actually wanted, and make the child’s best interest a priority), it can be extremely damaging for a kid to go with what amounts to a total stranger. Rowe has declared publicly several times that she does not consider Paris and Prince to be her kids, that she had them Michael and doesn’t want anything to do with them. She told one news outlet:
“I know I will never see them again. I was never cut out to be a mother – I was no good. I don’t want these children in my life. My children are my animals now.”
Sending them to live with her could be the modern equivalent of Biblical King Soloman’s proposal that – when two women were claiming to be the mom of one baby – the baby be cut in half. So – it seems pretty cut and dried – but if the mom doesn’t want the kids, what happens next and how will it play out financially? Debbie Rowe – though her statements are unverified and somewhat dubious – claims that the kids aren’t biologically even Jackson’s. She said that when Michael wanted kids, she was inseminated in order to give birth. If that’s true – or even if it’s not! – you can bet there will be many potential fathers coming out of the woodwork to claim a piece of pop’s legacy. It’s still unclear exactly what and how much this legacy entails but it’s likely going to get messy for all involved – and the kids will be no exception.
As I describe in my book of the same name, Financial Infidelity entails spending deceitfully behind someone’s back and I would venture to say the Jackson inheritance/legacy/custody battle could venture into this territory. Like I mentioned in my previous article, Jackson’s life seemed fraught with instances of Financial Infidelity and it’s easy to see how the people in his life could start spending unwisely – or making unwise financial decisions – behind the backs of his kids. Too many things are unknown at this point, his assets and finances aren’t accounted for, and if these things fall into the wrong hands before everything is worked out, the results could be detrimental for the people I would say are – at least by some token – the heirs to whatever he may have left behind: his kids.
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
No, I’m not talking about an emergency supply you may have in a kit for a natural disaster or the like (in which case you SHOULD stash your money!), I’m talking about those of us who have a habit of keeping our cash around the house. It’s even more understandable given the recent collapse of banks and all this uncertainty, but consider the example – albeit extreme – of the woman in Tel Aviv who had stashed $1 million in cash under her mattress (literally), which was then hauled away to the dump. The cash still hasn’t been recovered.
According to MSNBC, statistics on the number of people in the U.S. who stash cash at home are hard to come by, but a 2007 survey of 1,500 British adults by Virgin Money found 8 percent of them stash between approximately $500 to $1,650 around the house, usually tucked within a drawer, mattress or safe.
Utilizing a safe may be one thing, but too often cash-stashers don’t secure their loot behind a combination lock, which can lead to all kinds of problems – the money accidentally being thrown out, donated (when stashed inside a jacket pocket for instance), or stolen. Then you have the risk of fire or even forgetting where you put it!
An exercise I suggest in my book to people who have unhealthy relationships to and with money is to figure out their financial Imago, which I discuss in my book Financial Infidelity – which deals with peoples’ romantic relationships as well as their relationship with money.
Depending on your stage in life, and your stage in the relationship, there are crucial questions you need to answer. How do you feel about debt? How much debt do you have? Are you a risk-taker or are you risk-averse? Will the kids go to private school? Will we fund their college education in its entirety? Who will pay when we go out? How often will we go out and how often will we eat in?
Of course, these are only a few, sample questions to touch on before you head into significant life changes, but they are a good place to start. Many times you many not even know how to answer those questions yourself, much less how you will answer them as a couple. And just as often, you will have a knee-jerk reaction as to how to answer them that may be completely opposite from your partners. It’s always best to get those reactions out in the open before you find yourself “in the heat of battle!”
If you uncover that your passion for stashin’ is somewhat hereditary, you may want to go around emptying out drawers of heirloom dressers … JUST KIDDING!
by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Are American consumers so angry they are spending recklessly, disregarding their budget or agreement with their spouse? Last week, I mentioned a study which stated that almost 80% of women are inclined to spend themselves out of misery and would go on a spending spree to cheer up, concluding that some women use shopping as an emotional regulator. Ironically this means that worrying about money can lead to spending more, which doesn’t bode well for many people who have had to cut back due to the recession.
In regards to these patterns that are emerging out of our national – and personal! – financial crisis, I coined a new phrase: “Pent up Purchase!” This is similar to a phenomenon I’ve been studying in my practice for years – what I call a “POP shot,” or a “pissed off purchase.” These types of spending obviously aren’t healthy and when we participate in them, we’re playing off of part of the grieving process. Out of denial and anger, Americans have awakened to a new emotional response to the economic collapse. Our brain chemistry is negatively impacted when we suffer adversity. Our addiction to spending to get that “high” is a common response to spur dopamine production (feel good hormones). Because of this, the economic downturn we’re experiencing is a set-up for irresponsible spending, and an unhealthy replacement for emotional intimacy.
This leads to what I call the “money mistress” which can then give way to financial infidelity. This can be every bit as destructive and painful and a sexual affair (in fact, sometimes the two are intertwined!). A “pissed off purchase,” “money mistress” and “financial infidelity” all occur when you engage in reckless spending – whether that be spending over budget, spending behind your partner’s back, or spending as a way to avoid grief and as a type of self-medication.
I’m not trying to be alarmist and draw the conclusion that buying a pair of shoes to make yourself feel better is only one step away from financial infidelity. I’m merely suggesting that the two can lead to each other, and in a climate where everyone is over-stressed, over-worried and more on-edge than normal, these types of behaviors can heighten the likelihood that you will engage in more destructive patterns.
There’s no denying relationships are stressed right now, and just as we must be more financially vigilant and dedicated on a personal level, so we must be with our significant other. And it’s not just about money. Take some time to de-stress, relationally by spending time with each other in an attempt to take the pressure off of the worry that may be encroaching on your financial life.
It may seem like a vicious cycle: more stress=more tendency to spend=more stress. But doing things to remove stress from your life WITHOUT spending money will help break the cycle!