Post-pandemic society has shifted from worrying primarily about health to striving to preserve wealth. Exorbitant gas and groceries prices have become global challenges for couples and a frequent cause of conflict. But not all couples are negatively affected. According to research, some partners are able to solidify their relationships while also tightening their belts. How do they do it? By working together.
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Tamara d. Afifi and others. (2018), examined the different ways in which couples communicate about financial uncertainty, the association with mental health, stress, and the potential for divorce.[i] Her research recognizes that economic uncertainty creates conflict and stress for couples, but it suggests it can actually strengthen marriage. It depends on the communication styles of the couples involved.
Afifi and others. She studied 82 Caucasian and Latino couples who engaged in stressful conversations about the economic uncertainty they experienced after the Great Recession. The researchers found that, contrary to what some might expect, many couples demonstrated resilience and growth. The degree to which couples achieved resilience when discussing financial uncertainty and stress was expressed through four communicative pathways: 1) unite, 2) thriving, 3) realist, and 4) at risk.
Afifi and others. Note that these four different communication styles predicted stress, mental health issues, and likelihood of divorce. The team found, in general, that couples whose communication paths were uniform/flourishing had higher levels of psychological well-being, lower stress and anxiety, and lower what they call “divorce potential” compared to pragmatic or at-risk couples. couples.
How does this work? Afifi and others. They explain that couples who united were able to weather and manage financial uncertainty by lifting each other up and communicating as a united front against the Great Recession. They constantly reaffirmed each other’s families’ contributions, celebrated their partner as part of the solution, and blamed financial distress on factors outside their relationship. As a result, Afifi et al. Explain that the stress of financial uncertainty brought these pairs closer together.
Prosperous couples have been described as including all of the communication styles used by monogamous couples, with the addition of a demonstrated ability to grow from stress and financial uncertainty. Afifi and others. Explain that in addition to using the same communication styles as monogamous couples, budding couples are actually talking about their own personal growth. They used phrases that suggested an expanded perspective, showed that they learned something positive or new from the Great Recession, or grew personal and relational from the experience.
The pragmatic couples, unlike the other groups, were less emotional in terms of talking about money. They were more focused on basic, daily, and household needs such as gas and groceries. Afifi and others. Note that pragmatic partners were more likely to be objective, focusing their focus on discussing the same problem, without emotional influence.
Afifi and others. Describe the fourth type of spouse as “at risk.” As the name suggests, at-risk couples are those who turn on each other when discussing finances, creating an emotional wedge. Rather than confronting outside forces as a team, such as united and prosperous couples, at-risk partners were unable to identify the basis of their financial problems and doubts without blaming each other, making threats, directing blame, and engaging in resentment toward their partners.
Challenges are inevitable. Conflict does not have to be the result. For healthy couples, facing tough times as a team builds resilience, respect, and stability in relationships.