How to Improve Your Relationship When You’re in Debt

Learning how to improve your relationship when you’re in debt as a couple may be the best thing you can to secure your future together! Here are six ways to build a better relationship despite money problems such as financial debt.

“The idea that simply being more supportive is better for your marriage is a myth,” says Erika Lawrence, associate professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Often husbands and wives think, ‘If my partner really knows me and loves me, he or she will know I’m upset and will know how to help me.’ However, that’s not the best way to approach your marriage. Your partner shouldn’t have to be a mind reader. Couples will be happier if they learn how to say, ‘This is how I’m feeling, and this is how you can help me.'”

No more of that, “If he loved me, he’d know…”! Trust me, it doesn’t work. The “money and love” tips below will help you communicate better. If you’re in debt, you need to read books like The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness — they really do help.

And, here are six tips to help you and your partner survive a financial crisis…

How to Improve Your Relationship When You’re in Debt

1. Don’t assume your partner needs a particular type of support. Women don’t always want a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, and men don’t always retreat to their caves! “The assumption is that men just want to be left alone and women want to be held and listened to,” Lawrence said. “In reality, different men want different kinds of support, and different women want different kinds of support.” Also, remember that people need different types of support at different times of the day, week, or month.

2. Learn how to provide different types of relationship support. Improving your relationship – whether you’re in financial debt or not – involves knowing about different ways to be supportive. Lawrence identified four kinds of support: physical comfort and emotional support (listening and empathizing, taking your spouse’s hand, giving your spouse a hug), esteem support (expressing confidence in your partner, providing encouragement), informational support (giving advice, gathering information), and tangible support (taking on responsibilities so your spouse can deal with a problem, helping to brainstorm solutions to a problem). Improving your relationship is about knowing your partner’s love language.

3. Ask for what you need. If you need physical support (love or sex, for example), ask for it! If you need to sit down and figure out an exact plan for paying off your financial debt, then schedule a time for a “money huddle.” If you’re tired of fighting about money, talk about getting counseling. Be specific about the type of support you need. Don’t assume your partner knows the best way to support you or improve your relationship. You need to learn this together.

5. Avoid giving too much “informational support.” The results of the University of Iowa study showed that too much informational support – usually in the form of unwanted advice-giving – is the most detrimental. Lawrence says couples in love can’t go wrong with esteem support. To improve your love relationship, support your partner by saying how confident you are that you’ll improve your relationship and overcome your financial debt together.

6. Don’t be overly supportive. Here’s a surprising way to improve your relationship when you’re reducing financial debt: don’t offer too much support to your partner! Lawrence and colleagues discovered that receiving more support than desired is a greater risk factor for relationship problems than not being there for a spouse. “If you don’t get enough support, you can make up for that with family and friends — especially women, who tend to have multiple sources of support,” she said. “When you receive too much support, there’s no way to adjust for that.”

“Both parties are more satisfied if the husband gets the right kind of support, and if the wife feels like she’s supported,” Lawrence said. “Husbands shouldn’t throw their hands up if they’re not sure what to do. They need to stay in there and keep trying, because we found that women appreciate the effort.”

What do you think of these tips for improving your relationship when you’re in debt? Comments welcome below…

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Source: This research study, called “Couples Can Overdo Being Supportive”, was published in the journal Personal Relationships. Lawrence was the lead author, with co-authors from the University of Iowa, CIGNA Health Solutions, Santa Clara University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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