Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Recession Makes New 'Fault Lines' for Couples; First Coast Counselors See Financial Problems Weighing More Heavily on Marriages. Some Can't Afford Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Recession Makes New 'Fault Lines' for Couples; First Coast Counselors See Financial Problems Weighing More Heavily on Marriages. Some Can't Afford Help

Article excerpt

Byline: M.C. FINOTTI

Add another casualty to the current recession: marriage.

Local psychologists who specialize in couples therapy say money and financial issues have always stressed relationships, but the current tough economic climate is adding another layer to that stress. In fact, it's spurring couples to find counseling like never before.

"I would say my business is up 30 percent in the last six months with couples who say the economy is affecting their day-to-day functioning," said Virginia Boney, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Jacksonville.

In extreme cases, violence can result from the financial stresses involved with marriage, as evidenced over the weekend when a CSX account manager killed his wife and three children in Maryland. Authorities there said he was having "extreme financial problems" that may have played a role in the killing. The family lived in Jacksonville before moving to Maryland.

Boney said finances are "fault lines" that often lead to deeper issues in a relationship, issues like sharing power and control, status, and security and influence. She said in prosperous times, it's easy to bury the fault lines. But when times get tough, the fault lines can crack open and create deep crevices.

For instance, when a wife adamantly believes in sending a child to private school, and her husband believes in public, it's easier in prosperous times for the husband to acquiesce and send the child to private school. But now that money is tight, the opposite is true.

"Couples need to know that there are common perpetual issues in many relationships. This means they will never see eye-to-eye," Boney said. "What couples need to learn are skills to deal with these perpetual issues. They don't have to like it, but the goal is to learn how to respect it."

COUNSELING SEEN AS USEFUL

George Joseph, a licensed mental health counselor in Jacksonville Beach, also believes the economy is adding more financial stress to marriages. He said his practice is up 25 percent because of the recession, which he believes is creating something of a crisis management situation for many couples.

"One man is working two jobs to make up for the one job he lost. It's extremely stressful for him, right now. He's just trying to keep his head above water," Joseph said.

Although there are no universal answers, Joseph said counseling is a good first step for couples in need of a new foundation.

He said it's often the husband who doesn't want to attend counseling.

"Men think they need to be macho. It doesn't mean they're crazy if they come in for counseling. And once a man gets here and sees that it's helpful, he doesn't mind coming."

Still, less than 1 percent of couples who divorce ever see a therapist, Boney said.

She said this is because many couples are resistant to the idea of therapy. "And the reality is, if the couple is resistant to counseling than their prognosis is poor."

Boney said it would be unethical for states to mandate counseling for distressed couples because, in many cases, therapists would be taking money from resistant couples unlikely to see any benefits. …

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