Specialists have forecasted that the pandemic will result in the worst monetary crisis in the United States since the Great Depression. While the full scope of the financial fallout remains to be seen, furloughs, job losses and pay cuts resulting from the outbreak have already hit lots of people hard, and such monetary challenges can put a substantial pressure on romantic relationships.
Some Couples are Better Equipped Then Others
Some couples might be better equipped to manage that sort of stress than others, recommends research by Ashley LeBaron, a doctoral trainee in the University of Arizona Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
LeBaron, whose research study was carried out prior to the pandemic, has studied how financial stress effects married and unmarried couples from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Her findings provide insight into what might make some couples more durable.
In 2018, as a student at Brigham Young University, LeBaron co-authored a paper in the Journal of Household and Economic Issues that concentrated on married couples impacted by financial tension throughout the 2008 economic downturn. She discovered that some couples reported that their relationships grew stronger not just in spite of, however because of, the monetary challenges they had actually withstood together.
Nevertheless, the majority of the couples in that research study were white, middle- or upper-class couples.
Now a doctoral student at the University of Arizona, LeBaron set out in a more recent study to see if her previous findings would apply for individuals for whom monetary stress might have higher stakes– single, low-income couples anticipating their first kid together.
Most of the couples in the brand-new study, likewise released in the Journal of Household and Economic Issues, were low-income and black. All of them had experienced at least one of 3 financial stressors in the year prior: the inability to pay rent or a home mortgage completely, having their utilities turned off or eviction.
“Financial stress isn’t good for anyone, but for lower-income couples, it can really affect the time and energy and focus they can put on relationships,” LeBaron said.
In both of her research studies, LeBaron focused on the relationships in which partners remained extremely dedicated to one another after financial challenge.
In both research studies, she discovered that the strongest relationships were those in which partners remembered to practice “relationship upkeep habits,” consisting of respecting one another, being there for one another, and showing love and love for one another.
“A big take-home message is the importance of these relationship maintenance behaviors, especially when you’re experiencing financial stress,” LeBaron said. “It’s hard to remember to do that when you’re in the middle of financial stress. But making sure that your partner knows that you’re there for them, and doing things that show love and affection for them is really important.”
LeBaron also discovered that receiving financial support from friends and family was connected with higher levels of dedication for the couples in both of her studies.
In her second research study, LeBaron determined the success of the unmarried, low-income, expectant couples not only by how dedicated they reported being to their relationship, but also by how well they reported co-parenting.
Some additional aspects became essential for the low-income unmarried couples that LeBaron didn’t see in the couples. Those factors included having health insurance, having a support network and having children without any more than one partner.
“It can be stressful and financially demanding to have kids with multiple partners,” LeBaron said. She added that health insurance didn’t emerge as a factor, and wasn’t asked about, in the study of married couples.
LeBaron’s findings recommend that there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to keeping a strong relationship in times of financial tension.
“One of the takeaways for policymakers or therapists is that it really depends on the context of the couple you’re trying to help, because something that works for one couple might not work for the other one,” she said.
However, it appears that practicing relationship maintenance behaviors can go a long way for any couple, regardless of marital status and monetary standing. And it’s possible that some romantic relationships might grow stronger not just in spite of, but because of, monetary challenges, LeBaron said.
“Financial stressors happen to everyone. They happen more often and to a greater extent to some people than others, but everyone experiences financial stress,” LeBaron said. “If they use that stress as a catalyst to make positive changes in the relationship, it can be an opportunity to grow closer together, instead of having that stress tear you apart.”