Is the economy ruining your marriage?

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By George Mannes, Money Magazine senior writer

Question 5. You can't help it: You think the financial pickle your family is in now is your husband's fault. After all, he insisted that you buy a too-expensive house, which drove up your expenses by a third. He, on the other hand, says it's your fault for poorly managing your IRA s, which lost almost half their value last year. Which of you is to blame?

A. You. You should never have loaded your IRAs with risky stocks.

B. Your husband. Digging out from a financial hole is tougher than waiting for the market to bounce back.

C. Both of you are equally to blame.

D. Neither of you should feel that it's your fault.

Answer : C or D. Ultimately it doesn't matter who was responsible for your financial predicament; what's important is that you don't get hung up on finger-pointing.

Stressful situations often lead couples to lay blame, says Barbara Mitchell, a clinical social worker in New York City who specializes in money issues. "There's a tendency to scapegoat one another, which starts a real downward spiral," she says. Researchers have consistently found that the more "negative interactions" you and your partner have -- and laying blame for the family's financial woes certainly qualifies -- the worse your relationship will be and the more likely you'll start thinking about divorce.

Instead of criticizing each other, fault the true culprit, the economy, and form a united front against it.

Schedule regular weekly meetings in which you and your spouse discuss financial problems and possible solutions calmly. That sort of quarantine will prevent your financial gripes from infecting the rest of your day-to-day interactions. Defuse the emotion by focusing on the task. Instead of arguing about who wanted the McMansion more, look into refinancing to lower your costs or trading down to a smaller house.

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