From the Toronto Sun, October 7, 2008


Desperate housewives
Job changes and looming recession puts stay at home spouses in difficult spot


By JOANNE RICHARD, Special to Sun Media
Memo: With files from Liza Sardi, Sun Media National Life Editor
Last Updated: 7th October 2008,

Call me a desperate (house) wife!

My personal space is being invaded by my husband who's opted out of the corporate jungle to start a new business -- from home. But I work from home too!

I marked my territory eight years ago and I'm really trying to roll with the punches, but some days it's a little too close for comfort. How can two adults share an eight-by-10-foot office and computer, live together 24/7 and get along?

While we forge alliances and smooth out the, uhhhh, wrinkles of our new-found togetherness, experts tell me the relationship road gets mighty bumpy when a spouse is suddenly hanging around the house -- many of them not by choice. With jobs drying up across North America, unemployment breeds uncertainty, instability and decreased income and, in turn, self-esteem often takes a beating and so do marriages.

"One thing is certain, a new arrangement in the home can change the dynamic in the relationship dramatically," says relationship expert Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Deborah Mecklinger has been there -- three times! "The CEO of a big corporation suddenly becomes the CEO of the breakfast table. Suddenly your flight patterns are under scrutiny and he needs to have input on everything."

Mecklinger runs a home business as a divorce coach so her negotiating skills have come in handy, especially during the year her husband Jeff built a successful financial company from home.

"It's a power struggle and territorial readjustments are required," says Mecklinger, also a lawyer and social worker.

For many of her clients, the rebalancing process can be painful, adds Mecklinger of, and when it's mired in money problems and anxiety, it can take its toll.

Money woes bring relationship woes. "I would expect the divorce rate to go up within months of the beginning of a recession," says Kirschner, adding that "top stressors and main causes of conflict in marriages are money and sex. And in tight times, both are likely to be an issue."

In Britain, divorce lawyers said they were being inundated with calls from stay-at-home wives after the governor of the Bank of England warned that the country may be headed for a protracted economic downturn in May.

According to divorce expert Karen Stewart, splits increase after holidays, probably because all that together time highlights relationship deficiencies.

So, "if that happens after holidays, you can imagine that will be even more so when a spouse has been laid off and is at home full time!

"This is either a potential melting pot of chaos or it can be a huge opportunity to rekindle the passion," says Stewart, of Fairway Divorce Solutions in Calgary.

A home invasion sends routine, roles and stability right out the window, says Dr. Lillian Glass. Losing control of your domain and having someone underfoot definitely impact marriages, but if you add in unemployment, "it can be devastating.

Couples need to remember that it's not forever, adds Glass, author of Toxic People (St. Martin's).

"You can do something to get by. Try to enjoy the time together. Be nurturing to one another."


Don't let your marriage fizzle along with the economy. Dr. Rick Kirschner advises:

- Keep the channels of communication and interaction open

- Keep talking about next steps instead of the past

- Keep counting your blessings

- Keep in mind that it's hard for both of you

- Keep your perspective; this too will pass


Divorce experts say business is booming: "I'm always swamped," says divorce coach Deborah Mecklinger, adding the souring economy, to date, hasn't impacted the number of calls. "I don't see people not separating because of the bad economy."

On the other hand, Karen Stewart, of Fairway Divorce Solutions, adds "bad financial times lead to stress and conflict, and award fewer choices," so some couples may actually be forced to stay together because they can't afford to survive separately.

In Alberta, "there's a divorce boom," says Sheila Nielsen, of Divorce Consultants which has offices in Calgary and Edmonton.

While national divorce statistics say about 48% of Canadian marriages don't last, Nielsen estimates the current Alberta figures are currently closer to 70%. The consultant says she's getting about 50 calls a day.

But with a recession purported to be looming, Nielsen says she's seeing more couples than ever trying to "get out while the house is still worth something."