During periods of darkness, it is the stars that come out to shine. The recession offers a challenge to our resilient nature. Whether the economic downturn has the power to negatively impact your relationship or not has much to do with a couple’s ability to generate creative solutions in times of stress. Those who engage with the problems….in effect, move into the problem instead of shrinking away to avoid dealing with it in a thoughtful and reflective way….will become sparkling stars in their own night skies. Their successful effort to creatively problem solve and then compromise can strengthen a couples’ pride in their ability to weather a storm like a recession together and become stronger, not in spite of an economic problem but because of it! Whether in the context of economic problems or other problems, resilience is the ability to bounce forward, not just back! Marriages that are strong may reflect agreed upon values and practical ways to weather a crisis like a recession. For example, a couple who are effective planners for the future may have saved a nest egg to weather a storm like a recession. Strong couples with safe attachment bonds find strength in their unity and do not feel alone or isolated.

Fights about money are rarely about money. There are intergenerational scripts about money and often people bring opposing narratives about money from their respective families of origin. Such polarized views may be the source of conflict. For example, I see a couple wherein the man is the penny pincher and the woman is a spendthrift. Both partners claim that they were more moderate in their respective relationships with money before marrying one another. The couple essentially are in reaction to one another and become increasingly extreme in their reactivity as they watch their spouse be more extreme in theirs. They co-create their problematic dynamic around money. Thus, underlying emotional issues may underlie money battles. And though Howard Markman, Ph.D. and director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, states that “Money is the number one thing that couples fight about in America,” what is surprising is that for many couples, money fights are not a function of much money you have or don’t have. I have a very wealthy couple in my practice, for example, that fight about money day in and day out. They have more money than they or their children can possibly spend. Yet they argue about money daily.

Money problems encountered in the Great Recession of the early Twenty First Century may, nevertheless, reflect a lowered divorce rate. People may not be able to afford two households. They may put off divorce. One couple in my practice (http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com) came in for counseling to help them deal with this situation. They wanted to divorce, could not afford it, and were forced to live together till more money came in. In their work with me, they developed a new-found pride in their ability to compromise and make co-habitation work. They are renewing their wedding vows next month.

In other situations, people who become unemployed may find themselves at home together more often. In this increased togetherness, they may experience stress at the change. The delicate balance has been disturbed…a small change can tip the balance and topple stability within a couple’s dynamic.

In my practice at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com, I have seen the increased economic stress resulting from joblessness lead to an increase in alcohol and drug abuse. Some of my colleagues are also reporting an increase in cases of domestic violence alongside unemployment rates. Unemployment undoubtedly causes stress, leads to depression and can lead to explosive situations.

Interestingly, newly unemployed partners may move away from traditional gender roles. Research shows that marriages with more egalitarian rather than traditional gender roles fare better. It is useful for couples to take the emotion out of the busy-ness and draw up an agreed-upon list dividing the household and parenting duties in an equitable manner.

In terms of recession and economic stress to a marriage or relationship, the more relevant question to ask is whether or not the marriage is made up of two emotionally mature individuals who do not resort to blame and recrimination in the face of stressors, but rather can unite around finding creative solutions to economic problems. For example, a return to school to increase one’s skills while unemployed may be one example of such a solution. Dr. Cunningham believes that therapy can increase productivity and one’s ability to generate solutions as less energy/anxiety is bound up in the relationship system. Visit her web site at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com to explore whether or not her model of practice may be right for you and your spouse. For those who cannot afford therapy, there are not-for-profit agencies that offer very low-fee services with clinical interns.


1. Do not judge each other’s spending choices too harshly. Do not treat your spouse like a child by telling him/her that his purchase is not necessary or is foolish. This will never resolve spending dilemmas and will only increase resentment and conflict. Instead, strive to respect each other’s adulthood and individuality. Each partner comes from a family that may have a different culture of spending.

2. Listen carefully to your partner’s concerns and ideas about possible solutions. Remain open-minded. Be open to a new re-evaluation of priorities. Learn to negotiate with each other about money issues.

3. Remember that in unity, there is strength. But also remember that respecting difference makes for a stronger sense of unity. Harsh storms weathered together can strengthen a relationship. Successful compromise breeds increased pride in accomplishment.

4. Now may be the perfect time to introduce children to the importance of cooperation, viewing themselves as family team members. Instead of responding with an “automatic” kneejerk response to one another in a stressful economic situation, children can observe the adults managing themselves by talking to one another in a respectful manner and agreeing upon viable solutions.

5. Be aware that our relationship to money may be merely mirroring our parents’ relationship with money or, conversely, we may be reacting to our parents’ relationship with money in a manner that is outside our awareness.

6. Start having open talks about money with each other. Be curious about how your experiences in childhood informed your ideas about money. Let go of “right” and “wrong.” The important goal is to respect your partner’s differences. Look deeper.

7. Share equally the responsibilities of budgeting, investing and saving money. Divide up the tasks. Meet weekly. Don’t fight. Share information. Make collaborative decisions.

8. Each partner should save some autonomy by maintaining a small personal account for their own spending.

At http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com, couples get practice in respecting difference and still staying connected. Call 619 9906203 for a complimentary consultation.

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Anger is an emotion that can erode an individual’s quality of life and play havoc with the dynamic in one’s most important relationships. In my clinical practice, I see many couples who complain that anger has infected their relationship satisfaction. The roller coaster quality of living with someone who has trouble managing his/her anger can be devastating. At http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com, Dr. Cunningham works on helping people learn new tools and apply new principles to their relationships that help them lead calmer, more satisfying lives. For example, it is important to be clear about one’s bottom line. What will you do and what won’t you do for the other person? Consider your “yeses” as carefully as you consider your “no’s.” If you accommodate and give in again and again, over time, resentment toward your partner may build. Then as normal day-to-day stresses of life accumulate, a person with anger management problems may explode and hurt those he or she loves deeply. A person with anger management problems needs to learn that they can shape their world rather than being at the mercy of outside forces. They need to increase their sense that they can become the CEO of their own life instead of exerting energy upon trying to control others. If you can become aware of triggers that make you say yes when you really want to say no (or conversely, make you say no when you really want to say yes), you will know where you stop and they begin. This simple yet difficult self-management skill can help you curb resentment toward an important other. If you work on managing your own boundaries more carefully, it can help you to control your anger and then become a long distance runner in the art of intimacy. To learn more, visit my web site at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call me for a complimentary phone consultation at 619 9906203.
Labels: Anger, Anger Management, Attachment Issues, Counseling, Dr. Barbara Cunningham, Intimacy Issues, Marriage and Family Therapist, Relationship Issues, Relationships, San Diego Marriage Counseling


“There is nothing in schizophrenia that is not also present in all of us. Schizophrenia is made up of the essence of human experience many times distilled. With our incapacity to look at ourselves, we have much to learn about ourselves from studying the least mature of us.”
Murray Bowen, M.D.

“Diagnosis is not destiny.”
Gerald Weissmann, M.D., They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus

“I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Benjamin Franklin

“Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.”

“We are continuously faced by great opportunities brilliantly
disguised as insoluble problems.”
Lee Iacocca

“Questions focus our thinking. Ask empowering questions like:
What’s good about this? What’s not perfect about it yet? What
am I going to do next time? How can I do this and have fun doing
Charles Connolly

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask
better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
Anthony Robbins

“We all live with the objective of being happy;
our lives are all different and yet the same.”
Anne Frank

“Remember, no one can make you feel
inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Thoughts have power; thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your thinking.”
Susan Taylor

“Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.”
Earl Gray Stevens

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
John Wooden

“To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we
will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against.”
Christina Baldwin

“I feel that in this field (psychotherapy) it (scientific research) should
not be our only tool. It’s like a Procrustean bed, which leaves out so
much of what transpires in psychotherapy. The effort of science is to
study facts, but psychotherapy deals in meanings.”
Jerome Frank

“The wider paradigm of relationships and family transcends old
group definitions. The discovery of our connections to all other
men, women, and children joins us to another family. Indeed,
seeing ourselves as a planetary family struggling to solve its
problems, rather than as assorted people and nations assessing
blame or exporting solutions, could be the ultimate shift in
Marilyn Ferguson

“Obstacles are necessary for success… victory comes only
after many struggles and countless defeats. Yet each
struggle, each defeat, sharpens your skills and strengths,
your courage and your endurance, your ability and your
confidence and thus each obstacle is a comrade-in-arms
forcing you to become better… or quit. Each rebuff is an
opportunity to move forward; turn away from them, avoid
them, and you throw away your future.”
Og Mandino ( Motivational Author & Speaker)

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him
to find it within himself.”

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibrán (The Prophet)

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the
attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way
your mind looks at what happens.”
John Homer Miller

“I don’t know the key to Success. But the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Bill Cosby

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”
John Ruskin

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to
hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who
think differently.”
Friedrich Nietzche

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.”
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“You gain strength, experience and confidence by every
experience where you really stop to look fear in the face.”
You must do the thing you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Wisdom comes by disillusionment.”
George Santayana

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you
decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on
your mother, the ecology or the president. You realize that
you control your own destiny.”
Albert Ellis

“Faith is a passionate intuition.”
William Wordsworth

“Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
Harvey Fierstein

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Anais Ninn

“What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowman. That is
the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study.”
Rabbi Hillel

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have,
and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be
careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
Carl Sandburg

“Resolve to be thyself; and know, that he who finds himself, looses his
Mathew Arnold

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he
potentially is.”
Erich Fromm

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Woody Allen

“The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the Imagination.”
Emily Dickinson

“Great minds have purposes; little minds have wishes.
Little minds are subdued by misfortunes; great minds
rise above them.”
Washington Irving

“Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you respond to it.”
Charles Swindoll

“Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”
Eric Fromm

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
Carl Gustav Jung

“Psychotherapy must remain an obstinate attempt of two
people to recover the wholeness of being human through the
relationship between them.” R.D. Laing

“Two strong “I’s” make more likely a stable “we.” Barbara Cunningham

“The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.”

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an
imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
Dave Meurer

“We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.”

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”
Langston Hughes

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but
rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of
him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any
cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be
fulfilled by him.”
Victor Frankel

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Winston Churchill

“One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of
the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is
the moment when the real message of transformation is
going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”
Joseph Campbell

“No one ever became great by imitation” Samuel Johnson

“To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.”
Henri Matisse

“In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. A strength in one situation is a weakness in another, yet often the person can’t switch gears. It’s a very subtle thing to talk about strengths and weaknesses because almost always they’re the same thing.” Steve Jobs

“If you and I agree all the time, then one of us is redundant.”
Charles Wang

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Dr. Seuss.

“If there is no struggle there is no progress.”
Fredrick Douglas

“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”
Virginia Satir.

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.
Erica Jong

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
William Blake

If you want to learn more about Dr. Cunningham’s model of practice, visit her at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com