Mumbai-based couple Anu*, 28, and Shekhar Khanna*, 33, are at loggerheads most of the time. "He is so infuriating. Always gloomy and worried. I know times are bad, but will worrying make them any better? I wish he would lighten up and stay cheerful," complains housewife Anu of her husband.
For Hyderabadi couple Sumita*, 29, and Samir Tanna*, 34, things are hardly different. Sumita is a schoolteacher, while her husband works for a leading airline company and for a whole week now, they've been going about their jobs and not speaking to each other at all. Why? Because while she wants to refurbish their house, he would rather invest that sum of money.
These are just a couple of examples, when in fact innumerable couples today have it tough -- these are stressful times and uncertainty is looming large.
Shekhar's complaint is that his wife Anu is far removed from reality. "She lives in her own little world of kitty parties and movies, while I see dozens of people receiving the pink slip every day. I live in the real world and things aren't happy and cheerful. I can't smile and be buoyant. I'm worried about what the months ahead hold for me."
Samir has a similar grudge against his wife Sumita. He says angrily, "Is this the time to spend foolishly on refurbishing the house or an extravagant foreign holiday? I'm trying hard to explain to my wife that it isn't a good idea to take an expensive vacation abroad, but she thinks I'm being stingy!"
Akash Dadlani*, 36, a VP with an investment bank in Delhi says, "I've received a retention bonus from the bank where I work. I don't know if I'll have a job six months down the line and the job market isn't exactly brimming with offers. So I don't want to spend even a penny of this bonus. God forbid, if the bank asks me to leave and I don't have a job, this will be the only money we'll have to pull us through until I'm able to secure another position elsewhere. But my wife, Pinaki, thinks otherwise. She works for a small media firm and she knows that her salary isn't enough to sustain our financial liabilities. I wish she would think wisely in these troubled times."
Pinaki* argues, "I know we should be prudent with money and I'm not asking for a world tour. I think we should spend a small portion of the bonus he has got -- get away someplace nice and relax. The bonus is a huge amount. It wouldn't matter if we spend a lakh of rupees! I just want to get away from the madness, go to some nice place -- a good resort -- and enjoy taking a break with my husband."
Opinions and clashes -- this time of economic downturn truly isn't the best for romance and your relationship. While one reads in mainstream publications about high-flying investment bankers in New York trimming down on their partners' extravagances like exclusive spa memberships, shopping budgets and other frills, the average Indian couple back home is dealing with a lot of stress too.
Remember you're together to help and support each other through rough patches too, not just sunshine. It's when the going gets tough that your partner needs your loving support the most. If you're a stay-at-home spouse, educate yourself through magazines and television about the economic scenario. Be realistic. It isn't a prudent decision to squander money on refurbishing the house when people are losing jobs. Understand your spouse's worry. Seeing and reading about people losing their jobs is scary and it is natural for the man to worry. It makes sense to save money for a rainy day, should it arrive. Also remember that while you manage the monthly budget for the house, your partner needs to look at the larger picture -- housing loan, the children's education and much more. So if you aren't earning, at least be supportive.
Don't let your friends influence you
Don't let your friends influence you with their talk of buying the latest designerwear and taking foreign trips. Only you know your own finances. This isn't the time to follow the herd.
Says Nita Patel*, a homemaker from Mumbai, "I was getting very influenced by a friend of mine who was planning a trip to the US. I started pressurising my husband to plan a grand Euro-trip. Then I realised how foolishly I was behaving. This isn't the time to squander Rs 4-5 lakh on a holiday. Later, I learned that my friend who was telling us about her impending trip was also spinning yarns!"
Keep your head firmly on your shoulders and don't let other's follies influence you.
There's no harm in penny-pinching when the times are bad. People all over the world are doing it. You'd be giving your partner the right signals and putting him at ease. It makes imminent sense not to overspend or indulge in impulse purchases. Before buying those new shoes, ask yourself -- do you really need them? You already have so many pairs.
While this isn't the time for expensive holidays and mindless spending, a bit of fun never killed anyone. Try to get away from the tension by taking a short break -- it doesn't have to be an expensive holiday, just somewhere nice and cosy. Go away, just the two of you, or with a group of friends -- whatever your preference -- and keep your worries at bay. Endlessly stressing about the situation will not make it go away. Especially for working couples, the tension can get a bit much with both stressed out. It can take a toll on your health and more importantly on the relationship. Don't let that happen.
Remember, what goes up must come down and vice versa. Nothing is permanent -- not even bad times. So this too shall pass. You enjoyed the good phase, now is the time to swim through the economic downturn. Just remember -- with winter here, spring can't be too far behind!
*Names changed to protect privacy.