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How long-term unemployment can affect your marriage

(MoneyWatch) The financial tolls for an individual suffering through long-term unemployment (LTU) are obvious. LTU has also been linked with various health issues. And in terms of the effect on relationships, extended periods of joblessness can be truly taxing. Recent research from Ohio State shows that it may even be a risk factor for divorce -- particularly if the husband is the one who is unemployed. Here's how to keep your relationship strong while your partner is dealing with this hurdle:

Help normalize unemployment

It's the elephant in the room, and avoiding the topic won't make it go away. "Talk about unemployment as something that happens to anyone and that it is part of the difficulties in life. Share your own experience or those of others who you know," says Robert L. Leahy, PhD, Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and author of "Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job."

Put together a budget

In good times, the greatest stress on a marriage can be money. When income is tight, a budget is essential to preserving the health of your union. "Put time aside to discuss the budget, which, ultimately must start with a good look at priorities and values. Even before saying what items stay or go, the important thing to ask is 'What do we value in our lives? This may include education, recreation, health, etc.,' says Scott Haltzman, M.D. and author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women" and "The Secrets of Happily Married Men."

Praise any progress

While it may seem like failure is anything short of being employed, efforts to become employed should be acknowledged. "Reinforce any move forward. Complement the person for efforts made to advance the job search -- such as informational interviews, job applications, reaching out, etc.," says Leahy.

Maintain your rituals

Try to continue to do what you enjoy doing together as a couple, even if you have to adapt some activities to your new budget. "Instead of going out to the movies, rent them. Instead of going out to dinner, cook a gourmet meal together," suggests Damien Birkel, founder of the consulting firm Professionals in Transition and author of "Bounce Back!: The Professionals in Transition Guide To Recovery & Reemployment."

Focus on their positives

While it's hard to understand what your partner is going through, chances are they're not feeling too great about themselves. "Both members of a marriage must try not to personalize the situation. When they begin to assign blame, it's hard to extricate themselves from the downward spiral," says Haltzman.

Stop talking about it

While you shouldn't ignore the topic of unemployment, take a break from it at regular intervals. "Agree in advance that during the weekend that 'being out of work and reemployment activities will not be discussed,'" says Birkel.

This is part 3 of a three-part series on long-term unemployment. Read part 1, Long-term Unemployment and the Jobs Report, and part 2, Job Interview Help for the Long-term Unemployed.

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