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Relational Risk Management

Let’s pretend. Let’s say I have the power to turn back the clock to one year ago. I use this power to alert you to the financial difficulties that lie ahead in the second half of 2008 and beyond. I urge you to preserve and protect your investments rather than stay on a track that promises big returns. What would you have to let go of to be willing to get off that train: dreams of early retirement; an improvement in life style; happiness itself?


None of us like to think that our happiness is dependant on material pursuits. Reflections on this past decade, however, show us that all too often we are susceptible to the lure of security and self-worth that material wealth promises. In fact, research shows “the more you believe happiness comes from material wealth, the more likely you are to be depressed, distressed and anxious—and the less actual well-being you’re likely to experience.”*


It’s now July 2009 and I’ll issue a different alert. As the economy contracts, business declines, and layoffs continue, we must recognize other vulnerabilities in our most precious assets (our emotional & physical wellbeing and those we love, and our relationships with them). In being aware of relational risks, we empower ourselves to call forth strength, resilience, wisdom, and compassion to preemptively protect against three costly relational risks: secrecy, shame, and self-destruction.



The 3 Relational Risks of Difficult Times


We can all gain from actress Carrie Fischer’s pronouncement “You’re only as sick as your secrets!”  We indeed pay a high price for hiding what we feel and for personal choices and mistakes we feel we must conceal. Our secrets can be as small as continuing to shop and sneak purchases past a partner or as large as lying or denying the facts of the family financial picture. Small or large, financial secrets are toxic to relationships. SECRECY puts us at risk.


By midlife we have recognized our competencies, yet when circumstances strip away the places we demonstrate them, we are left feeling naked and inadequate. Historically, men have borne the burden of providing and protecting, but increasingly women carry these expectations. When opportunity and performance don’t support our emotional and financial needs, feelings of shame and inadequacy are quick to engulf us. Shame makes us want to hide and withdraw, greatly challenging the connection in any relationship. SHAME puts us at risk.


The rise of the third relational risk, self-destructive behavior, is evident in news reports. Suicide of executives and of wives and husbands facing loss of the family home and financial security are alarmingly more prevalent. Used as escapes, drugs and alcohol, gambling, and alienate partners from each other. SELF-DESTRUCTION puts us at risk.


You are a 21st century woman, 50 + Fabulous so don’t put your head in the sand. Don’t assume you and your family are immune. Start with a relational check-up today and do it regularly.



A Relational Check List for Difficult Times


Check items that are true for you. If you check ½ or more your relational net is in good shape. If you check fewer than ½, please take steps to enhance your connection.


I talk openly and regularly with my partner about our budget, financial picture, and spending.


I keep agreements I make with my partner.


We make time each week to talk about what has brought us joy, satisfaction, and meaning.


I pay attention to signs of self-destructive behavior, in myself and in family members.


I am emotionally supportive of my partner.


I refrain from judging and criticizing myself or my partner.


I look for solutions rather than place blame.


I am part of a community that gives me a sense of support, purpose, and/or meaning.


I seek professional help or outside emotional support when I/we need it.


I’m a team player.


I maintain my integrity regardless of challenges.


I eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.


I regularly get a good night’s sleep.


I keep my home a safe, orderly and nurturing environment.


I make regular time for friendship.


I give what I can to my community or to charity


I let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can.


I have healthy ways of relieving stress that I engage in regularly.


I count on my partner to be a good sounding board for my worries and concerns.


* Tim Kasser, The High Price of Materialism