SECRETS’ CORNER: Love in rough seas
Tough times and adversity often bring out the worst, rather than the best, in individuals.
That is, instead of pulling together as a couple, a family, a team, or a department to ride through and overcome a major challenge, some people pursue individual solutions to ensure their personal survival.
The ongoing global financial crisis, which led to business failures, job losses, home foreclosures and bankruptcy globally, also precipitated break-ups, separations and divorces as couples found it impossible to cope with their worsened financial position and their relationship as well.
There are reported cases across North America and western Europe of couples splitting up, families torn apart, cases of depression and even suicides as people, faced with the reality of losing all their worldly possessions, reacted in sometimes uncharacteristic and certainly unpredictable ways.
Here in Barbados, we have heard of few extreme cases similar to those in the developed countries. What we know of are situations where families with two cars sold one; people have cancelled annual and biannual overseas shopping trips; some have stopped renting and returned home; while others have cut grocery bills, spending on recreation, entertainment and just driving around for fun.
We have also heard, but have no proof to date, of women becoming involved in intimate relationships for financial gain. Here, we are not referring to street walking prostitutes, but rather individuals with children to support who find themselves between a rock and a hard place compromising their dignity to get money to support their offspring.
Few people talk about this, but this type of activity is known to happen in the best of economic times, far less now when job options for the least skilled are minimal.
This week’s double-barrelled question – How have the high food prices, escalating utility bills, and general increase of the cost of living impacted your relationship and home life? Have they brought you closer to your spouse, or have they brought tensions and separation, and why did this happen? – was formulated after I received a text from a seemingly desperate wife on May 7.
She wrote: “I don’t know what is happen[ing] here; I can’t find the words. We have three children, rent, bills and [more] bills. Honestly, I don’t know how we do it sometimes. Only the kids eat. My husband is the only one who works.”
When I contacted her, the mother revealed that she has not worked full-time for three years. She has no qualifications, so when she does get work it is part-time and low-paying.
She tries to do some needlework to earn money, but this is not significant.
Married for five years, her husband works for $450 a week. From that they must pay monthly rent of $625, $252 for light, and $62 each for water and telephone. They have a bill with a Bridgetown store which has not been paid since last October. She said they explained their situation to the store and the officials have stopped calling.
“We explained that if we can’t pay the landlord we would have to give up the house . . . [so the furniture and appliances] can be taken up anytime,” she said.
In terms of her relationship with her husband and how the financial situation has impacted them, she admitted that sometimes they quarrel but then they cool down and put their heads together to work things out.
“If you look at us you wouldn’t believe this is going on with us. When we go outside we hold our heads high. We have people who help us at times. We keep good by being around positive people . . . . The grace of God is keeping us right now,” she stated.
The woman said she and her husband are concerned about their eldest child at secondary school, who is bothered by the challenging financial situation and wants to know what he can do to help. His work has been suffering as he is very unhappy with how the family is eking out a living.
As for her, she was recently treated for complaints of chest pains and dizziness. The doctor told her these pains were caused by stress precipitated by her worrying about her situation.
As regards her husband, she said he keeps soldiering on but is under pressure from his former partner with whom he has children that he supports. She explained that because of the tough economic situation he can only provide them with the basics.
“When you can’t support your family, the wrong things come into your head. Some people tell you that you can sell drugs, but I would do nothing so,” she said.
The woman added that she would like a National Housing Corporation unit to rent as that would ease their pressure. They applied for one since 2001 but have heard nothing since.
“I was told to come there every week, so they would know I still interested, but the $6 I would pay to go there I can buy two spaghettis and a corn beef to feed my children,” she said.
For this woman and her husband, the tough financial times have brought them closer together and made them more determined than ever to succeed in life as a couple.