Saving Your Home, While Losing Your House: Foreclosure and Relationships

A miniature house floats in a life-preserver.Let’s face it, these are tough times. Everyone has problems, and sometimes that means job loss and house foreclosure. But, take some time to reflect on the difference between a house and a home. The house consists of the building where we eat, sleep, and watch television. Conversely, the home is where our family relationships, acceptance, and love grow. We want our house to be a certain color or style, controlled or casual, and to be safe. Our home provides nurturance, acceptance, and safety—both emotional and physical.

The financial consequences when a family faces foreclosure are extensive. The emotional consequences can be equally devastating. The recent recession has brought about financial ruin for many families. Losses to your relationship can be just as destructive. While you may have to make significant financial changes when your house is foreclosed, it is important to not lose sight of the importance of home.

For couples, financial rough times can put your relationship at risk. Throughout the process of foreclosure, which can take a year or more, many difficult decisions need to be made. In order for couples to succeed in the face of significant financial distress, they need to come together as a team. Here are some ways to prevent additional stress to the relationship. (If a home foreclosure is being added on top of addiction, violence, or deception, you would benefit from professional help.)

1. Do not be quick to blame. When things go wrong—seriously wrong—it is human nature to want to place blame on someone. Of course, your partner is an all too handy individual to project negative feelings onto. Don’t succumb to this temptation. Even if one of you isn’t good at managing money, and may have contributed in some way to the financial difficulties, you are now facing, now may not be the time to lay blame. Of course, irresponsibility needs to be addressed, but not necessarily at the time you are making decisions.

2. Involve someone else in your decision making. Talk to an attorney, the bank, supportive family members, or other couples who are going through the same process. When couples try to handle difficult stress by themselves, they begin to exaggerate the difficulties, or minimize the problems, as a defense mechanism, in order to manage strong feelings. Foreclosure is serious, difficult, and too overwhelming to be managed by just two people. Use your resources; ask for help from people you trust.

3. Put into words your commitment to each other and the relationship. Be proactive with each other. Acknowledge that times are especially tough. For example, as you head for another meeting with your attorney or financial institution, recognize out loud that this could be a time that you might be irritable and that you should be careful with each other. You might say something like, “Right now is a particularly rough and uncertain meeting, let’s try to be careful not to get into a quarrel. We can talk about it again later, if it still feels like a problem.” Then take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves.

Foreclosure can be demoralizing, frightening, and a blow to your self-esteem. Make every effort to minimize the damage to your marriage or relationship.

Fundamentally, owning a house does not give true meaning to life. Possessions and things can make life easier, but they do not give us real happiness. On the other hand, we can find vital meaning in our intimate relationships which can result in the true meaning of life.

© Copyright 2010 by By Pamela Lipe, MS, therapist in Saint Paul, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • R.Voss

    R.Voss

    April 15th, 2010 at 5:49 AM

    I always teach my children that material wealth is not what life is all about and that it is human relationships that are far more important…how true this is turning out to be in these times of financial struggle… people are still losing jobs and property and the only solace seems to be the relationships we have with our families, with our friends. We can live without a house but to live without anyone to call your own seems terrible.

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