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June 15, 2021

The strain relationships face during a recession

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s a funny thing, this recession.

For months we’ve been riddled with bad news, whether it have come in the form of a round of lay-offs or plant closures, or how no one can find work or pay their car insurance anymore.

Yet for the life of me, I haven’t read one story about how a crumbling economy affects us – not the material, rather everything underneath it.

Should it be co-workers becoming ex-co-workers or families being forced to move from the subdivision they’ve long called home – no matter how you slice it – relationships are finding themselves frayed and the recession may be to blame.

That’s the topic of a recent Slate article, at least, one suggesting the separation between the haves and have-nots is notably on the rise.

Author Emily Bazelon does a pretty good job of wrapping her head around the social consequences of a stinking economy, describing the stigma of strained relationships as such:

“Because of the downturn,” she writes, “friendships between two people whose Saturday-night spending and overall class status used to calibrate precisely have now turned into trickier relationships between one person who still has money and one person who doesn’t.”

And if you check out the rest of the article, you’ll soon realize what a concern this really is. It’s easy to stand pat in the “Money-isn’t-everything-and-I-know-who-my-real-friends-are-and-they’ll-be-there-forever” corner, but the fact is, that ain’t always the case. I don’t think I’m stepping out of line by suggesting money is a sizable deal when it comes to friendship and, when something like a recession comes around, those unwritten roles we’ve assumed in our social circles can easily become volatile and throw normalcy on its head.

Now, this isn’t to suggest the best of friends will become enemies when one simply loses their job or something, but I think it’s at least valid to address the changes a friendship can endure. The Slate article does a good job of highlighting this concept with feedback readers have sent in.

For example, one woman writes in to say, after her friend was laid-off from her work months earlier, their relationship had become a shell of its former self.

“How can I confide in her (the way I used to) when small problems arise in my life, when hers are so much worse?” the woman writes. “We have not seen each other in a few months and phone calls and emails are down to about two a week. I miss my friend, but I don’t want to add to her problems or make her feel worse … When we do talk, I never discuss my life, I always make her talk about hers.”

With closer proximity to this blog, we’ve seen the strain a recession can cause when commenters butt heads over disagreements maybe left unsaid in a better time for the world. Look no further than the comment boards accompanying any article in this space about GM or Chrysler or the crippled auto industry. Unions are greedy. No, you’re an idiot. Corporate greed is bringing down this country. If those auto workers would just take a damn pay cut this could all be avoided. Etc. etc. etc.

Is this to suggest friends don’t fall out and everyone gets along when the economy is better? No, not at all. Pretty interesting to note just how certain monetary variables can play into a relationship, though, I figured.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...