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Suzanne Power: Money problems make us all appreciate love

FORGET the IMF for half a second and think about this.

Recessions bring valuable opportunities for relationships. I have watched five couples in my close circle whose income has either halved or disappeared and all of them are getting on better than they ever did when they had no economic hunger but were time starved. Recessions require leaps of faith.

One of my closest friends, who has all the usual 'hard times' stories: negative equity, reduced salary, barely enough-to-live-on syndrome, has decided to get on a plane and try a new life. If life here was good she would not risk everything for love and adventure. It was an early Christmas bonus for me, as someone who loves her, to see the light back in her eyes and her taking the gamble on her own happiness.

She's successful. She has friends. She owns her own home. But there's something missing and she's found it in a kindred spirit who has decided to try a different part of the planet. Instead of hanging onto the security that's already robbed her of sleep, she's realised the only real security is what you experience in following your gut instincts.

I knew one of the reasons she arranged for us to meet up was that she's seen me fling myself off the cliff of financial risk on a fair few occasions.

I'm not loaded. But I am violently happy. If I had stuck with security, my mortgage would be paid off by now and I would be miserable.

Another friend, who was made redundant six months ago, took some voluntary work and found it's now leading to new opportunities. One of them was a chance to reacquaint himself with the woman he loves. "I spent so little time with her I'd forgotten what made me first fall in love with her. She used to work split shifts and I worked 12-hour days," he explained.

"If we saw each other at weekends, one of us was asleep! I don't know how we thought that was a way to live. We'd go on big holidays and spend the first week rowing. Now we're spending our savings to cover costs but she comes home to hot food and a man who knows how lucky he is. I've started working again but I'll never let it take me over like it did."

I know some of you will be saying when poverty goes in the door, love goes out the window. There's no doubt we're all feeling the strain of reduced circumstances and inflated mortgages to pay back. I know I'm in negative equity. If we sold up now I'd have to buy a caravan. I don't give a c**p. I love the man I married. I love the kids. If you take my keys, fine, but if you take my family I am nothing.

My friends have all reported financial losses in the past year. None of us have been left unscarred by this recession. But the only friends I know who are splitting up are a couple for whom money is not an issue.

I live next to a wise man. Larry's in his 80s and has been married to Peggy for decades. They love each other. He told me his recipe for a happy life and relationship is to always have a fraction too much work and a fraction too little money and a person to share the struggle with. In his younger days, when people had no jobs, they made jobs by doing piecemeal work. He spent his 30s migrating between England and Ireland making ends meet.

I have a friend in construction doing exactly the same. He has three children in school here so his wife goes for weeks without seeing him. But they make every moment together count on the few weekends they have, saying they'll fight the recession "together".

I think this is the magic of love in hard times. In hungry years we appreciate more. In years of surfeit we forget blessings.


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