Finances are typically among the toughest issues couples will face. Adding in an economic downturn can increase anxiety about financial issues and strain relationships, too.

"The relationship with a spouse (and family and friends as well) can be among the first casualties during an economic downturn," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State Research and Extension family systems specialist. "It's the little things everyday appreciation and compliments such as 'Thanks for cleaning up the kitchen' that often are lost in the struggle to make ends meet."

Acknowledging a change in circumstances can be the first step in protecting relationships from the added stress, Olsen said. Spouses and partners who agree to face difficult times and choices together can nurture and strengthen their relationship in the process. Working together to improve financial management skills and explore options and resources often can ease stresses, yet also sustain couples and their families as a resilient team.

If money is a topic of discussion in your marriage these days, treat your spouse to an evening out for the free Finney County Extension program "Couples and Money." It will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Finney County Extension Office, 501 S. Ninth St., on the fairgrounds in Garden City.

We'll take a light-hearted look at men and women and the way we handle money. The program will cover different money personalities, setting mutual goals, the "snowball method" for paying down debt, and tips for smart money management during and after the holidays. I will be the class instructor based on Extension family finance resources.

Enjoy a delicious free dessert and learn how to strengthen your marriage and improve your financial security with a dash of humor added for fun. This class is for everyone who wants to learn more, regardless of your financial situation.

Please pre-register for the "Couples and Money" class by Friday to ensure adequate dessert and program materials. Call the Finney County Extension Office at 272-3670 or e-mail me at lbeech@ksu.edu to register or for more information.

For more information on financial topics, see my Living Well blog on www.swktalk.com.