Are major quarrels becoming a normal part of your household? If so, is the economy partially to blame?

Lack of funds can make anyone extremely stressed out. Plenty of sane adults can whine, growl and pick a huge fight when money issues arise.

To cool the tension in your household, figure out what you do have control over. You can help to preserve your family life by diffusing tension by even a small amount.

"My wife and I have already said such ugly things to each other," says a friend we'll call Austin. "I don't see how we can stay married. We're both out of work and the house is going into foreclosure."

Austin admits he and his wife have called each other some bad names. We advised Austin to apologize to his wife and take some control. We assured him that most married adults have probably hurled a few nasty words at each other.

But apologizing for the craziness of name-calling or profanity is the first step to healing. An attitude of humility is in order. Otherwise, tension will escalate.

"A man goes crazy, and I guess a woman does as well, when the family finances go into the toilet," says Austin. "What's worse is that losing your family is worse than having a bleak financial picture."

To reduce fear and extreme stress, these tips can help:

--Reach out for help. Talk to a financial counselor immediately. Free services are available through your church, synagogue or nonprofits.

--Devise a plan. Develop a daily to-do list for managing a job search or acquiring community aid for food or medicine. Working a plan will help you stay afloat and reduce tension.

--Take care of yourself. Take a 30-minute walk or visit a close friend every day. When you are stressed, you must make yourself a priority.

Developing a financial coping plan means you will have to stay in reality. Figure out what is working in your financial picture and what is not. Figure out what you need to give up to lighten your load. Can you sell a boat or do away with a second car?

When times are tough, questions will help you arrive at workable answers. Who in your family might help you financially? How might you obtain a part-time job if you can't find a full-time job?

"I had to visit my bank to work through late payments on my car," says a man we'll call Jeff. "I needed a break to catch up my mortgage, so I asked my banker to help me postpone a couple of car payments."

The sooner you start to ask how you might stay afloat, the sooner you can take action. Don't wait until finances and family life are falling apart.

"My wife cried with relief that we were able to meet our mortgage payment," says Jeff. "Our bank had asked us to catch up at least one payment, or we were going to slide into foreclosure."

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson wrote a stress management book, "Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress." Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.