Marriage & Relationships During Unemployment
The day my husband unexpectedly lost his job, I remembered the advice of one of my friends, whose husband lost his job last year: "All that you'll remember after is how you treated each other."
There are few things that can rock a marriage harder than fear.
Money is one of my biggest anxiety triggers. I have no idea why. I have always gone straight from zero to we're-out-on-the-street when it comes to lost jobs, unexpected health expenses, wrecked cars, you name it. If I can, I hoard money. When I get anxious, I restrict spending. And so you can imagine the bells and whistles going off inside my body when my husband said, "as of 4:45 pm, I no longer work there."
I knew what I said next was going to set the tone for the duration, so I said something to the effect of "Are you okay?" I don't remember my exact words, but I tried very hard to make my response be compassionate and not angry, even though I was pretty much vibrating with anxiety at his words. From September 28 until December 21, we lived in the limbo of unexpected unemployment, and if anything, this time it brought us closer. I say "this time" because there have been other times that I have not handled things well and ended up driving us apart. Here's what I've learned.
Take Care of Yourself Physically
Get enough sleep. Try to eat right. Take deep breaths. Exercise. You may not feel like doing any of it, but do it anyway, and encourage your partner to do so, too. After we recovered from the shock, we told each other we had no idea how long this would last, and we were really going to focus by not letting everything go to hell any more than it had to -- that meant getting up, making the bed, cleaning the house, cooking good food, napping on the weekends, going for jogs, all of it. Unemployment is so tough pychologically on both partners -- you don't need the malaise of eating popcorn for dinner six nights in a row and staying up till two a.m. watching old movies to add to the funk.
Don't Ask Too Many Questions
It was tempting to ask every day. How many jobs did you apply for? How's your resume coming? What do you think? What do you think? WHAT DO YOU THINK? The last time my husband was looking for a job, he asked me to forward leads from LinkedIn, so I asked him if he wanted me to do that again or if that would be annoying. He wanted all the help he could get, so I forwarded them every weekday for all those weeks, but I didn't ask too many follow-up questions. It's crucial to be supportive and friendly but also to let your partner know you believe in them, that you know it will work out, because this is not a time that your partner needs to feel judged by you. Being peppered with questions can make them feel judged, like you don't have the confidence they can handle it themselves.