When One Spouse is Unemployed

Article by Dee DeWitt, Edited by Dee DeWitt


At best … coping with the emotional and financial strains of having an unemployed spouse or significant other is difficult and highly stressful.


Yet at the same time, this is the very circumstance when your loved one needs your support.  According to University of Michigan researchers, a spouse’s attitude toward job hunting is a major influences the mental state of the unemployed mate.  And keeping a positive attitude both at home and in a job search can be the difference between success and failure … both in landing a job and in the success of the marriage.


So … What can each of us do to help our partner, while at the same time maintaining some resemblance of normalcy at home?  Couples who have successfully weathered unemployment, as well as professional counselors suggest:


Make a plan and have a routine.  Early on, create a plan for the job search that includes managing through reduced household income.  If your spouse will be conducting most of his search from home, make sure to create a schedule that respects everyone’s space and needs.


No second-guessing or pushing.  Remember … in our society there are few things more difficult on a person’s self esteem that the loss of a job and unemployment.  Resist the tendency to offer your opinions or point out how your mate should be doing things differently unless they initiate the discussion.  It’s not only that you risk criticizing when the person is already beating themselves up over their job loss, but that without knowing the entirety of a situation, you may be urging your spouse to do something inappropriate.


Focus on Encouragement.  Boost your love one’s morale and confidence by reminding her of her strengths, accomplishments and contributions.  Help her see what she has to offer to a new employer. 


Talk.  Talking is a major coping tool.  But there is a fine line between talking and second-guessing and pushing.  Psychologist Gerald Kaplan says people who express their fears and seek help from others deal with crisis more effectively.  However, know when the right time is and what kind of talk he prefers. 


Don’t Play 20 Questions.  Don’t push your loved one to recount every detail of his search or interview. Ask for the highlights or how he felt about an interview.  Focus on his reactions and impressions, not on your need for information or an immediate outcome.  And remember, in today’s economy, most employers are taking much longer to make hiring decisions and actually extend a job offer … many times for months.


Keep an open mind.  Depending upon the job market, your spouse (or you) may have to take a temporary job until something more permanent comes along.  Your spouse may also need to broaden the scope of his search to another region or state or consider taking a position with a long commute. Be open-minded about all the options.


Don’t be Chicken Little.  More than likely, the sky is not falling.  More than likely you are blessed with many things.  Treat unemployment as a temporary and manageable situation. Expect rejection, but don’t let either of you become immobilized by it.  Worry, fear and negativity are unproductive emotions – and this is important – they show in job interviews. 


When you are overly worried, fearful, even desperate, it is very difficult to hid this when interviewing for a job.  Employers see this, and most hesitate to hire someone exhibiting those emotions.  They want healthy, optimistic, enthusiastic employees.  So try to maintain a healthy outlook and have faith that a new job will surface. 


Have fun Laugh, hug and take walks together.  Simple rituals will give you and your loved one a much needed boost no matter how the job hunt is progressing.


”Have you found anything yet?”  There is no need to constantly ask.  Really.  When it happens, you will be the first to know because you spouse will be eager to share it with you.   Instead, schedule regular talks where your spouse can share his progress and bounce thoughts and ideas off of you.


Count your blessings, and thank God for them.  Focus on all that is right in your life and encourage your spouse to do the same.  It’s difficult … especially with all the new found free time (what should I do with my time?!) and the guilt and stress that comes with unemployment.  Instead, try to think of this time as a gift and see what you can learn from it.


God wants us to succeed.  Remembering that life isn’t all about work, remembering and being grateful for your blessings and for each other … will help you and your partner keep perspective and make the search more pleasant and enriching.


Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.
-Norman Lear


Success is peace of mind, a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming, and not just in a physical way: seek ye first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be yours as well.
-John Wooden


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Posted on 24 March, 2010 in Career, Finance & Family, Gratitude
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