How to manage your stress when your spouse is not working. And how to be a better spouse, when you’re the one not working.
When a two-income household shrinks down to one due to unexpected job loss, it can cause stress and strain the relationship. But sometimes couples prevail, their bond deepens and their marriage is strengthened through the circumstance of unemployment.
Truth is … it all comes down to how you handle it.
You see, it’s a delicate balance supporting a spouse who has lost their job. You want to sympathize and give them time to grieve their loss of income, status and drive, but you don’t want to enable them to wallow in self-pity for too long. And while giving pep talks laced with affirmations and praise works, it can wear off, and you might feel pressured to become the tough-love coach that gives them the kick in the pants they need to shake it off and move on.
It’s not an easy role to find yourself in … as the supportive or unemployed spouse.
If unemployment strikes your marriage, use these 3 ways to stay mindful and proactive, so you feel fortunate enough to be in a loving and supportive marriage that can survive any hardship, even job loss.
Way #1: Put Together a Plan
Once you know one of you has lost a job, get together to anticipate the ripple effects that follows, and put together a plan! Let go of the idea of gender-role “supposed-tos” and reassign the necessary roles that need to come into play in order to make this new lifestyle work.
Put it to a timeline, check in periodically on whether it’s working, and if it needs it, then tweak it. If you have children, make them aware of the change, and even give them a chance to help out, if appropriate. Having the whole family contribute to achieve one goal could be the magic out of madness that you didn’t know you had in you.
Way #2: Don’t Blame, Nag … Instead Validate Feelings
Because the unemployed spouse may feel ashamed or that they’ve become a burden, it’s important not to blame or nag them. Instead, try to validate their feelings and situation with language that shows you understand.
But the supporting spouse needs to be recognized as the sudden head of household, which can create stress and feelings of doubt or inadequacy, and it’s important that how they feel is acknowledged and validated too.
Way #3: Focus on What You Can Control
Do your best with what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest. Worrying doesn’t change the outcome, after all. And because it’s not uncommon for people to sink into despair – as they come to believe they don’t deserve the pleasures in life until they find employment again. Now, it’s necessary to release whatever punishment mentality arises.
Maintain your routines as much as possible and continue to enjoy spending time with family and friends; just remember to adjust your spending to your new budget. Take on new hobbies or start a healthy habit (such as yoga, meditation, running) to occupy your mind.
Knowing that life is guaranteed to have ups and downs is the right attitude to adapt, and focusing on how to manage and cope with change that uplifts one another and the family will create a stronger foundation for your marriage.
Dealing with long-term unemployment of a spouse can put your marriage to the test. But when you have the tools of self-awareness, you are able to better control how you react when bad things happen. And you’ll learn just that, which is the key to turning life’s lemons into lemonade, in my book, “The Top 8 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Before Saying “I Do!” Find it here.