With all the attention paid to people who are out of work, it’s easy to forget that unemployment affects someone else very directly: the spouse or life partner of the unemployed worker.
Having someone out of work in the household stresses out the other partner, while also shining a spotlight on the differences between the two people.
And how do I know? Besides the vicarious experiences I share through my job search clients, I also have the expertise that comes from my own household. When one marries a carpenter, one learns to accept that unemployment will be part of the package.
Given my profession as a career counselor, you’d imagine that I could get my hubby back to work in a blink. Well, in fact, I could – if he were an inert mass with no will or ideas of his own. But since he’s actually a grown adult with his own life to live, I am relegated to the same status as every other partner in this situation: Watchful waiting.
And waiting. And waiting. Herein lies the most difficult part of this process for me and for many of the spouses I’ve spoken with: I married someone who handles things differently than I do. Where I hop on situations immediately, my hubby is a thinker and processor. And, where I communicate almost hourly when I’m working a problem, my husband feels he’s overdone a topic if he brings it up once a week. As a consequence of these key differences, I’m left in the dark with the feeling that things are moving slowly. And yet, as I keep reminding myself, he always manages to solve the problem in the end, even if his solutions aren’t always the ones I had envisioned.
I keep my own household in mind when I’m counseling others because it helps me to understand both sides of the equation. In case you’re wondering, here’s the counsel I generally give to the unemployed person’s partner:
1. Don’t offer advice unless it’s requested, but do explain how the situation affects you
2. Build your own support network
3. Consider attending personal finance classes together
4. Agree on a deadline for re-employment, even if that means taking lower level work
In the end, you have to accept that you can’t control the situation – but you can control your own reactions and behavior, so that’s a good start.