Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed
How do you cope when your spouse is unemployed? How does your marriage survive the strain this situation puts upon it? As one author said:
“The loss of a job can put the vow ‘for better or for worse’ to the test. Unemployment rates high on the list, along with death and divorce, as one of life’s top stress-inducing events. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and guidance for those coping with their own unemployment. But what about the rest of the family? Unemployment impacts spouses and children, too.” (Roberta Rand)
Another author said this about being unemployed:
“Nobody likes to think about being unemployed. But it’s a state that’s more and more common. Whether due to corporate ‘right-sizing,’ termination, or career change, it’s always an uneasy time. What causes the stress? First, the spouse who’s lost his or her job may have suffered a serious blow to the identity. This is especially true for husbands, since most men largely define themselves by their work [although we acknowledge that it's not true for all]. They also tend to believe that the husband’s earnings are the family’s primary income, whether that belief is stated or not.
“Second, many couples haven’t saved enough money to get them through a prolonged period of unemployment. Running out of money is a real possibility, depending on how long joblessness lasts. So is going into debt with credit cards or losing a house if you default on a mortgage. All this weighs heavily on both partners, especially the one who feels most responsible to ‘win the bread.” (Sandra Lundberg, from the book, The First Five Years of Marriage)
Coping when your spouse is unemployed can be difficult for any married partners, but it’s especially difficult when the challenges are overwhelming and are coming at you from all sides. This type of situation works over-time on your mind and how you interact as husband and wife.
Christina Woodside, knows what it’s like to be a wife whose husband loses a job. She writes,
“I heard the garage door opening. It was only 5 o’clock. Don certainly was home early. Lately he had been working long days, much too long. ‘I sure hope they appreciate his hard work,’ I often thought. ‘He deserves to come home early one day. I’m so glad he’s finally doing it.’
“But as I glanced up from the sink full of dishes, one look at his face told me something was wrong. My smile faded and before I could say anything, he painfully murmured, ‘I got a pink slip today, along with 150 other people.’ The company had been hiding its financial problems until now. We were stunned. For a man, especially one in his early fifties with two kids in college, news like this can be devastating.”
She then goes on to write some tips for “Supporting Your Spouse Emotionally and Spiritually.” To learn more, click onto the Crosswalk.com web site link to read:
Laurie Jackson voiced her journey with her husband’s unemployment this way:
“When my husband, Dennis, first began job hunting, I’d hold my breath as I waited for him to appear at the door, eager for a glimpse of his face to tell me if his day had been a success. But now, 15 months after he became a statistic —one of 300 laid off by his employer of six years —I can tell how his day’s gone simply by the way his feet hit the steps leading from the garage into the house. Today his footsteps are heavy, as though he’s carrying the weight of the world.
“All these months I’ve watched Dennis stuff hundreds of resumés into the mailbox and pound away at the computer keyboard, courageously sending hundreds more electronically. I’ve waved good-bye to him as he drives off early in the morning to face another day of approaching unapproachable receptionists at companies that ‘are not hiring.’ And I’ve greeted his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes upon his return after another unproductive afternoon.
“I’ve seen Dennis lower his expectations, then lower them further. An electronics technician with a sterling work record and more than 20 years’ experience in his field, he first sought a comparable job. After a few months, Dennis expanded his search to include entry-level positions in his field, expecting that would do the trick. His wink and nod assured me we’d find a way to get by for a while on the lower salary. But after several weeks went by with no interviews, much less job offers, he began to respond to every job posting for which he was qualified —and, more often than not, overqualified.
“He then began to be turned away for jobs on a whole different level: gas station attendant, custodian, grocery clerk, and school crossing guard, to name a few. And while I was proud of his willingness to do whatever job it took to put food on the table, it was at that point I became afraid.
“My fear stemmed from all the unknowns: What if Dennis doesn’t find work soon? How long can we go without his income? What will happen to us when the unemployment insurance expires, or our savings runs dry? In the beginning, I was Dennis’ biggest cheerleader. But the more time goes by, the more discouraged, despondent, and bewildered Dennis becomes. And the more tired I get.”
To learn more from Laurie Jackson’s journey concerning this issue (plus an additional article titled, “A Woman’s Work” written by Holly Vicente Robaina), and then afterward to read of another couple who survives job loss (in an article written by Sherri Langton) please click onto the Todayschristianwoman.com web site links below to read:
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Below is another resource Todayschristianwoman.com put together, which you can download (for a small fee) and make copies of, that you might find helpful as well:
Maybe you’ve even gotten to the place, as Laurie Jackson did, where you’re so very tired and each day drags onto the next, with no end in sight, so that fear, anger, and a whole range of emotions have overtaken any optimism you could ever have.
Sarah Canney found herself in that place and writes the following:
“When my husband lost his job and his self-esteem, I had to learn a lesson in grace and patience.”
You can read about it in the Todayschristianwoman.com article linked to below:
Lori Fletcher, in the Powertochange.com article linked to below, discusses “Seven ways a wife can show her support.” As you, or your wife may know, this isn’t easy, and yet you want to do all you can NOT to cause more problems. She writes:
“As the wife of a man who no longer has somewhere to go everyday, where do you start in showing your support?
To learn more, read:
Roberta Rand Caponey, gives her advice when:
“The loss of a job can put the vow ‘for better or for worse” to the test.”
You can learn from her experience in the Focus on the Family article linked below:
Also, the following is an insightful article, written by Sheila Wray Gregoire, in a Question/Answer format, posted on the web site Tolovehonorandvacuum.com web site, which gives insight into a very real problem some women (and men) face when their spouse is unemployed. Please read through the article and the comments below it to gain insight into the very difficult issue:
As you have read, in the articles posted above, the testimonies and the advice given, come from the standpoint of the husband losing the job and the wife being the spouse who is trying to cope. It’s not that I started to write this article this way, but in doing my research on the Internet, these are the articles I was able to find, so I’ve given the information I can, accordingly.
I hope if you are the husband reading this article, who is the one trying to cope with your wife losing her job, you have been able to flip around the pronouns, glean through and gain at least some insights. Sometimes, when we’re searching for information, and what we find isn’t as custom-fit as we want, it’s a good time to ask the Holy Spirit to personalize and show us HIS insights, as we glean through what we are able to find.
If you feel a tug to re-read that which is written above from that perspective, allowing the Holy Spirit to be your interpreter and your “Wonderful Counselor,” please do so.
Whatever you do, please be intentional in working on your marriage relationship, at least on your part. You may not be able to control what your spouse does or does not do, but do what you know the Lord would have you do. Love, as Christ loves you.
“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” -Barbara Johnson
Some things that Paul Tripp wrote in his book, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, may give you different insights than you had thought of previously. He wrote:
“God is in control not only of the locations in which you live, but also of the influences that have shaped you as a person. He has not only written the story of you and your spouse and determined that your stories would intersect, but he has controlled all the things that have made you different from one another.
“As you struggle, you must not view your marriage as bad luck, or poor planning, or as a mess that you made for yourself [although any or all of this could contribute to what is happening to you that is causing you to question God]. God is right smack-dab in the middle of your struggle. He is not surprised by what you are facing today. He is up to something. [The question is, will you participate with Him in this, or fight against Him?]
“…God is working to rescue you from you, to deliver you from sin, and to form the character of Jesus in you. Marriage, the world’s most long-term and comprehensive relationship, is taking place in the middle of sanctification, the world’s most important unfinished process. Why would God do this? Hasn’t he gotten the proverbial cart before the proverbial horse? Well, the reason this doesn’t seem to make sense to us is that our purpose for marriage tends to be different from the Lord’s. We’re just not on God’s agenda page.
“Our desire is that our marriages would be the location of our comfort, ease, and enjoyment; we often have desires no bigger than this. But God’s purpose is that each of our marriages would be a tool for something that is way more miraculous and glorious than our tiny, little, self-focused definition of happiness. He has designed marriage to be one of his most effective and efficient tools of personal holiness. He has designed your marriage to change you.”
He also wrote:
“There are moments in our marriages when we’re crying out for grace, not recognizing that we’re getting it. We’re not getting the grace of relief or release, because that isn’t the grace we really need. No, what we’re getting is something we desperately need, the uncomfortable grace of personal growth and change. With the love of a Father, your Lord is prying open your hands so you’ll let go of that which rules your heart but will never satisfy you. With the insight of a seasoned teacher, He is driving you to question your own wisdom so that you will let go of your understanding and rest in His. With the skill of the world’s best counselor, God is showing you the delusions of your control so that you will take comfort in His rule. With the gentleness of a faithful friend He is facing you toward the inadequacies of your own righteousness so that you find hope in Him.
“When you are tired and uncomfortable because you have been called to live with someone who is not like you, what you tell yourself about what you are going through is very important. It is in this moment that you must preach to yourself the theology of uncomfortable grace (See Romans 5; James 1; and 1 Peter 1), because when you do, you begin to be less resistant and more appreciative, and you are on your way to forging a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.”
Susan, from the U.S., gave the following advice on the Marriage Missions web site on this subject a while back, that I’d like to close this article with because I believe it’s helpful for us all to keep in mind no matter what the trial has assaulted our marriage. She shared:
“My husband has been unemployed for almost two years, and I confess that I have been more like a shrewish hag than a shrine of encouragement. In seeing this ugliness in me I’ve been able to go to the Lord and become transformed by the renewing of my mind which is really what walking with Christ is all about.
“What it is doing for my husband is between Him and the Lord and I’m learning to keep taking it to Him over and over and over again until I am transformed into His image. I sure make a lot of trips to Him through all this and through it all He provides all we need.
“So, my female friends —lose the mommy act with your man —take your woes to Christ —He has what you need. And don’t feel bad about bugging the Lord —He doesn’t mind a bit and you can’t hurt His feelings. You’ll walk away a new creature. Kumbaya, friends, Kumbaya.”
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.