Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed

How do you cope when your spouse is unemployed?

As one author said:

Photo credit: inoneear / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: inoneear / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

“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. 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. 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:

WHEN YOUR HUSBAND LOSES HIS JOB

Laurie Jackson voiced her journey with her husband’s unemployment this way.

She wrote:

“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.

Lowered Expectations

“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, please read of Laurie Jackson’s journey concerning (plus the additional article, “A Woman’s Work” written by Holly Vicente Robaina). And then there’s another couple who survives job loss, which was written about in an article by Sherri Langton.

Please read:

LAID OFF

IN THE LAND OF LAYOFF

— ALSO —

Maybe you’ve even gotten to the place, as Laurie Jackson did. You’re so tired and each day drags onto the next, with no end in sight. 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 this linked article below:

• UNEMPLOYED AND UNNERVED

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. Yet you want to do all you can so you don’t 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:

COPING WITH YOUR HUSBAND’S JOB LOSS

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:

• COPING WHEN YOUR SPOUSE IS UNEMPLOYED

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. Sheila 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.

She wrote:

QUESTION: My Spouse Is Lazy and Won’t Get a Job

The testimonies and the advice within the linked articles above, come from the standpoint of the husband losing the job. The wife is the spouse who is trying to cope. Unfortunately, in doing my research on the Internet, these are the only types of articles I’ve been able to find. So I’ve given the information I can, accordingly.

I hope if you are the husband reading this article, trying to cope with your wife losing her job, you’ve been able to flip around the pronouns. Glean through the insights given. In your search for information, if what you find isn’t a custom-fit, ask the Holy Spirit to personalize and show HIS insights. Glean through what you are able to find.

You may even feel a tug to re-read that which is written above from that perspective. If so, allow the Holy Spirit to be your interpreter and your “Wonderful Counselor.”

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, but do what 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? 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. 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. God has designed your marriage to change you.”

Paul Tripp 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. And 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. 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. There is a 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. I’m learning to keep taking it to Him over and over again until I’m 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 wrote this article.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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175 responses to “Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed

  1. I am barely coping with my husband’s long term unemployment. I feel resentment. We used to be frequent church goers, now I have only my prayers and daily readings to nourish me. We have been married for 33 years. He has been unemployed, bar a few odd in between casual jobs for the last 10 years. I have accepted that he is not an entrepreneur, so the likelihood of him becoming a one man show is very low. When I do suggest ways for him to make money, he gives me more reasons why he can’t. When he was employed, he earned twice as much as I did, and we were able to pay bills and survive quite well. He blames me for his situation, despite me encouraging him to take on new courses and keep his skills up to date, while he was employed, as these courses would have been free. He tells me he has a learning disability… which may or may not be true.

    10 years ago when he lost his job, I decided to go under debt review, to save our home and our cars. 10 years on I have single handedly managed to do just that and pay off all our debt except for the mortgage, which still has about 7 years to go. In between all of this I have learnt a lot about myself and finances. I have become quite OCD when it comes to spending money on luxury items, and seldom do. I also have my unemployed daughter, her unemployed husband and my 5 grandchildren living with us. Somehow, by the grace of God we managed to extend our home to make a home for them. I love my family and adore all my grandchildren. I will never consider eating a meal knowing that my children are going without…that will never happen. I have a strict budget which I try and stick to religiously.

    My husband feels that because I don’t give him money, or when he asks for it, that I say there isn’t any to give, he gets upset and feels that I don’t value him. Yet for birthdays and Christmas, I give him more than I put aside for myself. I also do ad hoc training outside my day job, for which I put in leave for and get paid for the workshops I run. This has helped us a lot, but he feels I should be giving him half of this money. I feel I need to ensure our debt gets paid off quicker and that there is money left in the month to sustain us. There are times that I would use this workshop money, which I may add it not frequently earned, on a new pair of shoes or some clothing items for work. I still have to try and look good. I work for an executive in a corporate environment. I actually go without a lot of things to ensure my family is fed, housed and that there is power and amenities, and of course that I have fuel in my car to get to work. He has never shown interest in the budget, so I no longer even attempt to share it with him.

    He gives me the impression that I am hiding money from him, but I really am not. Money seems to bug him a lot. He has a savings account – I don’t. The money he has saved is money I have given him. He wants me to help him buy a new TV for him to play his computer/xbox games on, but I feel he must use the money I give him for birthdays and Christmas to buy those kind of things. He knows I get incentives twice a year, and feels that I should be giving him half of that money. I feel very resentful about doing this, primarily because I want to get out of this financial situation (which I am almost out of – 17 debts 10 years ago, down to 2: mortgage and a personal loan), as it is the cost of living increases every year, food prices rise and amenities service prices increase – he doesn’t seem to see these things. I get up at 4 am every morning to avoid the traffic to work as it saves me on fuel, and get home at about 6 pm. I work hard at ensuring I do a great job at work so that I remain a value add to my employer. The workshops I do entail that I stand on my feet for 8 hours a day, and have to sacrifice my annual leave to do these events. I don’t think I am being selfish at all -but he says I am self centered and selfish…what on earth am I doing wrong? I only have so much of myself and my hard earned money to give – what more does he want? He does a few dishes during the day, keeps the pool clean (only because I nag him), we have a gardner who comes once a week. He offered to do my ironing for me (which isn’t very much as I wear skirts more than once before ether go into the wash).

    I have been cleaning house every Saturday since the beginning of time, yet he complained when very recently I got a maid to come in on a Saturday instead. He then tells me I will pay a maid, but not him??? But he doesn’t clean and why should I be paying my husband to clean house, knowing he barely cleans properly in the first place? A clean home is my sanity, and his… I am at my wits end. I love my husband, but his negative attitude and victim mentality is grinding me down. help!! Am I doing something wrong??? I pray for him regularly, but I think that even God is finding him a challenge :)

    1. Cathy, It is difficult to know what to advise you. You seem to have a lot of things figured out. And you may be on the right track, but you are tired, which is understandable. You have a lot on your shoulders. All I can say is to keep looking to the Lord to give you guidance on this. You say that you used to be “frequent church-goers” but you aren’t now. Look, and ask God if you need the Christian fellowship that others can give you, and you can give others. Being a church goer isn’t the most important thing (although God does say in His word “not to forsake the assembling together of each other”). So make sure you find a way to “assemble” with others who are deeply connected to God so you can encourage each other. You can have everything else figured out in the world financially, family-wise, and in your living conditions, but if you don’t have a deep personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, and be in fellowship with other Believers… your life blows away like a piece of dust.

      I don’t know what is going on with your husband. I don’t know if he is lazy, or if he can’t get it together because he is filled with so much self-doubt that he allows excuses to overtake his life. But whatever it is, give grace whenever you can. You seem to do better with the finances than he does at this time, but don’t allow that to develop pride within you that you run over your husband–your life partner. Should you give into his continual wanting money? No, probably not. But give love, build him up when you can, empty yourself of pride (realizing that you may put the elbow work into working so hard, but without God’s blessing, it will go no where), and give grace whenever you can. It may inspire him to do more in his life to partner with you within your finances, and in your life in general. This will lead to both of you feeling better about your life together. As Ruth Graham used to say about her evangelist husband Billy Graham, “It’s my job to love Billy; it’s God’s job to make him good.” Love your husband, look to God, do the best you can, try not to judge, or be filled with pride, love, love, love, and God will bless.

      I pray for you and your husband, and your live together. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

  2. My husband has been unemployed for 5 years now. His self doubt seems to really affect him. I started my own business 3 years ago and we rely on that and living with my inlaws. It’s hard; I don’t want to live with my inlaws anymore. I want my own space. My husband got 2 years of school under his belt and he is pursuing more once his funding comes back next semester. I am not coping well with our situation. I’ve put on some weight, my husband has put on 40 pounds. He does apply to things but I don’t see him applying to temp agencies. I know I can get another job but having my business is something I don’t want to give away as I have built myself up. I’ve thought about leaving so many times. My husband went from having a house to having nothing. I’m in my late twenties pondering the meaning of this life. He’s in his early 30’s. I feel taken advantage of. What can I do to cope?

  3. My husband lost his cushy job on Wall Street 3 1/2 years ago. He made well into 800K a year. We thought the world was coming to an end. I was a stay at home wife, 3 kids, a summer home and a Gorgeuos Victorian. After his job loss, his self esteem was very low. He panicked. I panicked. He wanted to move somewhere else and sell the house. We had such a small mortgage, but a huge tax (30K a year) He felt so embarrassed. I went along and sold our beautiful house. I said I would get a job, he said he would work in anything to keep us afloat. We had savings, funds, 401k – we had it all. I told him we could buy in another town, who cares what people think…He did. I didn’t – I grew up with a single mother and hand me downs. I didn’t care what the world thought. He grew up upper middle class. With a mother to remind us of our lavish lifestyle and how we were careless, how bankers deserved it. How we will now learn to live humble. YES – humble. We always were humble and generous. No matter what we gave thanks always. But what happened ? why ? We moved across country – why? I don’t know. It was suppose to be temporary. If it didn’t work out, we would go back. He said he had the right to stay home for a year after working 25 years in the industry. I said that was not an option. He went against my decision.

    After year one, he still didn’t send out resumes. Year two – he told me to send out his resume to all the jobs I thought he was qualified for. Well – he became a realtor. He never sent out one resume. Here is the blow – He was a successful banker with no college degree. He was not someone the banks wanted to employ. So he decided not to send out resumes because he didn’t know how. I went back to work. He reminds me how great my job is – I hate it. I hate him for it. I hate him for constantly telling me that we need my job. I hate him for not allowing me to finish my Early Childhood degree. I hate him telling me that I can’t take a pay cut cause we need my salary. He keeps telling me that I should stay put. I hate that he is a stay at home dad. That was my job. I look at him and I feel he failed us. He promise to work in anything, but it was a lie.

    I send him emails to let him know of jobs. He says nothing. He believes realty is his gig. No shame in that. But is very lazy with the household work. He constantly screams at our daughters. He never cleans or walks the dogs. He stopped going into the “office” now only works from home. He leaves dishes everywhere. Now his new thing is He decided to go back to school on line too, which is what I was doing. However, now he wants to be a teacher. I don’t think anyone will hire him since he is older. Maybe substitute teach. He is a great dad to our kids, but a terrible husband and provider. He was a go-getter. That person is gone. He was calm. That person is gone – he yells at me, at the kids; He is to impulsive in purchasing things. He won’t get rid of our summer house. We can’t afford it anymore. He can’t see that. Our savings are dwindling slowly. We bought our new house cash – so no mortgage. I hate living in this state. I hate it every day.

    3.5 years, he doesn’t want to leave. I hate living here. I put on a happy face when we have friends over. We are the perfect couple and family Smile – don’t let anyone know what is really going on. We have the perfect life. I miss my family, friends, my town, my old house, my old life. My kids miss their friends. My oldest wants to go back to the East coast for College. thats ok – I understand. Can I go back with her? I pray for stability, I pray to love him again the way I did; I pray for patience with my job, I pray a lot. Sometimes I feel the Lord has turned his back on us. I feel we will run out savings, then what? I feel my husband never did anything or is doing anything to see that never happens. I feel he is comfortable not working. I feel he is not thinking of College for our girls. I feel so many emotions I can’t think straight. If I try to talk to him, he walks away. If I tell him I’m thinking of getting a TA job, he reminds me of how great of a job I have and how we need insurance. I just want to scream and scream. I hold it all in. But the kids are noticing that we fight more now. They ask us why we fight constantly. I feel bad. I don’t want my kids to grow up to fight with their spouses or marry a lazy guy. This is the most I have ever said to anyone. If you see me – I am always happy and everything is wonderful. Life is great. Inside I am crying out loud.

    1. I understand…and you are not alone. We started a second family and on the day our 3rd child was born he was let go. He has ZERO interest in working and feels he has the right to retire. I’m 37,he’s 49… We are YEARS from retiring especially with a 1, 3, & 5 year old. But each day the stress of money and bills falls on me. I only took off 5 days after our baby was born before returning to work. Luckily I work from home but that just means that each day as he rolls out of bed at 9 I have to find the kindness in my heart not to snap. I’ve been up with 3 kids since 6:30 am and now I’m juggling work AND working on my Masters while he meanders out of bed. I’m trying because he’s amazing but when he then complains because I don’t have enough energy for US time, I want to snap again! AHHHHHH!