11 Tips for Surviving Your Spouse's Unemployment
Has the loss of your spouse's job put your ''for better or for worse'' vows to the test? Coping with the emotional and financial strains of having an unemployed mate is difficult; yet at the same time, your spouse very much needs your support. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a spouse's attitude toward job hunting strongly influences the mental state of the unemployed mate.
What can you do to help your partner while at the same time maintaining domestic tranquility? Couples counselors, as well as couples who have successfully weathered unemployment, offer these tips:
1. Do have a plan and a routine. Early on, sit down with your partner and devise a strategy for the job hunt that includes managing through reduced financial circumstances. If your spouse will be conducting most of his search from home, work together to create a schedule that respects everyone's space and needs.
2. Don't push or second-guess. Unless asked, resist the tendency to offer your opinions or point out how your mate should be doing things differently. It's not only that you risk being obnoxious, but that without your knowing the entirety of a situation, you may be urging your spouse to do something inappropriate.
3. Do give encouragement. Boost your spouse'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.
4. Don't hide it from the kids. Explain to your children in simple terms what has happened. Let them know the family will need to temporarily cut back on expenses, and challenge them to find creative ways to pare the budget. Tell them that the most important thing is that you love and support each other.
5. Do communicate. Talk is a major coping tool. Harvard psychologist Gerald Kaplan says people who express their fears and seek help from others deal with crisis more effectively. At the same time, when approaching your spouse, know when the right time is and what kind of talk she prefers.
6. Don't interrogate. Don't force your spouse to recount every detail of his search or interview. Instead, ask for the highlights or how he felt about an interview. Focus on his reactions and impressions, not on your need for information.
7. Do 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 your options.
8. Don't be a catastrophist. 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. Keep a healthy outlook and have faith that -- if the two of you remain focused and deliberate in the search -- a new job will eventually surface.
9. Do have fun. Laugh, hug and take walks together. Keep the romance alive by serving a special dinner for two on the patio or in front of the fireplace once a week. Simple rituals will give you and your loved one a much needed boost no matter how the job hunt is progressing.
10. Don't keep asking, ''Have you found anything yet?'' Instead, schedule weekly meetings where your spouse can share his progress and bounce thoughts and ideas off of you.
11. Do count your blessings. Focus on all that is right in your life and encourage your spouse to do the same. Try to think of this time as a gift and see what you can learn from it. Remembering that life isn't all about work will help you and your partner keep perspective and make the search a shorter, more pleasant (and possibly enriching) journey.