Your spouse becoming unemployed is a stressful time for anyone. The first concern is of course finances – how will you pay the bills on a reduced income? You might also be worried about insurance or retirement policies if you had either of those through your spouse’s job.
Another upsetting aspect of coping with your spouse’s unemployment is watching them struggle with the change in their circumstances. Supporting someone in the hunt for a new job can be stressful.
If you’re wondering how to cope with a spouse’s unemployment, try out these suggestions to make this time much easier on you both.
Straighten Up Your Finances
The first thing to do is to straighten up your finances as much as you can. That means taking a thorough inventory of your financial situation so you both know exactly how much money you need.
It’s also important to look for areas where you can cut back your spending until things are on an even keel.
Find Out If You’re Entitled To Help
Depending on your exact circumstances you might be entitled to financial aid or help with daily necessities such as groceries. Contact advice services in your area or start searching online to find out what, if anything, you’re both entitled to.
There’s no shame in accepting a little help if you qualify, just until things improve.
Devise A Plan Together
Stave off feelings of hopelessness by devising a watertight plan together. Help your spouse figure out what their next step should be, and how they’re going to manage their job hunt. Look at how you’re going to manage both finances and your household as a whole with only one of you working.
Treat It As Temporary
Unemployment is stressful, but it’s also temporary. Things will be much easier if you both focus on the impermanence of the situation and recognize that things can, and will get better. There could even be a silver lining here – your spouse could end up with a role that suits them even better, and is better for your family financially.
Encourage Without Pushing
Loving, steadfast encouragement helps your spouse feel supported.You’re both going to have a lot of strong feelings right now, and that’s absolutely natural, but do resist the urge to play the blame game. It’s also important that you don’t push them into the next job. Steadily encourage them to keep looking, but don’t nag, and do give them time to process their feelings.
If you suspect your partner is suffering from depression or having real difficulty moving forward, you might gently suggest they get some professional help, too.
Appreciate Their Role In Your Marriage
Your spouse’s role doesn’t have to change because they became unemployed. No, they’re not going out and earning the money they were, but breadwinner isn’t the only role either of you occupy in your marriage. Look at all the ways they contribute to your partnership, whether that be DIY, cooking, handling finances or shared decision making. Appreciate their role – and make sure you tell them how much it means to you, too.
Communication is key while navigating this period. Check in with your partner regularly to find out how they are feeling and what is most worrying for them right now. Share your feelings too – unemployment affects both of you, and working through your feelings together will help you feel closer as a team.
Ask your partner what support they need from you in order to move forward. It’s easy to assume what they need based on what you’d want if your roles were reversed, but as you’re different people that rarely works out. Instead, ask them what you can do to support them.
Have An Open Mind
The path forward after one of you becomes unemployed might look very different to how you expected your life to turn out. Your spouse might end up in a whole new career, or starting a business. Or they might stay in the same career, but move to a new locale. You might end up doing a little downsizing.
Keep an open mind about any changes that occur as you navigate this time together and remember that not all change has to end badly.
Be Honest With Your Kids
Don’t hide the situation from your kids. They’ll notice something is different, and little ones can pick up on stress. Instead, sit down with them and clearly explain what’s happening. Be honest about any cutbacks you need to make right now, but reassure them that the situation is temporary and that what matters is sticking together as a family.
Remember To Have Fun
Unemployment is a drag. It’s easy to get caught up in financial worries and job searches, and forget to simply have fun. Constant focus on the situation won’t change it, and will only stress out both out more. Instead, make some time for pure unadulterated fun together. Have a date night, go on a picnic or have a movie night with your kids. Unemployment isn’t fun – but it isn’t the only aspect to your marriage.
A spouse’s unemployment is challenging, but you can get through this together with open communication, love and a good dose of practicality.