Coping When Your Partner is Unemployed

losing your job

The stress of losing your job is a nightmare. But, even today, when the specter of unemployment is touching everyone you know, it is not any easier to go home and tell your spouse or partner or loved one, “I just got fired.”

As bad as it is for the person getting fired, it is worse for the loved one.

The longer the unemployment lasts, the worse it gets, and the situation has destroyed many relationships. Yet, I have seen firsthand the silver lining: It has made many relationships better and stronger.

Here’s what you can do to cope with your unemployed partner.

  • Don’t Enable Them

Allow your partner to feel the feelings associated with job termination for a few days, but don’t let them wallow. Don’t let them lie around the house in the same pajamas for days, watching crap daytime television. That’s enabling them. Unemployment isn’t a vacation or a break from the real world. If you have bills to pay, your partner should find employment as soon as possible. You can help by encouraging them. Remind them that they are awesome at what they do and be optimistic about a new and better job in the near future. If your partner sees that you can be positive, they can be positive too.

  • Give Them More Chores to Do

Perhaps you were sharing chores because you were both working. Now that your partner is unemployed, they can take on more of the chores while you earn money. They can do the grocery shopping, banking, laundry, and cooking. They can take the kids to school and pick them up. They can drive the kids to ballet or soccer. Don’t give them all the chores; just give them more than they had before. They have the time now.

  • Give Them Things to Do Around the House

Create a “Honey Do” list filled with home improvement projects. For example, they can clean out the hall closet, pack the summer clothes away, repaint a bedroom, or file paperwork. Give your partner tasks you know they can do and weave them into the other responsibilities they’ll have during their unemployment. If they’re bored, you’re giving them something productive to do. If they don’t want to do all this work, you may be lighting a fire under them to ramp up their job hunt.

  • Call Them Out on Their B.S.

You may feel hesitant about initiating an argument when your partner is already feeling depressed about being unemployed. But, if you know they aren’t making a real effort to get a new job, you need to call them out on their B.S. They can still network if they say there are no jobs to apply for (which might be true). They can still send their resumes to companies they’d like to work for. They can work on acquiring new skills through online tutorials or classes. Your partner should be doing something every day to improve their marketability.

  • Don’t Become Their Career Coach

Your partner has to want to find a new job—you can’t want it for them. And remember, they know how to find a job on their own because they’ve done it before. So don’t send them job postings on a daily basis. Don’t contact recruiters or companies for them, and don’t send their resumes out for them. You may think you’re helping them, but the truth is your partner could start resenting you!

  •  Make Them Commit to a Routine

They had a routine when they were working, and they should have one while they were unemployed. Your partner should get up at the same time every day, have breakfast, shower, do a job search, go to the gym, network, and take a class to learn a marketable skill. Your unemployed partner should use the time wisely.

  •  Cut Back On Luxuries

Luxuries include any extras you enjoyed when you were both employed. This includes eating at restaurants, taking vacations, buying things just for fun, and even getting fancy coffee drinks. These are all things you and your partner can do without. Downgrade your living situation or get rid of a car if you can. You don’t want to blow through your savings and retirement funds or go into major debt supporting yourselves during a partner’s unemployment. And don’t make the mistake of trying to maintain your lifestyle on one salary—you can’t do it, and if you try, you’ll start to feel like your partner is a mooch. This will ultimately lead to resentment.

Remember, Unemployment is Temporary

An unemployed, non-disabled individual with marketable skills will find a job. But it could be weeks or months (or years) before something decent pops up, and while your partner is waiting for that next great career move, they need to consider taking any job they can get as long as it helps pays the bills. Remember, money comes and goes but resenting your partner can turn into a relationship disaster. Get through the struggle and try to come out better for it.