When my husband lost his supposedly stable job (just a casual two months before our wedding), we went through one of the roughest patches of our relationship — most of it being my fault.
I still remember him calling to say the job was done. It was minutes after learning I needed extensive dental work… and I was on his insurance. Cue the sweat, anxiety, questions, and lots and lots of tears.
How will we pay for the remainder of the wedding? Will he ever get a job again? Where will we live? Will I need to pick up another job? Will my teeth fall out if I don’t get this dentist work done?!
Spoiler alert: He got a job two months later, we still got married, we never became homeless, and I still have my teeth.
But let’s just say I learned a few things throughout the process, and if I had to go through it again, I’d do things VERY differently. If you’re currently going through it (sending a hug and a big glass of vino), or do in your future, act better than I did. Here’s how.
If there’s any time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s when they’ve been let go from a job. So much of our identity is wrapped up in our careers and money, and most of us have a strong urge to contribute to our family — which, after losing a job, feels impossible.
But stuff happens! Especially as a partner, it’s crucial to remember that your partner is human, too. They’re already feeling down on themselves and likely embarrassed. Just like two athletes on a team, you must be able to pick your teammate up when they’ve had a shitty game or don’t make the basket (or you know, something similar but less sporty).
Batch your advice
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that most women reading this have been accused of nagging. Guilty as charged! But I’ll let you in on a brilliant piece of advice I got from a friend during this jobless period: Batch your “advice” into rare occasions.
If you find a job posting that seems amazing and want your S.O. to check it out, simply save the link on your phone. Resist texting them every single job you come across. Even though it might not feel like nagging to you, it likely does to them (and it is). And you know what, they’re likely already looking at that same job — so you’re overkill at this point.
Instead, once a week, send an email to your loved one with jobs people have sent you or any leads you might personally have. Then, do your best to let them decide which jobs they apply to (imagine that!).
Same with talking about it. Learn from my mistake and DO NOT ask for an update every single night over dinner. Reminder: You’re not their mom, you’re their partner. Not only is that more nagging overkill, but it’s also bad for your relationship. Your S.O. is an adult, and likely pretty capable — they’ll find something. Let them tell you when they’ve applied to a gig (if they want!), and continue talking about other things that you did before the loss.
Yes, you read that right
Instead of being resentful and reminding your S.O. that they aren’t contributing financially, cut them some slack. Think about how you’d want to be treated. Even when bills are tight (been there!), think of a way to treat your significant other and raise their spirits.
Maybe it’s a massage (by you OR a trained professional), a beer at the local brewery, or even a little picnic in the park. Don’t spend money if you don’t have it, but get creative in showing your partner that you’re there for them. Job or no job, they still (likely) deserve a little love. It might be the supportive boost they needed right before a big interview, too!
Plan around your budget
If you’ll be the bread winner, or if neither of you will be working, it’s obviously important to budget. Even if your S.O. gets a job again soon, you’ll have a few weeks/months of limited income. Take that income, plus any crucial bills, and do some math — together — so that you’re both on the same page.
Since you don’t know how long this strict budget will last, save money on weekly bills like grocery shopping, and think about cutting costs like Netflix and your gym membership. You might even realize that you don’t need a lot of the auto-pilot services you’d been paying for — even after a job is found!
If money is really tight, as it was for us with the wedding approaching, consider moving back in with a set of parents for the time being. We did it (and survived!). Our San Francisco rent was something we didn’t want to be stressing about, especially if it took a while to find a job. So, we packed up and moved in with my parents for a few months. If you have this option, or can bring in a roommate to help cover costs, it’s one way to reduce major budget stress.
Give it time
Finding a job that suits someone well usually doesn’t happen overnight. Let your partner find something that makes them happy or is a good fit. I can guarantee that you’ll feel disappointed after they come home from an interview saying they didn’t like the role after all, but again, put yourself in their shoes.
It might take a little while longer, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to go through this again soon. Let them find a gig they’ll be happy at for a while — instead of forcing them into something because of your stress levels. They can always find a part-time job in the meantime if this is taking longer than you’re both comfortable with.