Has Job Loss Shaken Your Marriage?

Dear person of an unemployed spouse: your spouse is going through an extremely difficult season, and you are as well.

How can my spouse and I survive my lingering unemployment? We are struggling to stay above water with just one income. What can we do if I can't find another job soon?

You lose more than a paycheck when you lose a job. Whether you quit your job, are flat-out fired, or have been on the hunt for a well-paying job for far too long, the financial stress and embarrassment of being unemployed, plus the anger, worry, and lowered self-esteem that can go with it, can strain the most solid of marriages.

Money’s tight. Expectations shift. Personal needs delayed.

This is the classic recipe for a marriage that is in survival mode. hands-down. Kenneth and I have certainly seen this scenario play out in marriages.

I want to say to those of you who feel the pressures of unemployment, you didn’t marry your spouse just for his or her paycheck or the status of his or her job. Did you? Of course not! So take a step back and gain perspective about the good things in your life. You might not be able to fix your unemployment problem right now, but you can work together to build the morale in your marriage while you weather the unemployment storm.

Let’s face it: if a spouse refuses to work but needs to work to contribute to your home’s survival, that’s a monstrous problem to live with. It is unacceptable and irresponsible to the well-being of your family. Being unemployed under this condition could require you to set sharp boundaries and clear expectations for your spouse so that he or she doesn’t continue to be negligent in the marriage. My prayer is that this isn’t your current situation.

Under normal conditions, if you or your spouse is unemployed, but you’ve been diligently on the job hunt to no avail, lean in and press in to build improved morale with your spouse. Trust that the two of you, under God, are more powerful than a loss of finances. Because you are. . .

“Money is the most psychologically loaded topic in marriage these days. It’s what sex was 50 years ago,” says psychologist Stephen Goldbart, Ph.D., founder of the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute in Kentfield, California. “It’s resonant with power and esteem and identity.”

Losing the part of yourself that brings home the bacon conjures fears about making the next mortgage payment. It can also trigger deeper doubts and discomforts about your own worth — and what you and your spouse expect from your marriage. It can also create a home environment where your voice is muted as an unemployed spouse. It can create a power struggle between you and your spouse, and typically the one who is working is the one who holds the power.

Go against this kind of gamesmanship and seek building morale between the two of you in your home. I realize it’s easier said than done.

However, as a true believer you have the Holy Spirit resident in you, and you can do all things through Him who gives you strength. This is a spiritual axiom from the Holy Spirit to you and your spouse. Should you two choose to be strengthened by Him through your financial woes, you will be a stronger and brighter couple on the other side.

“People think the first step is producing a budget to make their money last. But a budget is just a tactic,” Dr. Goldbart says. “It only works if you expect the same things from your financial decisions if your values are similar. If you haven’t had that conversation, getting through unemployment will cause a lot more stress and conflict. Often the real stress of unemployment isn’t working with a limited budget, it’s dealing with the way it changes your life and takes away things you had expected from your marriage.”

Issues can quickly escalate, so it's important—for both parties—to act quickly. And that starts when the employed spouse begins listening. The listener should keep in their mind, “I want my spouse to know he/she is not alone.”

Job loss is terrible but feeling like you're going through it alone is even worse. Say to yourself, “What can I do to come alongside my spouse to let him/ her know he/she is not alone?” There's real power in feeling you’re in this together. When one goes through something like a job loss, you want it to become us versus the problem instead of the problem wedging us apart.

Dear person of an unemployed spouse: your spouse is going through an extremely difficult season, and you are as well. While your spouse needs a job, both of you can use encouragement and assurance throughout the ordeal. Take time to pray, spend time with quality and caring friends and family, and worship with like-minded believers.

These practices won’t “fix” the problem, but they will help you cope with the problem. Pray to God for the energy, sympathy, tolerance, and knowledge to get you through this testing season.

The popular phrase "this too shall pass” is not a Bible verse (surprised?) but its principle fits nicely within God’s word. In King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, he states: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We have learned that there are seasons of life - and seasons change. Take heart - perhaps not in the time frame you desire, but this too shall pass!.

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