Monetary problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. Worrying about money can wreak havoc on relationships
because stress builds exponentially until the inevitable explosion. People have a tendency to take out their frustrations on their spouses, blaming them for ensuing destitution and claiming that if the other had tried just a little bit harder, then they wouldn’t be in this predicament now.
Through my years of family counseling at the church, I’ve noticed that the source of these issues often stems from one partner or the other’s termination from employment. If a family is used to two incomes, and one is suddenly gone, budgets have to be rewritten and purse strings must be tightened. Changing the standard of living for a family is a large adjustment, but until the other partner can find work, it is the only option.
Women, in particular, have problems when their husbands lose jobs. More than half of the middle class families in the United States are dependent on the male breadwinner, which means that even if the wife works, she makes less than he does. If the main source of income is lost, changes have to be made until he can find a new career.
An even larger problem is motivating your spouse to look for a job. Termination of employment can lead to depression and repressed rage, which ultimately can destroy a relationship. The working partner feels as though the burden is solely on their shoulders, which is a large chunk of responsibility. The important thing, however is to motivate your spouse to look for work without destroying his or her ego and your marriage in the process.
Here are some guidelines for motivating your spouse to look for work. I have used the example of an employed wife and an out-of-work husband, though the roles could most certainly be reversed. I had to choose one or the other for clarity’s sake.
1. Show him the bills.
There is nothing more motivating than seeing exactly what you owe. If you are the one who usually pays the bills, then your husband may have no idea what it costs to live. Electric, water, cable, and telephone bills increase every year, so the last time he paid a bill, it might have been much less expensive.
Sit down with your husband and lay all of the current bills on the table. Circle or highlight the Total Due line, and then show him what led to those totals. Explain that if money doesn’t start to come in, the family will have to cut out unnecessary expenses, and possibly live in the dark and without showers (a joke).
Honestly, however, he will probably cringe at the idea of giving up cable stations and cellular phones and high-speed Internet access, and it might be just enough to get him searching through the classified ads.
2. Let him see the bank statement.
Again, if you are the primary bill-payer, then your husband might not even know what’s in the bank. With technology increasing daily, we can stop paper statements altogether and avoid ever visiting a bank teller with Debit Cards, direct deposit and ATM’s.
So, gather all of your financial information into a file folder, and lay it out for your husband. Show him your pay stubs, which detail how much you make every month, and then all of your checking, savings, and money market accounts. If you have stocks, bonds, or stock assets, show him those, too. Having a clear understanding of your current financial situation will at least give him an idea of where you are and what needs to be done.
3. Circle classified advertisements in the newspaper.
If you feel you need to “go in the back door,” try leaving the newspaper on the table with the classified ads on top. Circle or highlight relevant job opportunities, and find ones that are close to your area of town. If you would like to be less subtle, pick up the Green Sheet and the Employment guide at the grocery store, and lay those out, as well.
Be wary of this tactic, however, because your husband might resent the insinuations. Even though you are trying to be kind, he may act defensively, and sink farther into depression – which means farther away from finding a job. You know your husband better than anyone else, which means that you are better capable of making a decision on this matter.
4. Send out his resumes.
He probably has a copy of his resume saved to your home computer, and if he doesn’t, you can write one yourself, or update the existing copy. You are aware of his skills, work history, employment experience, and education, so you are just as capable of inquiring about job opportunities. In your spare time, send out four or five resumes and cover letters just to get the ball rolling.
You don’t have to keep your activities a secret. Let your husband know that you are helping as best he can, and if he wants to help, then you can do it together. Job-hunting is stressful and often unforgiving, so it might be easier for him if he has a “partner in crime.”
5. Act as an accountability partner.
This is an extremely beneficial technique that might give your husband the support structure he needs. Accountability partners keep their counterparts in check, pushing them to succeed and picking up any available slack. You work hard at your job, and you may not want the extra workload, but for his sake, try this out.
It does not mean that you should act as his mother. You aren’t in charge of him, and he should be adult enough to handle his own business. But if you see him fading or slacking on the job hunt, let him know that you’ve noticed, and give him a little pep talk.
6. Tell him you love him.
Reinforcement of your feelings for him can never hurt, and it might make him feel better. As stressed and frustrated you might be about the career situation, don’t let that stop your emotional connection. When he seems down-and-out, pull him aside, give him a hug and a kiss, and let him know that you’re there for him, 100% all the way. Telling him how much he means to you and reiterating your love will give him strength and a reason to go out and look.
Aside from that, there are just a few things that you should never do:
1. Belittle him.
He knows he doesn’t have a job, and he knows you’re worried and frustrated. He is probably just as frustrated with himself, and he doesn’t need to be told that he’s worthless or lazy or selfish. Chances are the he is none of those things, and that you are venting your frustration in the wrong ways.
Belittling will extend the period of unemployment because he will be more depressed, and negative motivation never solves a problem.
2. Make nasty comments.
Along the same lines, snide remarks are also uncalled for, and detrimental to your relationship. If you are constantly poking and needling, he will eventually fire back, which will only start a fight. If you need to get out your frustrations, go to the gym or invest in an exercise machine. Using him as your punching bag will only make things worse.
3. Tell other people about the situation.
Confiding in your best friend or your Mom is acceptable, but telling all of your mutual friends about his lack of employment is cruel and unnecessary. The last thing you want is for people to call your husband and say, “Hey, I heard you lost your job. I hear McDonald’s is hiring!” It will make him feel worse, and will probably result in a big fight. So keep family business private, and only talk to one or two close companions, if at all.