How to Provide Emotional Support for an Unemployed Partner, Part II

5. Now, this is very important: unemployment does not mean that your partner gets to check out of any aspect of the relationship. Being supportive does not equal tolerating snappishness, moodiness, aggression and rudeness from your partner. You are not their therapist or their wet nurse. Adults address their psychological issues without using their partner as a punching bag. Never let such behavior slide and if you are tempted to do so, remember, you are not being supportive. You are just being condescending. Taking on a parental role towards your partner is never healthy.

I hope I don’t need to mention that subjecting an unemployed partner to your moodiness, depressive moments and aggression is just as wrong.

6. I do not recommend that household duties be renegotiated because if unemployment. If the division of chores in your relationship is unfair, it definitely needs to be renegotiated. But not during the time when your partner is weakened by unemployment.

If the distribution of duties is fair, then there is no need to change anything during unemployment. I suggest preserving as much as possible from the pre-unemployment lifestyle because that will make it easier to return to it once your partner finds a job.

7. Most importantly, I wanted to mention that once an unhealthy patterns sets in, it’s extremely hard to change it. We all hope that unemployment will not be protracted. It can, however, stretch out for a long period of time. And if you expect that after your partner finds a job things will immediately be restored to their pre-unemployment state, you couldn’t be more mistaken. A relationship doesn’t go to sleep during a jobless period. It grows and develops. And after unemployment is over, you will have to live with the results of this development.

How to Provide Emotional Support for an Unemployed Partner, Part I

As I shared on this blog recently, my husband was unemployed for two years. During this period of protracted unemployment, I can honestly say that I was the most supportive partner anybody could hope for. I really did myself proud on this one and N. agrees that I was a bedrock of unwavering support to him.

Many people are finding themselves unemployed nowadays, which is why I decided to share my principles of how to offer true support to an unemployed partner (UP, for short).

1. When your partner tells you s/he has been fired, the first impulse is always to say, “I will support you for as long as it takes for you to find a new job.” As understandable as this impulse is, I suggest you resist it. It will be highly counter-productive to make any spur-of-the-moment promises that you might not be able to keep.

So take a moment to consider things rationally and calmly. Evaluate your psychological and financial resources. It’s easy to promise support for “as long as it takes.” But have you really considered how you will handle the situation on the practical level if your partner’s unemployment lasts for 2 years? How about 5 years? How about 15? What if they never find a job? Are you sure that you will not start feeling resentful and overburdened?

Believe me, it is much more honest and helpful to tell your partner that you will be able to support them for a set number of years or months instead of making wild promises based on nothing but emotions of the moment.

2. There will be days, weeks or even months when the UP will not be looking for a job. This does not mean s/he has given up and will never look for a job again. All this means is that your partner is trying to preserve his or her sanity. Job searches are difficult and stressful. Most people can’t face getting rejected and failing at something so important on a daily basis for a long time. If your partner needs to take breaks from active searching for a job, this means s/he is doing what is needed to preserve him or herself psychologically.

3. It is neither helpful nor encouraging to pester the UP with questions about what they have done today in their job search. Sometimes, the UP will want to talk about the job search but sometimes s/he won’t. That’s perfectly normal. If the UP needs a few days, weeks or months when the job search is not discussed, then that’s what they need and you should just accept it.

4. Unemployment is bad. However, it is not the end of the world. The UP will still want to laugh, have an occasional good time, go out, and treat themselves to something nice. This is a lot healthier than sitting around with a tragic face and depriving oneself of anything pleasing.

(To be continued. . .)

How to Prepare for the Finals?

As I have shared in the previous post, finals are often an unavoidable evil. This is why I want to share some advice with people who are now preparing for their finals in the hopes that these suggestions will make life at least somewhat easier for people who have to go through this ordeal.

1. The absolutely best thing you can do is allow for some time and space before you finish preparing for the exam and the exam itself. Ideally, you should get a good night’s sleep and not study for the exam at all in the morning right before it. I often see students still frantically going over their notes and leafing through textbooks as they walk into the room where the exam will be administered. This is a big mistake. Knowledge needs time to settle and be absorbed. These last-minute consultations with the notes do a lot more damage than good. Preparing for the exam is important but knowing when to stop preparing is just as crucial.

2. If your exam is in a foreign language course, the best thing you can do is get together with a native speaker of that language right before the exam and chat with them over coffee. If that is not possible, download some music in that language and listen to it on the way to the exam. Read something online in that language. All of these things will help you a lot more than any last-minute revision of verb conjugations.

3. I strongly recommend not pulling any all-nighters before the exam. Getting a good night’s sleep will allow you not to feel listless (or hopped up on caffeine) during the exam. Wake up early and do some gentle exercise. Take a walk before the exam. This will get the blood circulating in your body.

4. After you are done with an exam, do not immediately plunge into preparing for the next one. Reward yourself with some pleasing activity that will help you relax.

5. My grandfather was a doctor and he taught me the following important rule for people who do sedentary work: after every hour you spend working, get up and take a 10-minute walk. Getting up, going outside and walking around the building or down the street and up will help you be a lot more productive. If you remember to breathe deep and not think about your work as you are walking, that would be great.

If anybody has other suggestions for people who are currently preparing for the finals, please leave them in the comments. Let’s help out the students! 🙂

Dating Advice, Part III

My third piece of advice is to stop counting. Applying arithmetic to your romantic life might make you feel in control but that’s a very unhealthy illusion. The greatest challenge of our romantic lives is that we do not control them. The sooner you accept the idea that you can do everything right many times in a row and still not end up in a blissful relationship as a result, the better. And do I need to tell you how crucial relinquishing control is for achieving sexual fulfillment? All of those anorgasmic people of both genders are the ones who are terrified of relinquishing control.

So forget all the silly advice about counting the number of days you need to wait before calling up a person for a second date or counting the number of dates before you allow yourself to have sex. If you need to call the person, just do it. If you are afraid of looking needy by calling too soon, consider the following: shouldn’t you aim for a partner whose neediness matches yours? Why would you want to start a relationship with someone who has a much weaker need for company than you do? Besides, nobody can transform themselves completely for each new date without suffering a nervous breakdown. Trying to anticipate the needs of a complete stranger to the detriment of your own is not a road to happiness.

The same goes for sex. The only good time to have sex is when you feel like doing it. What’s the point of getting involved with someone whose sexual temperament or sexual morality are completely different from yours? If you don’t feel like having sex for the first six months of the relationship, just be open and unapologetic about that. If you feel like having sex six hours after the first date, I suggest you do the same. Of course, I’m talking about cases when people are in tune with their sexuality and can distinguish genuine sexual desire or lack thereof from the need to manipulate a partner.

Dating Advice, Part II

I don’t like repeating the tired old platitudes that so often get dispensed as dating advice. This is why I’m trying to offer a somewhat novel approach to dating in this series of posts. How often have you heard the boring exhortation not to talk about politics and religion on the first date?

Well, in my opinion, this is crappy advice. If you are serious about wanting your dating to culminate in a success, one of the most important things you can do is avoid wasting time. A beginning dater often takes way too long to discover that a new acquaintance is an unsuitable prospect. Seasoned daters, however, perfect their technique of weeding out candidates who don’t suit them within just one or two meetings.

The greatest mistake newbie daters make is concentrating too much on making a good impression on their dates instead of using the first two or three crucial meetings to determine if the person they are trying so hard to impress is somebody they actually need in their lives.

I believe that it’s a good idea to make a list of deal-breakers that will make you lose all interest instantly in a person and discuss them as soon as possible. For example, I obviously could only be interested in a feminist. This is why I always brought up feminism on the very first date. An alternative would be to keep silent about my feminism for fear of scaring the date away only to discover much later that their dislike of feminist ideals make them completely unsuitable for me.

Trying to make a good impression is counter-productive for yet another reason. Believe me, the best way to make a horrible impression on people is to try hard to make a good impression. It makes you come off as fake, pathetic, and as somebody who tries too hard. These are not attractive qualities. If you are passionate about politics or religion, why not mention this as soon as possible in order to avoid possible disappointments after you get emotionally involved with the person?

Dating Advice, Part I

People are clamoring for more posts containing dating advice, so I’m happy to oblige. I hope it will be enough to say once at the beginning of this series that I believe that there is nothing whatsoever wrong about being single and people who are single by choice don’t need a relationship to make them happy and complete. This series is not aimed at convincing anybody to date. Its only goal is to share some insights into dating with those who already want (of their own free will and with no prodding on my part) to find a partner. I sincerely hope that this disclaimer will be sufficient.

There are lucky people who manage to find a suitable partner at the very beginning of their dating process. For many of us, though, it takes much longer. Often, people spend years on the dating market, actively searching for a partner but not managing to find one. As a friend of mine used to say whenever she would come back from yet another unsuccessful first date, “And here goes my 125,999 failed attempt at dating.”

Nobody likes to feel like a failure, especially not on a regular basis. After a certain number of unsuccessful dates, people become emotionally and psychologically drained and feel like giving up altogether. I felt the desire to abandon the search many times. Why go out on what will probably turn out to be yet another huge waste of time when I can just stay at home happily with my books and my computer?

If it seems like the dating period is likely to be protracted, we need a mechanism that will compensate for feelings of failure, disappointment and boredom that it’s likely to generate. So this is tip number one: develop a secondary goal that your dating will help you reach. Here are a few examples:

1. If you are a blogger, you can use each new date as material for new posts. So what if you haven’t been able to find a suitable partner this time, and the last time, and the time before that? You now have material for a kick-ass series of new posts about your dating experiences.

2. If you are trying to improve your health or lose weight, why not walk to and from each new date? A fresh dating failure will feel less disappointing when you consider that you are doing something good for your health in the meanwhile.

3. If you are a foodie or a coffee fanatic, you can use the dates to explore every single restaurant and coffee-shop in the area. A date might now end in a desire to set up a second meeting with the same person but it can generate a really great review of a new place you visited.

4. If you don’t have great social skills, dating can offer a great free training in improving them. I know somebody who used dating to prepare for job interviews. Dating a lot allowed him to get used to the intrusive questioning, the high-stress environment, the need to talk to complete strangers on a regular basis, etc. Dating also provides a wealth of funny stories that the socially awkward folks can share at parties and social events instead of standing silently in the corner, grasping for topics of conversation.

5. Another acquaintance, an aspiring stand-up comedian, used dates to perfect his comedy routines by trying them out on new people.

Transforming dating into an activity that is not solely about finding a partner helps relieve the stress and get rid of feelings of disappointment and frustration, at least to a degree.