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. . .)