How to deal with a layoff gracefully: Advice for couples

how to deal with a layoff gracefully
Like I blogged just last week, sometimes I feel like we’re never going to get ahead financially.  Still, things are what they are and whinging never got anyone anywhere.

That said, I’m big on honesty and I’m not going to lie, being forced back into one-income land sucks. Of course, it’s even worse for T, but I’m not particularly enjoying things either. Selfish? Yes. True? Abso-frickin-lutely.

Rather than subject you all to a wave of self-pity, I thought I’d consult some other smart bloggers about coping in the aftermath of a layoff and dealing with all the feelings that follow – gracefully. Here is our collective wisdom.

Be mad, but then shake it off

You will resent being the only one bringing in an income (particularly if your partner is not a good housekeeper, on top of it all). Acknowledge it, but remember that nobody is winning in this situation and try to move past the anger. Definitely do not lash out!

As Gina Marie Rose sagely observes: “I know it’s hard not to feel resentful toward your partner when you’re the only one bringing in money, but do your best not to make them feel guilty about it. Trust me, your partner does not want to be unemployed, broke, and having someone else support them financially.

“But sometimes, shit happens and we have to face circumstances that are out of our control, like layoffs. Being unemployed and broke is one of the worst predicaments in the world; the last thing your partner needs is for the one person they love most to make them feel even worse about it.”

Michelle from Fit is the New Poor says: “I often reminded myself how much I loved him and how he was there for me financially and emotionally in the past. He did his part by understanding when I needed space or to blow off steam.”

Sally from Tiny Apartment Design, for one, has left several jobs during her relationship. “It’s tough when you feel like you are carrying the weight of two people, but I find it helps to talk about it, uncomfortable as it is,” she says.

Vent to someone else

Let it all out … but not just to your partner.

Gina suggests venting to people you trust and who you know won’t change their opinion of your partner as a result.

And find some stress relievers that work for you.

“During the whole time Chris was unemployed, I practiced yoga 3-4 times a week. Probably one of the best decisions I made during that time!”

Lend an ear

And of course, let your partner vent too.

Says Gina: “Listen to them vent about their recent job rejection. Ask how that networking event was that they recently attended. Let them cry on your shoulder when they feel hopeless and like they’ll never get a job. Being unemployed and broke sucks big time, so be supportive. You’d want the same from your partner if you were in their shoes.”

Focus on the silver linings

No job is perfect. So take the opportunity to remember all the downsides of that old job, and thank your lucky stars that you guys no longer have to deal with them!

According to  Michelle: “I would be mad at him for losing his job, but then I would remember all the times he would complain about his boss making him stay late or emotionally abusing him, and I would go back to thinking that this may be a better way!”

Be supportive on the job-hunting front

Not that this really needs stating, since you BOTH want to get back to the full-employment bandwagon…

Check your partner’s resume, edit cover letters, trawl your list of contacts for anyone who might be helpful to him, keep an eye out for interesting job listings, rehearse answers for interviews.

“I remember the first time Chris did an interview role play with me: it helped me memorise my answers better and feel more confident when it came to saying them out loud,” Gina says.

Michelle suggests asking the hard questions your partner might not consider, be it in regard to interviewing or to choosing jobs.

Keep a tight lid on your finances

Now, more than ever, is the time to keep on top of your money. I revisited our 2014 budget but the key is tracking our spending, especially with T’s habits.

“Since you’re now providing for two people, it’s probably a good idea to keep a close eye on your finances so you can save money where possible,” Gina says. “I didn’t do this while I supported Chris, and I regret it! I feel like my money went so fast during that time because I wasn’t keeping track of what was going in and what was going out, and I didn’t change my spending habits even when money got tight.”

Budget in little treats

Much as I would like to forbid T from spending a single dollar until he finds a job, that’s pretty cruel and also insanely unrealistic. We’ve settled on $20 a week, although in reality that’s creeping higher.

Gina’s advice? Treat your partner once in awhile.

“While I was unemployed, I was depressed because not only did it seem like no one would hire me, but I didn’t have any money to go out and do things or treat myself. Chris saw how depressed I was and decided to take me out to lunch/dinner/a movie every so often to help get my mind off my job search. He also spoiled me rotten for Christmas. (Being unemployed during the holidays is the worse because it’s a season of spending buy you have nothing to spend!)

“When Chris was unemployed, I treated us to a little getaway to Santa Cruz for a couple days. Do what you can afford and know that your partner REALLY appreciates the distraction.”

Michelle encouraged her husband to be active outside of the home while unemployed. “He was depressed, obviously, but we would still go out with friends or on (cheaper) dates. I would also put him in charge of dinner so he felt like he had a purpose and was “paying me back.” Our house was spotless for the time he was unemployed!”

And plan to celebrate when your partner finally lands that job.

“We ended up going on vacation with our travel miles. I think all of that kept a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ feeling going for us when we felt like our situation would never change.”

I’ll wrap up with this succinct summary from Michelle:

“Celebrate the good because there won’t be much of it, remind yourself that you love him despite his situation, give him tasks and jobs to do to keep him active, and try to think of an awesome celebration for when he does get a job!”

Do you have any pearls to add?

16 thoughts on “How to deal with a layoff gracefully: Advice for couples

  1. Great perspective of “get bad, then move on.” Wallowing in how much the situation sucks isn’t going to help make things better. Being supportive, and helping your significant other as much as possible is pushing down the path of getting you back on the road that you want to be on.

  2. I was laid off before I got married, but I remember the panic sitting in. I knew about two months before it happened though, so I started my job hunting and actually landed a new job about two weeks before I got laid off from my old job. (I kept both jobs–and paychecks–since they were in two buildings next to each other, and would just go back and forth between buildings. My old boss was getting laid off too so she didn’t care and my new boss was cool with the arrangement because it meant I could start sooner, rather than putting in a two week notice. Nuts, huh?) BUT ANYWAY–I think this advice is great for the spouse that is working, but for the spouse that isn’t working, I would say they really need to be putting in 150% effort. While my husband was never laid off, for the first 3.5 years of marriage, I pulled the weight financially. And it irked me to no end, that I would be paying the bills and doing the majority of the housework, while all he got to do was focus on his career. Talk about one-sided. We are finally getting the hang of things, and really making it more of a partnership, but I think the partner who is laid off needs to pull their weight in other ways. I got frustrated all the time just because I was so tired all the time, both physically and mentally and I just felt like I was doing everything myself. I know it’s not supposed to be 50-50 but it is still a partnership, and you’re supposed to help each other out.

    1. Agreed – I’ve always been the one in the position of being the spouse that’s working, so that’s why this is the focus of this post. I will admit housework is one of our bugbears too. He was working all hours at his last job so I accepted doing the majority of the housework, but now that he’s home job hunting I expect him to pick up the slack (and housekeeping is just one of those things that I always, always have to nag him about.)

  3. This is really great advice! While my partner isn’t technically unemployed, some weeks it feels like it. For example, next week he has 8 hours of work. We’ve done the math and he needs at least 25 hours to pay his bills. This has resulted in me paying more and being the breadwinner, and I’m also the neat freak. I feel like I do more house work and cleaning, but he does help me with cooking more and also rides to work as I don’t drive. It’s still a work in progress to be a true partnership, as Erika said, but we’re getting better. I think something to add is that we are all different and need to take that into consideration. I am a hustler and will find SOMETHING quickly, where as R is more shy and it takes him longer to find things.

    1. Oh it’s SO nice to hear from you! Thank you for weighing in. I think this basically sums us up too. You = me and R = T.

      I would say both T and I are good at hustling but my skills and experience are a lot more marketable so my hustling usually gets more results, faster.

    2. That must be tough to be the main breadwinner and love to keep a clean house..

      If there is anything I can do to help (especially if you’re in Aus) would be more than happy to assist with your partner finding something more permanent and that they enjoy :)

      All the best

  4. Nice tips! We move around a lot, so we sometimes have gaps in employment. But since a career is not part of our long-term plan, it’s generally not a big deal in the long run, except for the few months when we have to spend more than we earn. Watching that account balance go down is not fun!

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