Q: My husband was laid off last year. He had an impressive title but only a few years of experience in that industry. Since then, he has applied to more than 100 jobs and made it to the final round several times, but no offers.
I think he was under the impression it wouldn’t be tough to get a job. He has not posted on LinkedIn or Facebook that he’s looking. Recruiters and a career counselor at the state unemployment agency have not really helped.
I work full time and recently had a baby. Once he gets a job, I hope to go down to four days a week, to spend more time with our kids.
His unemployment benefits are ending soon, and I’m freaking out. We both need to work full time to afford our mortgage and other expenses. I see a therapist, but I have some resentment. Do you have any advice?
A: Many dual-earner households — mine included — have had to weather the loss of one partner’s income. No matter how frugally you live, that puts major strain on a couple’s financial and emotional well-being. Fortunately, you have each other to lean on — but only so long as you’re traveling in the same direction.
Your best hope for coming out of this with your sanity and your marriage intact is for both of you to accept and adapt to your current reality. Your husband needs to realize that asking for help beats drowning with pride, and his next career move may look nothing like what he’s trained for. And you need to accept that cutting back work hours to spend more time parenting is not currently feasible. When you’re in crisis mode, clinging to “someday when” and “could’ve been” visions will only build resentment.
I know money is tight, but hiring professional help can be a vital investment. A career counselor with both psychological training and career advisory experience can offer your husband the kind of emotional support, personal insight and customized professional guidance that recruiters, overworked public servants and a loving but stressed-out spouse cannot. (Ask for recommendations or visit psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/career-counseling/.) In addition to individual counseling, couples counseling can help defuse conflicts and keep you connected; ask your therapist for a referral.
Though you don’t mention it, I wonder if any of your resentment comes from taking on the lioness’s share of house and child duties in addition to dragging home the daily wildebeest. If your husband were to ask my advice, I would strongly recommend he take the lead on the things he would appreciate your doing if your positions were reversed: cooking, cleaning, child care, finances — any of the hundreds of invisible tasks that keep a household running. If he already is doing that, he should keep it up. His genuine effort to remain a fully contributing partner — paycheck or no — will not only ease the love-sapping burden on you, but it’ll also help him stave off energy-sapping despair. (Recommended viewing: “The Incredibles 2.”)
My advice to you is to secure your own oxygen mask. That means eating, sleeping, moving and resting so you can perform your best. It also means setting limits on how much emotional labor you shoulder for your husband. Be his sounding board, resume proofer and advocate as needed — but not his personal overseer or executive assistant.
Karla L. Miller is a workplace columnist for The Washington Post. Her column runs on Sunday.