Sunday, February 3, 2013

When Your Partner Gets Downsized ??!!

When Your Partner Gets Downsized ??!! - depressed  sad woman - busy man
Be sure to let your partner know that your love for them does not depend on their paycheck. That their value is not a monetary one.

When my husband and I moved to our first home together, we both had moderately good paying jobs, jobs that we enjoyed, and jobs that allowed us to spend our down time together without worrying about bills, the price of gas, or where the money would come from if we needed to call a plumber or take the car in.

Then, I lost my job.  I was the third person hired for a start-up that looked promising, but ultimately, and rather suddenly, it folded after two years.  I had just spent the previous six months thanking all that was holy that I had a job—as this was at the height of the economic crash.  Jobs were few and far between, and basically non-existent for someone like me whose skill set didn’t look all that great on paper.  What I considered the resume of a ‘Renaissance Woman’ was sneered at by the few employers with whom I interviewed as nothing more than a go-fer, or, in their terms, minimum wage assistant.

After several weeks of unemployment, my confidence had steadily gone down the tubes.  I was getting really good at all the games on The Price is Right, and was on top of all the love triangles on All My Children.  I was also far too familiar with Craigslist.  Craig was a fickle ally…so many resumes sent out, so few calls returned.  I remember asking my husband if he was disappointed in me, if he was scared.  His response:  “No way baby, we’re on this ship together.” 

One tried and true test of a relationship: What happens when the balance of power shifts?  In this case, the power being ‘who brings home the bacon.’  This was the first time in our five years together that I hadn’t brought in the same income as my husband.  In fact, there had been times that I made more, which made me feel good, but which I kept quiet.  My husband became the breadwinner, but he didn’t keep quiet.  He came up with ways to keep our household going without my having to go find a ‘regular job.’ He saw my job loss as an opportunity—he knew I had always wanted to be a writer.

From what I will grandiosely call the ‘Book of Chad,’ I will detail a few ways, inspired by my husband, to make sure your household, your relationship, and your sanity stay intact if you or your partner loses their job:

When Your Partner Loses His/Her Job, There Will Be Insecurity
Be sure to let your partner know that your love for them does not depend on their paycheck.  That their value is not a monetary one.  Make sure he/she knows how much you depend on their companionship in ways other than their monetary contribution.

There were so few bumps in our relationship before I lost my job.  In fact, we were having too much fun to take time to let each other know how much we really meant to each other.  My waning confidence was a real nudge for my husband to let me know all of the things that he loved about me, things that didn’t have a price tag.  Even small things, like he loved that I turned his shirts right side out when I folded the laundry, or that I set the coffee up the night before so that, in the morning, all he had to do was press ‘on.’  It meant a lot for me to hear ‘I appreciate this’ when I was feeling so insecure.

When Your Partner Loses His/Her Job, There Will Be Fear
Your partner will probably be relieved to know that you ‘still love’ him or her. But love, as beautiful as it is, doesn’t buy groceries.  The fear element doesn’t go away, even if your relationship remains strong.  My husband turned the fear into fun.  Getting the weekly grocery sales ad was a big event!  We’d open a bottle of (very) cheap wine and pore over the Buy One Get One Free section to see how much money we could save on our grocery bill that week.  We signed up for Living Social and Groupon e-mail lists so that we could still go out on the occasional splurge, but for half the price.  We made cutting corners a game; it was a fun way to appreciate what we had instead of bemoaning what we had lost.

When Your Partner Loses His/Her Job, There Will Be Depression
This was the hardest challenge for us.  My husband, like most men, feels like he has to fix everything.  Depression is not a leaky faucet—there is no quick and obvious fix.  And the lows can strike at any time, inexplicably, so the mystery of the attacks were particularly hard on him.  Still, he was patient and practiced his listening skills.  Ultimately, this facet of our troubles was a challenge and a learning experience for him as far as practicing being an objective listener versus someone expected to solve the world’s troubles.  

You’re not going to be going out to clubs and restaurants, so why not take this opportunity to have intimate dinners at home and long talks. See this lack of outside stimulation as a chance to get to know your loved one all over again.

When Your Partner Loses His/Her Job, There Will Be The Question: What Do I Do Now?
This was the most surprising silver lining.  It’s hard to be a ‘think outside the box’ person when you are wallowing in your own self pity and defeat.  My husband was emailing me job postings daily, along with ideas for marketing my own artwork and stories.  Basically, he was saying, yes, it would be great if you got a job, but you only live once, so don’t forget what you were really put here on this planet to do.  He was supporting me, end of story.

What does your partner really want to do with his/her life?  If going back to school to accomplish that end is an option, encourage it.  Encourage him/her to take a look at a real passion that may have been set aside in the face of a good paying job.  That job that is now…gone.

Keep Perspective
This is a tall order.  I don’t know how Chad did it; I’m sure he was as scared and desperate as I was, but I love that he supported me and showed his love by laughing in the face of defeat when I was ready to give up.

In the end, it’s tough when the income is cut in half.  But it’s not the end of the world—in fact, lots of people are going through it right now—and once you get past the initial terror, a situation like this can be used as an opportunity to connect on a whole new level, one that requires creativity, a new perspective and a united effort to maintain the spark that made your partnership so great to begin with.

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