Help, I’m the Only One Working! 10 Relationship Tips to Support Your Partner Through Job Loss

There were many hardships in 2020. Between the pandemic, the economic downturn, the natural disasters, (do we need to go on??). For many couples, job loss turned out to be one of the most difficult things to cope with. Whether you lost your job, or your partner lost their job, job loss can create pressure and stress that can ripple through a family and cause lasting damage and resentment if it’s not handled carefully. As the partner of someone who lost their job, it is your role to play the stable, calming force in the relationship. Even if you are upset. Even if you are just as stressed as they are. Even if you have to fake positivity some of the time.

Maintaining stability is especially important if you are supporting children, because they are perceptive of and affected by instability. Job loss can feel like a personal failure, so being kind to your partner, and trying not to harbor any resentment will do wonders for their self-esteem and for your relationship. Supporting your partner through this tense time can help make your relationship stronger, and it can help them get back on their feet more quickly. If you’re still trying to figure out ways to support them while they look for another job (which of course is their ultimate goal), we’ve put together some ways you can help provide them support - while retaining your sanity.

Here are 10 tips to help support your partner through job loss:

1. Let them vent their frustration

Listening is an important part of every relationship, but it’s especially important to focus on listening when you are supporting a partner through job loss. Make sure that you give them the time and space to properly vent their feelings and that you listen intently to them. It’s important to note that being a good listener doesn’t involve you trying to solve their problems or offer solutions. Allow your partner to feel all the feelings and clear their headspace before launching into talking about next steps. The period immediately after job loss can be super brutal as your partner goes through emotions like anger and frustration. During this time it’s also fair to give them their space and let them deal with their frustration how they want to. Pressuring them to talk (if that isn’t how they would prefer to vent), could lead them to direct their frustration towards you.

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2. Give them time to cope and process

Whether your partner was fired or laid off, losing a job can feel very personal and it can affect your feelings of self worth, especially if you are the main provider for the relationship or the family. Job loss has all the sting of a breakup or rejection with the added financial stress and loss of stability. While losing a job affects both people in the relationship, it is especially hard on the person who lost the job. It is important to give your partner time to cope and process the job loss. During this period, your partner may experience grief-like symptoms, so give them time and space to get back on their feet. Like we said before, you should allow your partner to cope and process in whatever manner they want (as long as they are not taking up an unhealthy habit like self-medicating or excessive drinking). During this time, it’s important to allow yourself time to cope and process as well. Job loss can put an emotional and financial strain on your relationship, so it’s necessary to give yourself the same time and space to cope and process.

3. Be empathetic

While a partner’s job loss creates a lot of stress for both of you in the relationship, it’s important not to take out anger, frustration or stress on them as much as possible. (It happens, of course, but try to make a conscious effort to put empathy first.) Instead of pointing blame (which can be tempting to do), you should try and rise to the occasion with empathy for your partner and the situation. Showing empathy looks like being patient and kind to your partner. It can also look like giving them their space to cope and process without putting pressure on them to be okay right off the bat. Showing your partner empathy can promote perseverance on their end and it will make the experience less stressful for both of you. How you treat each other in stressful times is a true testament to your relationship, so be kind, compassionate and empathetic so that you can expect the same if this ever happens to you.

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4. Try and find a silver lining

Losing your job sucks. There is no denying that. But it is possible to find a silver lining in job loss. Maybe your partner hated their career and this can serve as an opportunity for your partner to change how they make their money. Or maybe this will offer them an opportunity to reassess their priorities and what defines their self worth. A job loss could even inspire them to pour their energies into other things (more on that below), and to get involved in health habits. We aren’t advocating for toxic positivity here. And no, not everything happens for a reason. But it is possible to find a silver lining in a bad situation, and job loss is no different.

5. Encourage them to explore their passions

After a job loss, your partner will likely have a lot more time on their hands than they used to. In the beginning it’s fine for them to wallow, but after they’ve had time to cope, process and begin to recover, they should consider finding a hobby or exploring a new passion. This new passion can either be a new career opportunity, or just a good activity to get their mind off of things. When we get caught up in work, it can be super easy to let go of healthy activities (like exercise and eating well) in addition to fun activities (like a sport or hobby). Job loss can be an opportunity to recommit to being healthy, to pick back up an old hobby that brought you joy, or to find a new activity to help you blow off steam. It might feel weird to your partner to use the time they would be at work exploring their passions new and old, so you might need to encourage your partner to do so. Giving them permission to pursue and explore their passion is a great way to support your partner through job loss.

6. Remind them of their strengths and accomplishments

Like we said before, job loss can really negatively impact feelings of self worth and accomplishment. As a partner of someone who experienced job loss, it’s important for you to act as emotional support. This can mean gassing up your partner, reminding them of their strengths and all of their accomplishments both at work and outside of work. Work should not be at the center of your identity, but for a lot of people it is. Reminding your partner of their accomplishments that aren’t related to work will help them see that they are a successful person, even though they were fired or laid off. You can remind your partner of their accomplishments through things like daily affirmations, little compliments, or a more formal sit-down conversation. Just remember that your partner probably doesn’t want to feel pitied on top of all the other things that they are feeling (especially if they are a proud person), so it’s important to walk the line of being supportive and over-doing it.

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7. Remind them that you are a team

Things like job loss have the potential to negatively affect your relationship, especially if you aren’t being supportive of your partner or they push you away. Instead of adding stress to an already stressful situation by being overly critical or angry, choose to stand by them and remind them that you are and will always be a team, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer. If you are struggling to lift your partner’s spirits, or keep your own head on straight, just remember that you have friends and family that are also worried about your wellbeing. While you may not be able to meet up in person because of the pandemic, you can still reach out to your support system to help you through rough times. Going on an outdoor walk (weather permitting) or scheduling time to Zoom, Facetime or Skype will remind you that you also have a team of people outside the relationship that you can rely on when the going gets tough.

8. Make a game plan

While a period of unemployment is an excellent time to re-evaluate your priorities and explore your passions, it’s important that you and your partner make a game plan for finding new employment. Most couples can’t weather losing a source of income for more than a few weeks or months, so after allowing time to cope and process, you will both need to kick it into gear finding your partner a new job. In addition to making a plan to find a job, you will also need to plan your finances and maybe even reevaluate your roles within the relationship in terms of housework and whatnot. It’s important that your game plan is actionable, and that you identify small tasks that will put you on track to achieving your goal. If your goal is ‘manage finances’ make sure that you outline steps like create a new budget, cut out unnecessary expenses, etc. During this phase you might even come to the conclusion that you need to step up in a major way to contribute to your financial health as a couple. Were you working before? Is it possible for you to work overtime to supplement your income? Getting creative, and maintaining a team mindset will help you pull through as a couple until your partner can find employment again.

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9. Help keep them accountable

Once you make a plan together, it’s important to hold your partner accountable for following through on the plan. If they are struggling to find a job, help them with the search, or look at your budget together as a team. You can also hold them accountable by following-up and checking in with them frequently about the progress of their job search. It can be difficult to hold someone accountable without coming off as naggy or accusatory, so it’s important to approach these conversations with tact and empathy. Try not to chastise your partner if they are not making progress to their goal, and instead offer encouragement and help. If you feel like you aren’t able to hold them accountable without belittling or nagging them (and hey, not everyone can!), you can consider hiring a life coach or a career coach to play that role. These coaches have experience helping people find jobs, or achieve their personal goals and are able to encourage accountability. This might seem like a bit of an expense, especially if you are worried about money, but these types of experts are often worth the investment. Plus, given the state of the economy and the brutality of a pandemic job market, it may be possible to negotiate rates or find a deal.

10. Focus on communication

Communication is an important part of every relationship, at every point in the relationship, but it is especially important during stressful times, like if a partner has lost a job. Following through on any of these tips to support your partner through job loss will require both of you to communicate effectively. In addition to working through job loss, you will also have the same everyday relationship struggles on your plate. And while it’s easy to let a stressor like job loss monopolize your communication, it’s important to continue to check-in with your partner about their general well being and how they feel in the relationship. Keeping the channels of communication open so that they can come to you about anything, whether it’s related to job loss or not, will help your partner feel supported no matter what.

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