One of the most stressful times in a romantic relationship can often be when one partner is looking for a new job. This is particularly true if the job seeking spouse is unemployed. Whether they were laid off, fired, or quit their previous job, the entire situation can be tense. Especially if the pair depends on the unemployed partner’s income to pay the bills.
This week, I received a question about how to be a supportive spouse. After all, being the spouse of an unemployed person is not a situation we’ve all been in before. There’s always a first time.
Over the years, I have worked with many married job seekers. Surprisingly, one of the biggest stressors can often be their spouse, and not the actual job search.
Fear of Failure
The job seeker is worried about disappointing their spouse by selecting the “wrong” position. Because they feel like they’ve failed at their last workplace, the job seeker may be especially open to negative criticism at this time. And, those around them may want to give feedback about what they might not be good at in the future. People often say things like, “I would like to be a salesperson, but my wife says I’d be bad at it. I’m not sure what to do.” As you can imagine, this can put unnecessary pressure on the job seeker.
Recommendation: Step back and allow the job seeker to pursue their own path to success. Realize that there may be twists and turns along the way.
Some spouses also pressure their partner with their own goals and agenda, leaving the job seeker wondering if they’re doing the right thing. For example, the job seeker may want to take a part time job, so they can spend time with their family. At the same time, their spouse may prefer they find a high paying job that might pay for lavish vacations or a summer home.
Recommendation: Try to keep an open line of communication with your partner. Do your best to be supportive and understanding of your partner’s personal career goals, even if they are not the same as yours.
Speed and Timing
Moving through unemployment and into a new job is a process. It can take time to process what happened at the previous job, start to network again for the first time in years, and then land a job. The employed spouse is often under the impression that getting a job should be no big deal. It should be quick and painless. In reality, getting over losing your job takes time. And, the economy has struggled for years.
Recommendation: Have an open and honest conversation with your spouse about goals and timing. Establish expectations together for how long job seeking should take, on both an aggressive and conservative timeframe.
More important than any other part of the process, the job seeker needs to know they have your support. Looking for a job involves an unusually high level of rejection and self-doubt. If you’re the spouse of a job seeker, the best first step is to be a good listener. Job seekers often need someone to bounce their ideas and concerns of off in a supportive, private environment.
Recommendation: Take the time to listen to your spouse’s worries. Do your best to be supportive and leave your judgement at the door.
Simply put, job seeking is a stressful process for both the job seeker and the spouse. Do your best to be supportive and to not discourage your spouse from their dreams. Job seeking is such a private endeavor that the spouse may be the only sounding board the job seeker has. Remember: the less stressful a job search is, the faster your unemployed spouse will find a new career.
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