How to Deal With Your Significant Other Losing Their Job

When my husband lost his supposedly stable job (just a casual two months before our wedding), we went through one of the roughest patches of our relationship — most of it being my fault.

I still remember him calling to say the job was done. It was minutes after learning I needed extensive dental work… and I was on his insurance. Cue the sweat, anxiety, questions, and lots and lots of tears.

How will we pay for the remainder of the wedding? Will he ever get a job again? Where will we live? Will I need to pick up another job? Will my teeth fall out if I don’t get this dentist work done?!

Spoiler alert: He got a job two months later, we still got married, we never became homeless, and I still have my teeth.

But let’s just say I learned a few things throughout the process, and if I had to go through it again, I’d do things VERY differently. If you’re currently going through it (sending a hug and a big glass of vino), or do in your future, act better than I did. Here’s how.

 

Be supportive

If there’s any time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s when they’ve been let go from a job. So much of our identity is wrapped up in our careers and money, and most of us have a strong urge to contribute to our family — which, after losing a job, feels impossible.

But stuff happens! Especially as a partner, it’s crucial to remember that your partner is human, too. They’re already feeling down on themselves and likely embarrassed. Just like two athletes on a team, you must be able to pick your teammate up when they’ve had a shitty game or don’t make the basket (or you know, something similar but less sporty).

 

Batch your advice

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that most women reading this have been accused of nagging. Guilty as charged! But I’ll let you in on a brilliant piece of advice I got from a friend during this jobless period: Batch your “advice” into rare occasions.

If you find a job posting that seems amazing and want your S.O. to check it out, simply save the link on your phone. Resist texting them every single job you come across. Even though it might not feel like nagging to you, it likely does to them (and it is). And you know what, they’re likely already looking at that same job — so you’re overkill at this point.

Instead, once a week, send an email to your loved one with jobs people have sent you or any leads you might personally have. Then, do your best to let them decide which jobs they apply to (imagine that!).

Same with talking about it. Learn from my mistake and DO NOT ask for an update every single night over dinner. Reminder: You’re not their mom, you’re their partner. Not only is that more nagging overkill, but it’s also bad for your relationship. Your S.O. is an adult, and likely pretty capable — they’ll find something. Let them tell you when they’ve applied to a gig (if they want!), and continue talking about other things that you did before the loss.

 

Treat them

Yes, you read that right!

Instead of being resentful and reminding your S.O. that they aren’t contributing financially, cut them some slack. Think about how you’d want to be treated. Even when bills are tight (been there!), think of a way to treat your significant other and raise their spirits.

Maybe it’s a massage (by you OR a trained professional), a beer at the local brewery, or even a little picnic in the park. Don’t spend money if you don’t have it, but get creative in showing your partner that you’re there for them. Job or no job, they still (likely) deserve a little love. It might be the supportive boost they needed right before a big interview, too!

 

Plan around your budget

If you’ll be the bread winner, or if neither of you will be working, it’s obviously important to budget. Even if your S.O. gets a job again soon, you’ll have a few weeks/months of limited income. Take that income, plus any crucial bills, and do some math — together — so that you’re both on the same page.

Since you don’t know how long this strict budget will last, save money on weekly bills like grocery shopping, and think about cutting costs like Netflix and your gym membership. You might even realize that you don’t need a lot of the auto-pilot services you’d been paying for — even after a job is found!

If money is really tight, as it was for us with the wedding approaching, consider moving back in with a set of parents for the time being. We did it (and survived!). Our San Francisco rent was something we didn’t want to be stressing about, especially if it took a while to find a job. So, we packed up and moved in with my parents for a few months. If you have this option, or can bring in a roommate to help cover costs, it’s one way to reduce major budget stress.

 

Give it time

Finding a job that suits someone well usually doesn’t happen overnight. Let your partner find something that makes them happy or is a good fit. I can guarantee that you’ll feel disappointed after they come home from an interview saying they didn’t like the role after all, but again, put yourself in their shoes.

It might take a little while longer, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to go through this again soon. Let them find a gig they’ll be happy at for a while — instead of forcing them into something because of your stress levels. They can always find a part-time job in the meantime if this is taking longer than you’re both comfortable with.

 

If you’ve been through this yourself, what helped your relationships survive? What did you learn from the experience? Any amazing budgeting tips? Let us know!

  • Well this is some kind of spooky timing – my partner is certain he’s going to lose his job by the end of the week and he’s been freaking out about it hardcore – the difference is I’m NOT stressed. I know I can carry us on my own earnings for a little while, but he’s been freaking out at me to help him find a new job (brush up his resume, write his cover letters, etc) and he’s incredibly picky about what he’s willing to do for work that it’s starting to put undue stress on me. I’m already dealing with a lot of hard stuff at my job, I literally don’t have the mental energy to coddle him through this….

    I don’t care if he’s out of a job for a bit, we can make that work, but I do care that he’s projecting all his insecurities and fear on me and making my life that much more difficult instead of just trusting me to help him out.

    • Kelly Brown

      Hi,
      Not sure about his circumstances but my company offered a 3 month employment coach service for free after I was laid-off. They made my resume look amazing. Maybe his former HR dept. can remind him of what perks he still has access to.

      • I wish – but his company doesn’t have an HR dept. and he’s pretty sure management is trying to get rid of him. Most people don’t canvass for more than a few months to a year so I think he’s wearing out his welcome and they’re trying to bring in fresh blood. Which is a really shitty thing to do….

  • Emilia

    This is a great piece! When I lost my job, my boyfriend insisted that I take at least one full day off to decompress. I remember that day very well – I made myself a big breakfast, then watched Spotlight and stayed in my pajamas all day! It felt so weird to be doing this on a Wednesday, but it helped me to feel less stressed about the whole situation.

    • Kelly Brown

      I’m going through a job loss and my dad suggested I allow mysekf days off. I was thinking, “What? No this is serious!” I was even laying in bed till 2am applying for jobs. It was wrecking havoc and more stress to not take a “me” day. I was setting unrealistic goals and felt guilty for laying on the couch and taking breaks. It’s so important to decompress during the job hunt process.

      • Emilia

        So sorry to hear you’re going through this, I know it can be such a difficult time. Good for you for taking some down time though, it’s an important part of the process!!

  • Kelly Brown

    Everything about this article is great! Avoid the nagging, constantly sending job postings, asking for updates etc..
    I think it’s also important to realize the roller coaster of emotions they will go through. There might be a “mourning” period, then a motivation period, then depression and no sleep (which equals irritability)
    What really helped me was when I said Out loud, “will you be mad or frustrated with me if I am laying in the couch when you come home, relaxing and taking a day off?” It was of course okay and understood. Most of us beat ourselves up more than anyone else can. What also helped me was reading articles about job searching, changing careers, and resume guides from LinkedIn. I even watched YouTube videos and TED Talls on how to present myself at a Career Fairs and nterviews. TED talks feature great motivational speakers as well. The person seeking employment can do other things than hit “apply” all day long to break up the monotony of filling out applications. I signed up for volunteer work too, which also looks good on a resume. My view is obviously from the other side “the job seeker.” My support system is great and I feel Like I’m learning things. I guess the purpose of my reply is to help you guide your S.O. when they feel they’ve exhausted all their resources. I even posted on FB “Hey I’m seeking a job as an “xyz” contact me if you have suggestions!” I recevied so many replies. It’s been 3 months, many interviews and I’m still working at it, my mentality has stayed strong due to my support system. Hope that helps in some way!