The recession is particularly tough for moms whose spouses lost their jobs.
Our Moms and the Recession survey found that:
• 50% feel they work harder than their partner to improve the situation;
• Less than 50% say their laid-off hubby is helping out more even though he's home more;
• 46% fight more;
• 44% have less sex;
• 30% feel less attracted to their spouse.
Psychotherapist and mom of two Jill Spivack: When your spouse loses his job, it can be very difficult on your relationship. When you are habituated to a certain flow in your family, any change in that family system throws the entire system off. It's as if a bomb goes off in the family. The identity of "who we are" changes, and fears bring out the worst in everyone. This is very disconcerting for both partners.
For men: They are biologically set up to "hunt and gather." Even for the most progressive men, losing a job can often trigger a huge amount of shame because they feel as if they're not able to fulfill their duties as a man. Oftentimes, men will retreat inward and won't talk about their feelings with their spouse for fear of being humiliated.
For women: Reactions vary, depending on whether or not the woman is also working outside of the home, but often, women feel more resentful of their spouses, feel less attracted to them, lose respect for them, or worry terribly about their spouse's psyche.
Like it or not, some moms lose respect and resent their spouse for the job loss even when being laid off was not his fault. This can happen because of the provider role that the woman has come to expect from her husband, and her fears about the ramifications of things changing so drastically. Some women were conditioned to expect to be taken care of by a man, based on the role that their own fathers played in their lives, or the stories they were told about how things "should be" from a very young age. When this role isn't fulfilled by her mate, it can affect a woman's ideas about her husband's stability, ability to care for her and the children, and even her sexual attraction toward him.
Women, biologically, want to nest to some degree, and a family often functions when the male takes on the primary role of providing financially while the woman takes on the primary duties of the children. Sounds old-fashioned, but even when women work, the need to nest and take care of the children is there. Women can become angry when a spouse is at home after losing a job and won't offer to help with the house or the kids. Know that he isn't just being "lazy" -- asking a man who has lost his primary role to do traditionally female chores/caretaking of kids can feel even more emasculating -- they are feeling shame, guilt, anger, anxiety over unemployment, and sometimes, when they're pulled into the "female role," it can send them further into depression.
If feelings/reactions/stressors aren't processed, it can be a recipe for a future divorce. Couples often fight more, kids get clingy and scared, and everyone walks on eggshells around the newly laid-off parent. It can be quite a change to have your husband at home all day when he hasn't normally been around. It can even feel irritating to some women who have a good flow to their day when a spouse suddenly wants to use the computer or asks for lunch to be made.
How to Help
1) Communicate: Couples need to communicate with each other and help each person individually to deal with whatever is going on for them ... women need to vent their fear/frustration elsewhere as well, so they can offer positive support to their spouses and to cheerlead rather than nag. Reaching out to other female friends or a professional can be very helpful in keeping reactions under control.
2) Take care of yourself so you can stay strong for your spouse. It takes a strong and healthy person to support a spouse who is hurting. Relax, exercise, hang out with friends and family to gain your own strength. Turn to friends and family for outside support. The unemployed person may not be able to handle any more dumping ... journal if you have to, to get your feelings out -- privately.
3) Try to remember why you married your husband. What else besides his financial situation attracted you to him? Is he funny, a great dad, fantastic in bed? Write these things down and look at them frequently. If you feel like he's losing his masculinity in your eyes, ask him to do some chivalrous acts like opening the door of the car for you, lifting heavy groceries ... give him opportunities to show his manliness in other ways for now.
4) Work out together. Exercise can make you feel less depressed and anxious and can be a fun activity to share.
5) Tend to the spiritual and emotional health of your family during the job hunt.
6) Agree on a budget as soon as you can and differentiate wants versus needs in the household. Make a family agreement.
7) Find creative ways to pare down the budget as a family. This is a good time to organize photo albums, watch old family videos, make forts out of boxes, camp out in your backyard, or go on a road trip.
8) Make an appreciation box and pick one night of the week to share with each other. Each week, write something you appreciate about your spouse on a piece of paper and drop it into a shoe box. On a specific night, read these appreciation notes to one another. This helps to remind you of what you love about each other and encourages supportive behavior.
Did your husband lose his job recently? What are your survival strategies?
|Jill Spivack, MSW, author of "The Sleepeasy Solution" and co-founder of Sleepy Planet Inc., is a psychotherapist and mother of two.|
• Recession Survival Guide: Your Marriage
• Recession Survival Guide: Your Kids
• Recession Survival Guide: Your Quality of Life