How to Support Your Husband Through a Season of Unemployment

by Jimmie

If your husband has been laid off and is still looking for work, there are specific things you can do to encourage him and protect your marriage through this stressful time.

The economic recession has resulted in record high unemployment numbers. If your husband has been hit with an unexpected layoff, there are things you can do to make the situation better for him.

Money consistently ranks high among issues in marital strife, so being unemployed has the potential to cause great harm in your relationship. Be proactive to fight off that tendency.

Has Your Husband Ever Been Unemployed?

Helping Your Man Through a Tough Season

Unemployment Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Marriage
Confident Man
Confident Man

Things to DO

Make a plan together.

Be realistic about your financial situation. Sit down together and evaluate what needs to change so that the necessary bills can be paid. Cut out the extras. Talk this out thoroughly so that both of you are in agreement about your plan for facing this season of unemployment.

Be committed.

Yes, times are hard, but times will get better. Assure your husband that you married him "for richer & for poorer, for better & for worse." This rough time will not destroy your relationship. 

Do be affectionate to your husband during this time.

Feelings of failure in work do huge damage to a man's self-esteem. One way you can build that up is through physical intimacy. Even when you are worried about paying the bills, make time for physical closeness. This makes a man feel valuable. He needs that confidence when he goes into a job interview. And you can give it to him!

Look for the positive.

A serious hardship like unemployement can actually serve to bring you closer if you become allies rather than enemies. Remember that your husband is not the enemy. You are fighting together on the same team. 

Remember that time is an asset.

When your husband was working, you probably had less time with him. Now you have more. Although money is tight, revel in the extra time that your husband is around to interact with you and the children.

Encourage Time of Reflection and Relaxation

Man Relaxing in the Grass
Man Relaxing in the Grass

Things NOT to Do

These actions are not supportive. Instead they will cause your husband to feel attacked.

DO NOT Question him repeatedly about following up on job interviews and applications.

Ask once, and let it go. When you do ask, do it in an upbeat tone as if you expect a positive answer. If the news is less than stellar, simply change the topic to something more uplifting, especially something that your husband can control and succeed at.

DO NOT Nag about work around the house.

You may think that since he's not working he can become a house husband, taking up the cooking, dishes, and cleaning. Remember that job hunting is hard work, and he needs time to spend looking for work, making calls, filling out applications, and browsing job listings. He may be facing some depression. Give him time to decompress from his previous job. He may even need some time to grieve if the lay off was terribly painful or personal. Write a "honey-do" list and leave it where he can see it. Nagging is counterproductive.

DO NOT Become a miser.

Obviously you will want to become more frugal, putting the brakes on needless spending. But everyone needs a treat occasionally whether he is working or not. Imagine how painful it would be if you normally stop to get icecream on Saturday night but this week you say, "Well, since you're not working, I think we shouldn't get ice cream." Ouch! That's painful. Instead, suggest a trip by the grocery store to buy more affordable ice cream by the gallon and make homemade sundaes at home.

Updated: 02/21/2012, Jimmie
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What Tips Do You Have For Unemployed Husbands?

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Sam on 02/20/2012

Good article, but you missed one point imho, the one of having - as a woman - your own income and business. That way, if unemployment / hardship strikes either of you things are so much easier to balance out!

katiem2 on 11/06/2011

There's a lot of this going around as I hear from more and more of my gal pals that their hubbies have lost their jobs. This is a hard issue to address, even for the wife of a recently unemployed man. Your article is very helpful. Thank you for the much needed resource. I'll save this as i can think of many women i will reference this to for help with their jobless spouses. :) Katie

emmalarkins on 11/03/2011

Succinct and useful. Unemployment is never easy, and it's good to find a workable solution instead of just sticking your head in the sand!

evelynsaenz on 10/30/2011

Wonderful advice as usual, Jimmie. Having a husband out of work is very stressful on the whole family. Focusing on your commitment to each other and talking things out is excellent advice.

TilenHrovatic on 10/25/2011

really cool and well written article!

marciag on 10/23/2011

Well right now I am unemployed (I like to say I'm self-employed, but my earnings don't really reflect that sadly), and I know it's tough. Your tips are spot on!

TerriRexson on 10/22/2011

This happened to my Mom, well not her husband, her partner. She made sure to take any opportunity for work that she could. He worked his contacts until he got a new job.

If this happened to my partner, I'd get myself back to full-time employment if we needed the money. He'd just take contract work though.

WordCustard on 10/22/2011

Having an unemployed husband can be very tough on both of you, and also unsettling as you have to adjust to a different pace of life, being around each other more, and a smaller budget. You raise some excellent points on how to make this easier for him and ultimately for you too.

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