I've started to get a lot of emails from people whose spouses have lost their jobs in today's economy. Often, this eventually puts a huge strain on the marriage even if the couple had a very strong relationship before the job loss. Even when the spouse who is still working is quite supportive, sometimes the nonworking spouse becomes extremely sensitive as they struggle with new self-esteem issues that come out of blue. Depression can even become a factor.

I recently heard from a wife who said in part: "Eight months ago, my husband lost his job. Over time, this has put a huge strain on our marriage. Things are awful for us financially and I'm afraid that eventually, we are going to lose our house. I know this has been hard on my husband. I know that he had tried to find work. But sometimes, I come home and find him playing on the computer or watching TV. The dinner isn't made. The laundry isn't done. It's a huge strain on me to be the sole breadwinner. He could help out more than he does. He's also become short-tempered with our kids and pretty much ignores me. I don't want to make a big situation worse by taking my kids away from their father, but I'm pretty much flying solo anyway and it's the same thing day after day. Sometimes, a fresh start seems very appealing to me."

Comments like this are so common. Even if the working spouse's dissatisfaction doesn't reach the level of this wife's (where one person is thinking about a separation or divorce) even very good marriages can feel the strain because worry and fear can bring out negative behaviors and deep down resentments. In the following article, I will offer some tips for this wife and for other families in this situation.

Statistics About How Job Loss Affects Marriages: You Are Not Alone: As of this writing, the jobless rate for both men and women is approaching the double digits and is hovering at almost nine percent. (It's 8.7 percent for men.) Very few people can say that they don't know anyone who is out of work. And with companies implementing hiring freezes or laying off, it's very difficult to find a position that compares in status and pay to the one that was lost. This is true even for the most aggressive job hunters.

Also, there are statistics that show a correlation with the hours a person works in comparison with their spouse and their level of satisfaction with their marriage. I found a very interesting study which indicated that men who work less hours than their wives (meaning they are underemployed or unemployed) are over sixty percent less likely to report being very happy in their marriage.

This corresponds with what I'm seeing and hearing from folks. It appears to me that couples who are struggling with one spouse's unemployment are less likely to be very satisfied with their marriages. Interestingly though, divorce statistics show that divorce rates are slightly down. I suspect this is because people understand the financial hit a divorce can cause. So some feel that it makes more sense to try to save or maintain the marriage.

Understand That A Spouse Who Loses Their Job Also Takes A Hit In Terms Of Self Worth And Identity: The wife in this situation stressed that she truly did feel bad for her husband. She knew that he was struggling. But many of us don't understand just how multifaceted a job loss can be and how personally devastating it can be for the person who lost their job. I sometimes hear from the spouse who is now unemployed and they share how devastated they truly are.

Men, in particular, feel that they have let down their family in a huge way. They feel as though they are failures as a provider and they fear that their wife will see them as less than a man. I often hear comments like: "I used to be a manager. Now, I'm a nobody. I used to be the guy who could make sure my family had what they needed and some left over for a little fun too. Now, I have to tell my kids no to the extras and I have to see my wife look at me with disappointment. It's devastating and it makes me feel awful."

Needless to say, this sort of situation often puts the nonworking spouse on the defensive and, combined with the internal struggles he's likely having, this can lead to a situation in which there is a danger for misinterpretation and taking things in the wrong way.

Set Up Regular Times To Communicate So That You Aren't Misunderstanding Each Other: In this particular situation, I determined that the wife was assuming that the husband wasn't trying hard enough to find work and the husband was assuming that the wife felt that this whole thing was his fault even though everyone in his entire department was laid off and he spent hours a day looking for a job.

It's important that you set up a regular time (once a week perhaps) to sit down and go over the status of things. The husband might update the wife on how the job search is going and the wife might update the husband on what he could do around the house to help her balance her responsibilities.

Because as it stood now, every single day, the wife was coming home and saying "did you find anything?" and the husband was forced to tell her he still hadn't found a job and look at her face showing disappointment. Her pressuring him wasn't going to make him find a job any more quickly and it made him feel quite defensive and negatively toward her which made the whole situation worse.

Likewise, the wife only felt more pressure every day as she came home exhausted from her job and then had to face the fact that her situation wasn't improving and she had more work to do on the night shift like helping the kids with their homework and straightening up.

Look For Ways To Support Your Spouse So He Or She Understands That You Know What They Are Going Through: Do you know what I find most sad about this situation? It's so ironic that the people who we love the most and who should be our major system of support are usually the ones we turn on first simply because they are convenient they are there. I did this in my own life even though I did not realize it at the time. (And it led to a nasty separation, which I eventually turned around. You can read that story here.)

Most people are guilty of this even when they don't mean it. But if you think about it, in this situation, these spouses could provide a great deal of support and comfort to each other. But instead, they were actually a source of negative emotions. By setting it up this way, they were taking away a huge support system.

It can really help if both spouses make a firm commitment to help each other out. The husband would likely find the wife much more supportive if she would come home to dinner on the table and a reasonably straightened house (so that he was at least picking up after himself.)

And the husband likely wouldn't have to deal as much with the wife's "nagging" if he would roll up his sleeves and help out when he saw the opportunity. It would also help if, as I said, he would update her regularly on the job search without her needing to ask.

In this way, they could place their focus on other things like trying to bring a little fun and enjoyment into their lives. Yes, he was unemployed. But he still had his health and his family. I know money was tight. But taking a walk with your family is free. Throwing the Frisbee with your kids is free. Checking movies you can watch as family out of the library is free. Holding your spouse's hand or rubbing their back in support doesn't cost you a thing and will likely pay out with things that money just can't buy.

Although I didn't see it coming, my marriage almost ended after my husband and I faced a time of crisis. Unfortunately, I did not understand these principals at the time and not only took my husband for granted, but lashed out at him far too much. This almost cost me my marriage. Thankfully, one day I woke up and with a lot of work and laying a new foundation, I was able to save my marriage. You can read that story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/.

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