Coping with an unemployed husband
Other than death and divorce, we know of no other stress-inducing event in the life of a grown man that’s as shocking to his system as abruptly removing his ability to provide.
The increased need for support and compassion was explained to us by one unemployed husband, who said, “One of the things you feel when you’re unemployed is you’re hypersensitive to whatever translates to disrespect in your books much more because you’re feeling like you are unappreciated and unwanted.
“You’re not respected because clearly, nobody wants you in the job market.”
It has actually become a norm in our country to find grown and able men hanging around the house, not by choice, while the wife is out there trying to win some bread.
With the country’s high unemployment rate, as well as our justified policies of redress such as affirmative action and black economic empowerment, it’s become a major challenge for a man to be economically active when he has lost his means of income for whatever reason.
Whether it’s looking for a job or small business contract, men legally have to get behind women in the queue.
We also can’t put to words the emotional cost the wife often has to pay to cope with such a man, especially when she has to shoulder all the household responsibilities, the children and still be the “wife” to him.Many men can’t fully express their feelings.The unemployed husband often suffers in silence.The effects however, of his inability to provide are often evidenced by low self-confidence, guilt, frustration, being overwhelmed, fear, self-doubt and depression.He often feels he’s a social outcast, and will easily isolate himself and withdraw from his friends, and especially his wife’s extended family.He may typically resort to infidelity, hypersensitivity, short temper, substance abuse, anger and violence as a way of trying to reassert his threatened masculinity.Things can get even worse if he feels he doesn’t get the support he desperately needs from his wife, or if she shows signs of disdain for him.As his wife, you have to be firm in communicating the counter-productivity of all these behaviours.At some point, he has to snap out of it if he isn’t prepared to lose you.And depending on the severity of the hurt he may already be causing, you may well have to take a breather from his company.Despite the pain of job loss, he has to be reminded there are consequences to behaving irresponsibly.Habitual cheating and taking his frustration out on powerless children is intolerable.You have both a legal, as well as moral obligation, to protect the children from such behaviours.Here are things to consider:Unity is powerNo strategy can beat you forming a strong alliance in a show of unity during this trying season in your marriage.You have to sit down as a team and strategise not only the job hunt, but ways you can minimise conflicts that come with this season.Approaching conflict as a team with an attitude of unity is the best way to deflate any tension.Lovingly let each other know without ceasing that you are on the same team.Keep big picture in mindWhat did you mean when you vowed, “for better or worse”? As a wife, are you able to respect your husband beyond his inability to provide?Do you appreciate the unemployment situation as temporary in the backdrop of the permanence of your marriage?Be each other’s studentsGive each other space to try communicating one another’s true feelings, frustrations, fears and threats without thinking your spouse is attacking you.Allow each other the right to express yourselves in a manner that will help the other heal or cope better.Give him his placeEncourage him to be the man he’s always been before the income loss.If the kids, for instance, know to approach him for stuff they need, let them still get the money from him.Remember, the income to the family belongs to both of you – not just you. This requires a massive deal of maturity and solid grounding in faith for both of you.Space for recreationHaving adjusted your lifestyle, always leave room for recreational activities, no matter how inexpensive. Insist on scheduling some time alone and or with your friends.Also plan times where you agree to focus only on having fun. And please, do keep your sex life alive.Appreciate the simplicityYou have the option of noticing and appreciating that, in the middle of it all, there may well be some positives.For instance, you may not be able to afford a day care anymore, but dad may be surprised to discover he really enjoys being home with the kids.Now he gets to know them, and they get to know him, in ways that wouldn’t have happened without his unemployment.A committed husband, while job-searching, will always challenge himself to think creatively around cost-effective ways to appreciate the moment in his marriage.Being too focused on the negative adds more stress to the relationship.