At this point, we’ve all felt the effects of the recession. If you’re not one of the 14.8 million unemployed Americans, you at least know someone who is—and maybe you’re even romantically involved or live with that person. What to do if a partner loses his job? Read on for a significant other’s recession-survival guide.
What’s Mine Is Yours, Kinda
Yes, you want to support your partner during what is undoubtedly an emotionally fraught time, but your first priority has to be protecting your shared assets. And since he’s probably not thinking so clearly at the moment, this task unfortunately falls to you. Laura Lewis, author of Laid Off Now What?!? (The Recession Edition), provides a to-do list for handling the pink-slip aftermath.
First, your partner needs to get all the details of his severance package in writing. In particular, you want to know whether you are entitled to a COBRA health insurance plan. This will save you a lot of money and protect you—if you and he are married and you are a beneficiary of his plan—if you encounter any emergencies while your significant other is out of work.
Then he needs to hoof it to your state unemployment office (or Web site) and file immediately. Requirements vary from state to state, but he won’t be able to start collecting until he files an initial claim.
While he’s doing that, cancel all your automatic payments on joint accounts. You need to prioritize your spending, and you just may not be able to pay everything on time for the next few months. Besides, you don’t want any surprises when you look at your bank statements.
Once you’ve accomplished these tasks, sit down together and come up with an austerity budget for the period during which your partner will be out of work. Prioritize necessities (rent, food, utilities, etc.), determine what you can put off for the time being (bills that don’t have to be paid right now; maintenance projects that can wait a little longer), and cut out waste (new clothes you don’t need; trips that will have to wait until next year). Then make copies of this budget, post it all over your home, and stick to it.
The Recession Depression
This is what life is like when you have a job and your spouse or boyfriend doesn’t: You wake up every morning, take a shower, and head to work. He sits around all day in his underwear, eating Corn Pops, watching SpongeBob, and feeling sorry for himself. When you come home, tired and stressed out from your day, you resent him for getting to lie around doing nothing, and he feels guilty and emasculated.
It’s really a second honeymoon.
Prepare yourself for the above scenario. Encourage your guy to be proactive in his job search, but don’t push him too much, as you don’t want to send the message that you think he’s just lazy. A grieving process follows losing a job, just as there does in any loss, and your partner may need some time to think about things before moving forward.
The best way to strike a balance between being encouraging and being pushy is to remind your partner of all his best qualities that will help him find a new job. Any time he starts to get down on himself or has door after door slammed in his face, say something like, “Honey, I know the job market is tough right now, but I think your ability to lead a group really sets you apart.” (You should use whatever quality is most appropriate to your guy.) Including specific examples, like accomplishments from his previous jobs, or your shared experiences, makes this approach even more effective in boosting his self-esteem.
Also be prepared for the feelings of depression, worthlessness, and confusion that come with being laid off. He’ll be really prickly to be around, and you may not be able to help him past a certain point. If you find this is the case, suggest he see a therapist. You can contact your local hospital for help finding a mental-health specialist who will work with your insurance plan (or lack of one).
Stand by Your Man
These are hard times, but you and your partner can get through it with plenty of patience and perseverance on both sides. Make sure you have your financial ducks in a row, then support your man both emotionally and otherwise as he goes about searching for a new job. And don’t forget the big celebration when he comes home to tell you that he’ll finally be bringing home a paycheck again.