Unemployment doesn't just have a financial impact. According to the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, unemployment is associated with a host of chronic psychological and physical health problems such as depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems. Living with a boyfriend who is unemployed can, therefore, come with a host of ancillary problems that can significantly affect your relationship. While your boyfriend is considering his options while unemployed, providing emotional support can help both of you remain optimistic and motivated. Being the emotionally supportive partner also requires that you pay attention to your own emotional well-being.
Use an optimistic approach when providing emotional support. Things may seem difficult when your boyfriend is unemployed, but pointing that crystal-clear fact out to him probably won't be seen as encouraging. Instead, taking a positive approach can give both you and your boyfriend a buffer against depression, physical illness and problems coping with stress. Being optimistic isn't the same as being unrealistic. Instead, be realistic, but point out positive aspects of your lives and potentially positive outcomes to your situation such as moving to a larger metropolitan area.
Make a point of spending time with your boyfriend that isn't focused on his unemployment. Seeking a new job when you're unemployed can often feel like a full-time job without pay. It makes sense that after a full day of applications, resumes and phone calls, both you and your boyfriend could use some "normal" downtime. This can be accomplished without expense by cooking dinner together, watching a favorite television show or going for a long walk outside. When both of you start your day, let your boyfriend know that you have a plan to relax with him later in the day, giving him something he can keep in mind while working on finding a job.
Avoid "invading" your boyfriend's space during the day while he looks for a job. You can provide nonverbal support by giving your boyfriend respect and space as he works on creating a future. If you're employed, this is already accomplished by you being at your job as he searches for work. If, however, you have a lot of free time, consider finding an activity that can keep you busy and offers your boyfriend fewer distractions. Use this time to connect with your friends or family to continue to keep your emotions lifted.
Apply skills of active listening when communicating with your boyfriend. Active listening is a technique used by psychotherapists that can allow both parties to be heard and understood. According to the University of Colorado website in an article on active listening, the technique is accomplished by listening intently, clarifying what is being said and refraining from judgment. These steps help to facilitate trust and openness and can allow your boyfriend to feel more comfortable expressing his feelings about his unemployment or about other relevant topics. It's important not to attempt to provide your boyfriend with a solution when utilizing active listening. Instead, provide an objective listening ear.
- American Psychological Association: Psychological Effects of Unemployment and Underemployment
- University Health Services Tang Center at Berkley: Coping with the Stress of Layoff and Unemployment
- Mayo Clinic: Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress By Eliminating Negative Self-Talk
- Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues: Impact of Unemployment
- University of Colorado Boulder: Active Listening
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.
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