You married for richer or for poorer, but if it seems like the “for poorer” part is lasting longer than you thought it would, you’re not alone. The recession has forced many families to regroup economically and both partners cutting back on expenses or living off savings. If your husband is unemployed and you need to communicate with him about getting a job, approach him as a partner and invite him to tackle the issue together.
Validate His Efforts
Men in our culture often tie their self-worth and self-image to their work, so it can be especially hard for your husband if he’s recently unemployed. As unemployment drags on, he may have become depressed, because the change feels permanent rather than temporary, says psychologist Maggie Baker in "Marriage Maintenance When Money is Tight". Commit to doing some cheerleading by finding ways to validate his help at home or his effort in the job search instead of pointing out flaws. If you’re asking him to take a short-term lower-paying job to help out with money, express your pride in his wonderful work ethic and willingness to make sacrifices for his family, suggests couples mediator Laurie Puhn.
Share Financial Information
Resentment issues surface when one partner controls the money, especially if the woman is the sole breadwinner in the family, according to sources for the New York Magazine article “Alpha Women, Beta Men”. A study done by the Center for Research on Families at the University of Washington found that as a woman’s earnings increase, her role in housework increases as well, so that the division of labor is not nearly as even as it is when both partners work outside of the home. Talk honestly with your husband about the state of your finances and your division of labor in the household, with the goal that you two can make it even. Tell him that the family needs him to work to cover the bills. He will have more incentive to get a job if he sees how you’re doing financially.
Mirroring is a communication strategy suggested by therapist and money coach Olivia Mellan. You each take turns being the talker and the listener. First, you each say something you appreciate about the other. Then, Partner 1 brings up a concern, such as “I’m anxious about money because you're not bringing in any income right now.” Partner 2 validates the concern, saying “It’s reasonable that you’re concerned about money because I’m going through unemployment.” Partner 2 should then try to empathize with Partner 1, and then you switch. This structured method of communication could make it easier for you to tell him that the family needs him to get a job.
Focus on Relationship
Even though you and your husband are having money problems, don’t lose sight of the romance in your relationship. Too many married couples with a high-earning wife and low-earning husband are getting mired in resentment and anger. Instead of bottling up resentment, communicate honestly with your husband and then make plans to go on a cheap date, like a picnic in the park while a family member watches the kids. It will be easier for him to accept your request if you can show him that you still care about him.
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Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.