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Tips for surviving unemployment when it hits your family

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Yes, it's stressful and scary, but changing your attitude makes the difference.

“I promise to be faithful in good times and bad …” This is a promise of love that spouses make on their wedding day, and it’s hard to really grasp its significance until we go through tough times.

Both of us said “in good times and bad,” and when our spouse suddenly ends up jobless, the rubber hits the road. Is it hard? Sure! But it’s also possible to follow through on that promise. It’s a matter of choosing to love, even though we feel full of disappointment and uncertainty. We need a lot of willpower, a good change of attitude, and trust to walk through this time with hope, positive spirit, and — if you are a believer — God’s grace.

But what happens when that economic security is affected by the spouse’s job loss and the family income is threatened?

To start, we need to show our mettle and have total empathy for the person with whom we’re sharing our life. Because if you’re having a hard time, just imagine how your spouse feels. There are two things that are an Achilles heel, particularly for men: the first is getting divorced and losing their home; the second is failure at their job.

If your spouse goes through a situation that is already painful in itself and meets up with reproaches and demands at home, he will feel like a total failure. Things will get worse, and what started out as a job and financial crisis will become a much deeper personal crisis.

In a home, these experiences — losing a job or a financial crisis — can become an opportunity to learn from all their hidden lessons. One of them is to see if our love is founded on sand or solid rock. And, if you are believers, you will realize who is at the center of your marriage: the God to whom you promised fidelity even in the darkest moments… or other gods like money.

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Below are some suggestions to help get you through those tough times of unemployment.

  • Be the staff, the support your husband needs. If you feel uncertainty and anxiety, believe me that he feels overwhelmed inside. Insofar as you are able, try to forget your own suffering for a while and focus on his. I can assure you that the only thing he needs is your love and unconditional support.
  • Positive attitude. Go from uncertainty to certainty. Do what you need to do to bring joy back to your heart — to your home — and help him to be more at peace. Encourage him, since you are one of his greatest motivations to keep on trying. If he likes chocolate cake, make it for him as a surprise and organize a romantic dinner — within your budget, of course. These small gestures are just a way of showing him that no matter what circumstances he’s going through, he is still your priority in life and you will always do whatever you can to make him happy and get a smile out of him.
  • Tell her again how much you love her, and above all, assure her that you love her for who she is and not for the income she brings home. Let her know that your love is unconditional. Constantly give her words of love and motivation, phrases that will help her get out of that slump she’s in. Tell him how much you admire him and that no matter what happens, you trust in him and in his ability to provide for his family.
  • Always remember that the “bad” thing is the moment. Never, ever, in any circumstances offend him by telling him he’s a failure, mediocre, or anything of the sort. Instead of motivating him, those words could become a detonator for bad decisions. Instead, repeat to him that this is just a change and that you will get through it together because your love is solid enough to handle this and more. Respect must never be lacking in your relationship.
  • Let him vent. “They say men shouldn’t cry…” What bunk! Unfortunately, most men were raised to keep their emotions to themselves — repressing them — and that’s extremely dangerous, because all the feelings they stuff down can become a time bomb that explodes later in sicknesses or heart attacks. Help him recognize what he feels and how he feels. Help him put a name to each emotion, to each feeling he’s carrying. Help him find ways to let out his feelings, whether it’s by crying or shouting in some safe place, or by going to the gym and hitting a punching bag, or by talking it out. If your spouse is giving himself permission to feel, let him do it. You just stay by his side without touching him, without embracing him until he asks it of you. Let him get it all out.
  • Try to support him by economizing. What else can you do to stretch the family resources a bit more? If you are able, try to pick up some work to contribute to the family.
  • Have a meeting with your children (if they are old enough) and explain the situation. Talk to them clearly about what is happening. Tell them that you will all need to restructure your family finances, but the most important thing is not the austerity that you’ll have to live, but the effort to show total empathy, love, and respect for their parent who has lost his or her job. After all, he or she is the one who most needs the family’s support.

When tough times come, remember how easily you loved your spouse when there was plenty of money. Things may have changed somewhat, but keep loving. Your spouse hasn’t changed; what has changed are the circumstances. Trust that you’ll get through it … together.

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.

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