Loving the Unemployed Man….

It starts out so easy. You meet, you date, you fall in love. You stay in love and so you decide to move in together (with or without marriage).

Maybe for awhile it’s a bumpy ride but you work out the kinks and it becomes relatively smooth sailing. You copulate regularly, you divide chores, you co-pay bills. Life moves forward and all is bliss until the day your man comes home with a pink slip, a box of personal effects, and a hangdog look on his face. You are now in a relationship with an unemployed man and the bottom’s about to fall out of your life.

If you’re lucky, it’s just a temporary blip. Maybe your man has a lot of prospects. Maybe he goes into business for himself and is instantly and wildly successful. Maybe he has a special skill set of which there’s a shortage and he is snapped up quicker than you can say employment insurance. If that’s the case, count your blessings—  you’ve survived unscathed.

If you’re unlucky, your man’s foray into unemployment will be lengthy and it will wreak havoc on your relationship. If your man,  as so many men do, defines himself by his ability to provide for his woman, each day that goes by in which he is not able to do so erodes his ego further. With each bill you pay alone, each job he applies for and doesn’t get, he feels a little bit smaller and a little less powerful. And the smaller he begins to feel the more unruly he will become.

There is no more precarious a position for a woman to be in than to have circumstances make her the breadwinner of her household.  You’re caught between the rock of trying to keep your family afloat by yourself and the hard place of doing so without further damaging your man’s already-bruised ego.  You decide you’re going have to start tightening your collective belt and ask him to help you find ways to cut back, but he’s not interested. But when you downgrade from sexy to basic cable, you’re accused of trying to run him. You cancel your cleaning lady because you figure he’s home and can help out with the chores? You’re emasculating him. You leave him be and do everything yourself? You’re trying to make him look bad.

At some point during your man’s unemployment he’s going to get dejected. He’ll be discouraged by resumes sent out and not responded to, insulted by offers of junior positions whose duties are tasks he once had his assistant do. You feel for him, you really do, so you try to soothe him with soft words and impassioned speeches  about how this is only temporary, he will find his way, everything happens for a reason. But all your gentle encouragement is met with is brusque responses and aggravation.

After one too many attempts to encourage someone who clearly doesn’t want to be encouraged, you come to the end of your rope. So the next time you come home and find him sitting on the couch with his hand in his pants Al Bundy-style talking about it was too cold to look for work today, you lose your patience. You raise your voice. You remind him of bills that are going unpaid and credit scores dropping faster than a whore’s panties. You lay into him, hoping that this reality check will galvanize him into action. But your  impassioned pleas that he try something different or reevaluate his strategy are only met with his anger at you for not believing in him, his disappointment at your lack of faith, his frustration with your suggestion that he compromise his standards.

At this point, you’re out of ideas. You’ve tried everything you can to be supportive and encouraging and to make him feel like he’s still the head of the house even though you both know that (s)he who holds the purse strings holds the reins. So you give up. You stop talking. You find excuses to be out of the house more. When you come home you eye the unwashed dishes, the mounds of dirty laundry, sigh as you start the dinner that he should have had waiting on the table for you. But you don’t say anything because these days the slightest thing can ignite the powder keg of his frustration and you don’t have the energy to argue anymore. So you sigh loudly and flop onto your side of the bed as he sighs loudly and flops onto his, the weight of his unemployment wedged firmly between you.

Unlike my usual posts, I have no declarations to make on this subject. This won’t be one of my badly-numbered guides to successfully surviving your man’s unemployment. A friend of mine recently asked me for tips on how to deal with her unemployed husband. “What should I do, Cam?” she asked me. “Girl I don’t know,” I told her. “Just put your head down and get through it I guess.”

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3 responses to “Loving the Unemployed Man….

  1. Nicely written. I found my reading getting interrupted by scenes from the movie Disappearing Acts.

    The pressure is felt moreso when you live together as opposed to apart. So for the obvious reasons, live apart (unless you are married). That way you (his woman) aren’t there to see his “melts down”. Also, if you dont live together he has no cushion to “fall back on” so to speak. He has to get his hustle on the best way he can, i.e., borrowing from friends, parents, selling DVDs and pocketbooks @ flea markets, whatever. Because he has to maintain his lifestyle. If he is a corporate dude, unemployment kicks in and he scratches by on that til something comes in. Because he is in a relationship but is living single. Therefore his drive doesn’t wane as fast.

    Now, if you are married and are living together that makes it a bit more tricky. For some, knowing that someone else in there to “catch” them when they fall, makes them get up SLOWER.

    Case in point: the situation above. At first the drive to find another gig was alive and thriving. After failed attempts, the man gets despondent. But since the LIGHTS ARE NOT GETTING CUT OFF, he continues to ride the couch. Since his HAIR IS STILL GETTING CUT, meals are still getting prepared and basic tv is still on, he is good. He might FEEL bad but he is still good.

    If he was living ALONE, the chances of him asking his woman for rent money or even $20 for a haircut is HIGHLY UNLIKELY!!! He will ask his homie to move in to help out and will all of a sudden become a master barber @ his bathroom sink.

    Now if you live together and can’t go backwards and separate, I think the solution (esp for relationships being formed in this flaky economy) is to discuss the what ifs before hand and to have a plan, preferably a plan in which the man originates. Survival Plan: stack 3 months of living expenses in an account not to be touched, prepare what we are telling friends, have alternative inexpensive date nights and trips planned, have the recruiter’s number on speed dial, etc.

    These days, you have to plan ahead for these types of things because being in a dysfunctional r’ship is for the birds (like the dead ones that dropped from the sky)What’s the #1 reason couples split/divorce? Say it with me: FINANCES

  2. I think that a man’s unemployment is not a glimpse into the end of the realtionship if both people feel valued. I completely relate to this because I have been in this situation twice! How this happened is character flaw within myself. Many of us have been unemployed at one time or another, but there are long term characteristics that go along with consistent unemployment. If your man can’t keep a job because he’s late or irresponsible all of those signs were red flags at the beggining stages of your relationship. All of the things that you shrugged off are now coming to fruition on your couch when you get home from work. Its not about the hustle, its about the stability if your man is trying to start his own business and things are hard for him in the beggining and now its the middle, there will still be that feeling of unappreciation because in this situation you are still forced to be the stable person in the relationship. You become the dependable check and that is hard on a man or woman. I say, think about who he is as a man before you give him the boot, but remember that you put it on, walked around in it and put in your closet knowing damn well it didn’t fit.

  3. Most men define themselves by their career…but the friends I’ve seen go through hard times with an unemployed man typically find that he never had much ambition or follow through to begin with. Sometimes they ended up meeting when he was doing well, but then a rough patch hits and you see the real skills and drive a person has. There’s nothing more unattractive than a man that’s not working and has NO drive to get a job… no drive to do anything!! I believe that men should be working… I also think women should work.. but a man needs a job, a skill, a career, a passion… something

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