Dear spouse (or chief supporter) of a job seeker:
Through my work as the Executive Director of the Job Seekers Network (JSN) and other job clubs over the last 20 years, I have seen and heard many different reactions to a person's unemployment. Unemployment can hit at the core of a person's confidence, self-worth, emotions and faith. Job seekers may wonder if God is against them or if they are forgotten. Some adjust to their new reality fairly smoothly, viewing it as a temporary problem to be solved and a time for refocus. But some of the unemployed suffer from depression, anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. And those emotions and thoughts may be true of you as well.
As the wife or husband of someone who's unemployed, you may be wondering what your job is. You may feel that your vow of "for better or for worse" is being put to an especially difficult test. Coping with the emotional and financial strains of having an unemployed mate is stressful. Yet at the same time, your spouse very much needs your support.
Research shows that a spouse's attitude toward job hunting strongly influences the mental state of their unemployed mate. Fortunately, there are guides to help you cope during this often-difficult time. First, be aware that there is nothing immoral, malicious or negligent about being unemployed. God is not trying to punish you. It's unlikely that your spouse chose to lose their job. They didn't control the market conditions that affected downsizing. Millions of people are in the same boat. That doesn't mean the boat is sinking! It only means that our economy goes through ups and downs.
As a general rule of thumb, the job search takes about one month for every $10,000 of salary sought. In a weak economy, it can take longer. The search will also likely be prolonged if your spouse is making a career or industry change. Don't be discouraged if this is the case. Many job seekers have told me that they consider losing their job an unexpected blessing because it allowed them to consider how God made them and to make a transition to work that better fits them.
My role as the leader of JSN is to provide encouragement, support and best in class job search advice to job seekers and to offer guidance on their journey. We seek to offer HOPE and HELP to Job Seekers at each step in their job search. You can get a better understanding of what our organization does by checking out our website: www.job-seekers-network.org. It has everything from what to expect from our Monday morning meetings to Helpful Resources. Our prayer is also that you and your spouse will eventually look back and say you are grateful for this time of unemployment because you grew closer to God as a couple and family, you all refocused on the most important things in life, and your spouse possibly began a new position that better aligns with their interests, skills and gifting.
Now let's get practical. Without a doubt you are facing a tough time. Pray for the energy, compassion, patience and insight to get you through this challenging season. And remember: like all of the seasons that make up a life, this too shall pass. But while it's here, we wanted to share some positive, common-sense approaches to supporting your spouse, yourself and your family. The suggestions below were adapted from "The Astonishing Wife: Encouragement for Women Whose Husbands are in Job Transition" written by a woman going though her husband's unemployment.
- Cover All Things in Prayer
- Pray for your spouse. Pray for patience, for courage and for God's will. Ask the job seeker how you can pray for them - this will open up their hearts and they will appreciate it. Remember, prayer is just a conversation with God. Don't be afraid to cry out to God with your own fears and insecurities.
- Pray together. If you don't regularly pray together, this is a good time to start. It will invite God into your lives and you can hear each other's hearts. It's amazing how God can use this to build unity in your relationship and to break down resentment that has built up.
- Look for things to be thankful for. Count your blessings. Focus on all that is right in your life and encourage your spouse to do the same. Try to think of this time as a gift and see what you can learn from it. Remembering that life isn't all about work will help you and your spouse keep perspective and make the search a shorter, more pleasant (and possibly enriching) journey.
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Encourage and Love Them Unconditionally
- Be the cheerleader! It takes some effort to come up with the right words or actions that will help encourage someone...send an unexpected email, write out a meaningful Bible verse, and serve them in some way.
- Understand your job seeker's "love language" (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch). Show your love in this way. What better time to show your unconditional love for the job seeker than during this time.
- Boost your spouse's morale and confidence by reminding them of their strengths, accomplishments and contributions. Help them see what they have to offer to a new employer.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thess. 5:11
Demonstrate Patience and Keep The Faith
- Have an extra measure of patience. Treat unemployment as a temporary and manageable situation. Expect rejection, but don't let either of you become immobilized by it. Worry, fear and negativity are unproductive emotions and will not make the process go faster. Your spouse is probably more frustrated with the situation than you are but is just not showing it. If your job seeker is your husband, he may feel the added burden of not providing for his family. If you feel yourself starting to feel irritated, pray for self-control.
- Keep a healthy outlook and have faith that -- if the two of you remain focused and deliberate in the search -- a new job will eventually surface. Strengthen your faith by spending time reading, reflecting and journaling God's Word and His promises.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Col. 3:12
Keep a Guard Over Your Mouth and Choose Your Words Wisely
- Pray that Holy Spirit would help you use words that are encouraging. Use Galatians 5:22-23 (below) as a filter for the words you use. If what you were going to say does not reflect one of these traits, then rethink your words.
- Be mindful of how complaining can impact your spouse. Your spouse may have heightened sensitivity to issues surround finances, etc. Take extra care to not complain to parents or friends about these struggles.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23
Listen and Keep An Open Mind.
- Be a part of your spouse's "advisory board." Your spouse was used to having a sounding board for ideas at work. Now they might want to use you for this purpose in addition to a friend or accountability partner. (A spouse does not make a good accountability partner.) Sometimes you need to stop what you are doing and listen to your spouse even though you feel like you are having the same conversation over and over again; remember, some people think best by talking through issues out loud.
- Keep an open mind. Depending upon the job market, your spouse (or you) may have to take a temporary job until something more permanent comes along. Your spouse may also need to broaden the scope of their search to another region or state or consider taking a position with a long commute. Be open-minded about your options.
"You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger."
Guard Their Time and Provide a Peaceful Home.
- Give them quiet time at the house or the freedom to go to the library or coffee shop. You might need to train your kids and yourself to not interrupt the job seeker every time they feel like it. When your spouse is under pressure, they sometimes need big chunks of quiet time. Make your home peaceful. A disorderly, frantic paced home can make a tense home even more tense. Influence the mood of the home.
- Be clear about the division of household duties or kid responsibilities. Picking up the kids from school every day can take away time for networking or informational interviews. However, this is a great time for the unemployed to be able to spend more time with the kids or you. Seek balance, but be realistic about how much "free time" a job seeker actually has.
- Don't forget that their main job is to find a job. It is great for the job seeker to enjoy using break time to spend time with the kids, and good for you for them to run errands while they are out or to be at home with upper elementary or middle school, self sufficient kids, while you are running errands. But leaving them at home to babysit a toddler all day or filling their day with other activities is not allowing them to focus on their job search.
- Don't hide the situation from the kids. Explain to your children in simple terms what has happened. Let them know the family will need to temporarily cut back on expenses, and challenge them to find creative ways to pare the budget. Tell them that the most important thing is that you love and support each other.
"My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest." Isaiah 32:18
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
- The best thing to do is to ask how you can help. It reminds them that you are on the same team and that you are going to stick together. Look for ways to contribute. There may be one task you and your children can do that your job seeker would find helpful and encouraging. You can find a lot of joy in helping but not in controlling.
- Show interest in their day to day victories, but don't interrogate. You might think it is helpful to ask if they have followed up with this person or scheduled a meeting with that person, but let your spouse lead the conversation. Don't force your spouse to recount every detail of their search or interview. Instead, ask for the highlights or how they felt about an interview. Focus on their reactions and impressions, not on your need for information.
- Schedule weekly meetings where your spouse can share their progress and bounce thoughts and ideas off of you. This is a positive time and proactive way to keep apprised of the situation. It allows you to get away from continually asking, ''Have you found anything yet?''
- Communicate. Talk is a major coping tool. Research shows that people who express their fears and seek help from others deal with crisis more effectively. At the same time, when approaching your spouse, know when the right time is and what kind of talk they prefer.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other."
Have Some Fun
- Make time for date nights (even at home) and have fun. Keep the romance alive by serving a special dinner for two on the patio or in front of the fireplace once a week. Simple rituals will give you and your loved one a much needed boost no matter how the job hunt is progressing.
- Laugh, hug and take walks together. It is easier than you think to find low cost ways to have fun. Don't let the seriousness of you what you are going through consume you. This is a great source for ideas on a budget. (http://www.freefuninaustin.com/)
- Get away for the weekend every now and then. Swapping babysitting with another couple can really help.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
I'll add a couple of my own:
Have at least one other person
, maybe one who has been through it before, to whom you can confide. Some things you will want to share with your spouse and some things you'll want to share with your support person. Pray for wisdom to know the difference. And always be careful to show your spouse the love and respect they need, even in these conversations.
Establish a plan and a routine.
Early on, sit down with your spouse and devise a strategy for the job hunt that includes managing through reduced financial circumstances. (There are some helpful planning documents available on our website.)
"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Please take advantage of the resources of your church or of our host church (Hill Country Bible Church- Austin www.hcbc.com) in the following areas (click on links in parentheses):
- Marriage classes and Biblical guidance from a Pastor (Marriage)
- Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey), a 9-week in-depth, biblically-based financial stewardship course (Financial Classes)
- Dealing with the loss of a loved one (Grief Share)
- Assists people in making decisions and connecting them with other ministries or agencies that can assist with financial issues and may include providing temporary, short-term assistance. ((512)331-5050 and ask for the HOPE ministry). (Immediate Needs)
Biblical Guidance (Counseling)
- You may go to the church office and ask to speak with the Minister On Call about most personal issues hindering your job search. You may also call ahead for an appointment at (512)331-5050 or make an appointment online. (Counseling)
Prayer for Healing - Do you need prayer for healing? The Jehovah Rapha Prayer Ministry's purpose is to create an environment of prayer through which the Holy Spirit may bring healing to a person's spirit, soul, and body. Meets monthly for an extended time of prayer. (Jehovah Rapha Prayer)
- God's healing is full and freeing. If you are haunted by shame, blame or guilt, let God lavish His love on you through Celebrate Recovery or one of the other groups we offer. These are safe places where you can unlock God's healing power in your life as you process life with others experiencing the same struggles. The result is peace, serenity, joy and a deeper relationship with God. (Celebrate Recovery)
Again, our prayer is that you would look back and say that this "interruption" provided a positive change for you and your family.