Supporting your husband through extended unemployment

Part I of  II part post

I am going to take you back into a very dark place in our marriage, for the purpose of helping you, dear wife, to walk through a fire of your husband’s unemployment and possible resulting depression without destroying your marriage relationship.   Be sure to read Sunshinemary’s blog for advice on supporting your husband through injury, and also Morticia’s Musings and Sarah’s Daughter:  these ladies have excellent advice.

My husband is a very successful salesman, and always has been. This particular year, he had just achieved top sales in the Nation.  (The record still stands today.)  Neither of us would have dreamed that his job was in jeopardy, but he had a female boss with an enormous chip on her shoulder, and she just couldn’t stand him.  In a fit of emotion, she drove to his outside sales location, waited until he was finished selling for the day and packing his car, and demanded that he give her all his sales materials because he was fired.  When he asked her why, she said, “You don’t like me.”  She fired a man who needed to support a wife and children because she perceived he “didn’t like her.”   She shunned him from the awards banquet where he was to be recognized for his record-breaking achievement.  Instead, she dropped his awards off at our front doorstep when we weren’t home.   Ah, the feminist workplace. 

My husband shared this information with me as I drove home from my work in sales.  At the time we had only older children, and we both worked full-time.  I thought, “Well, this sucks, but we will be okay.  We have my salary, Mister will get some unemployment (no doubt, the way he was fired without cause) and we will be fine.  No big deal.

I failed to consider what this was doing to my husband’s mind and emotions; his soul.  I thought only of myself.  Mistake number one was being self-centered.  I thought only of how we would be okay because in my mind I WAS OKAY.  He was not.  A man’s identity and value is often closely tied to his career and career success, because this is tied to his ability to provide for his family.

Soon, my husband had a radical personality shift.  His sleep schedule and meal schedule began to resemble that of an adolescent:  up until four a.m. playing video games, drinking and drunk, awake around noon, no regular meals with the family.  While I was working, he was either messing around in the yard drunkenly trying to grow perfectly green grass, or he was driving around town shopping with money we did not have, often while drunk.  I was at work, worried sick many days that he would cause an accident or be the victim of one.  I was embarrassed as he often showed up at my workplace with breakfast or lunch for me, noticeably drunk and wearing his swim trunks!  When I was home, he was drinking.  He vacillated between a very fun drunk who was pinching my bum and making silly jokes, to a mean and hateful drunk who said things he later regretted or did not even remember.  He absolutely refused to look for a job.  At all.  For fourteen months.  He made friends with unsavory male neighbors, and left home to drink with them well into the night.  He had dramatic mood swings.  He gained about thirty pounds and developed a hernia, which required surgery.

At this point, I felt as if I was on a treadmill. I had to just keep going.  When you sell for a living, you have to be “up” so to speak, so I had to put on a fake face at work.  It became apparent that the locale where I was selling was going to close:  people were getting laid off.  So, I spoke to Mister about it briefly to get his input and permission, and decided to resign and train for another job, not in sales at all.

He gave me his blessing (although I’m not sure he was cognitively aware of what he blessed) and I proceeded to resign from the sales job and enter training for a job in healthcare, with the possibility of going back to school part-time.

Then, we found out I was pregnant.

Five months after my husband was fired, when he was in the height of what we now know was major depression (made worse by ingesting alcohol every day), we found out we were expecting a child.  We were both excited and felt blessed.  It was at this point that I experienced horrifying fear for the first time since his job loss.  Paralyzing fear will do strange things to a wife.  Ladies, mistake number two is not recognizing fear for what it is and rejecting fear for faith in God. 

My fear caused reactions in me that were not flattering.  I began to try to control everything.  This was mistake number three, and part of every woman’s sinful nature.

In my fear, I began to murmur and complain, which is mistake number four.  I should have been praising God that all of this was happening, so that the unsavory things that were inside of me (us) would be purged out by our loving Father.  But, I was ignorant of many of His ways:  I complained, and complained.  I complained to anyone who would hear me. 

I began to feel self-pity, which was mistake number five.  I was still focused on little ol’ me, much to my detriment.  I felt sorry for myself that he was drunk.   I felt sorry for myself that he wasn’t our provider anymore.  Our finances were a mess; I felt sorry for myself that I was embarrassed at the grocery store when the credit cards didn’t work.  I felt sorry for myself that he wouldn’t go to church with us anymore.  I felt sorry for myself that he didn’t want to spend time with me anymore, and just wanted to drink and play like a schoolboy with the irresponsible neighbors.  I cried and cried and felt sorry for myself some more.

What I needed to do now was begin by praising God in all circumstances.

So, that’s what I did.  I didn’t “feel” it in my fickle emotions; I just obeyed and did it anyway.  I praised God for being in control so that I didn’t have to try to be.  I praised God for my husband, just as he was at the time.  I praised God that my husband was at least at home most nights and faithful sexually.  I praised God that we hadn’t lost our home.  I praised God for our precious baby growing in my womb, and the blessing to come out of this mess.  I told Him that I praised Him because we were blessed, even in this horrible mess. 

I began to read my Bible again.  I focused on what it is to be a wife according to God’s Word.  My focus shifted from self to Mister, and I began to feel empathy for Mister and pain for what he must be going through as a man.  Outwardly, I wanted peace and normalcy again in our home; inwardly I was still resentful of what I perceived as his laziness, his irresponsibility and his sin.

But, I kept on trying, even in small ways.  I began to try to look extra feminine for my husband.  I asked him what make up he would like to see on me and I wore it, even when I felt fat and pregnant and ugly.  He said I was beautiful and sexy.  I tried to make meals that would please him and make him feel loved – even if I didn’t feel like doing it for him when he would refuse it, and drink for hours more.  I left him alone when he ran away to the neighbor’s house, and just prayed and went to bed.  I tried to focus on being the best helper at home that I could be, while I was still working in healthcare.

Yes, I still FELT resentful that I was getting up at four a.m. and dragging my pregnant body to work, while he was hung over and snoring until after I got home.  Yes, I still felt powerless and I still got angry with him.  But I kept quiet and prayed.

As his unemployment compensation drew to a close, he found a job selling.  He hated the job, but he was happy to have any job.  He got up and went every day.  I was glad and relieved.  We had a shaky relationship, but we were both in better spirits knowing at least we weren’t going to be homeless.  We had a new baby and a lot to be thankful for.  I began to be hopeful of normalcy again.  But there was more to come.

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13 thoughts on “Supporting your husband through extended unemployment

    • Thank you for commenting. I don’t blog right now because I am too busy with our youngest child, but thank you for reading and welcome! God willing, I will be able to write again in the future. Yes, the Lord is so good. His mercy and grace are unfathomable.

      • hi there, i wish I could talk to you personally as you went through exactly what I am going through. I am battling to even pray as I feel I have lost hope and that my prayers will not make a difference. It has been 4 months on one income and I feel like I am carrying the load of the home all on my own. I get no help with my feminine chores and at times I feel so angry as I do them cause I think this is unfair. I do not even know how to communicate the issues to him without resulting in a quarrel and bruising his ego. When I ask for help he refuses. i am two months pregnant with my first child and while I feel so blessed and overjoyed I also worry about the added responsibilty all on one income.

        I do not have anyone to talk to about the issues as I am a very private person and don’t wish to hang our dirty laundry out there. I try to talk to God but these days I just feel like he isn’t listening.

        I feel awful cause he is a wonderful husband who is just going through a tough time. I can see him slowly lose confidence and that his spirit is broken. I do not even know how to support him, when I myself am crumbling with the pressurre.

      • Nyarie: It would be my pleasure to speak to you directly, God willing, as time permits. I identify with everything you have spoken, and I have an older woman who mentors me online. I have never met her, but she is a strong Christian woman who helps me stay focused on Christ instead of myself and my needs (unmet). I hope you get this message; it has been quite a while since you commented. I hope to open up the blog again soon, God willing. Many blessings to you today and always! Songtwoeleven

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    • Yes, SD, I sure saw a lot of similarities in your recounting of your experience and mine. It’s amazing how we react as women and as sinful creatures. Loved your post; thank you! Thanks for coming here and reading and commenting!

  3. Wow. That would be really scary for me. Kudos to you getting through with your marriage intact. Physical illness is much easier to deal with than mental illness.

    • It was very scary. I cannot say that I had much to do with keeping our marriage intact at all, sadly. I did manage to “win his heart” back while we were separated, though, by doing the OPPOSITE of what I had been doing. It really was a God thing. He just transformed me. Literally transformed me. It took effort on my part, but it really was out of my control once I quit trying to micromanage everything about Mister.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Really enjoyed your post as well.

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