The Impact of Unemployment on Marriages


DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Can you guess what the men all have in common in the following movies: John Q, Cinderella Man, The Jacksons (An American Dream), Selena and The Pursuit of Happyness? The answer is that each of these men had to face the reaction of their
wives from their being unemployed.  Of all these movies, the ones that put lumps in my throat were the Cinderella Man and The Pursuit of Happiness.

The scene in The Pursuit of happiness where Will Smith pleads with his wife to stay with him was simply gut wrenching to me.  While I understood his wife’s concern, I wanted him to have the type of companion that would help him through this extremely difficult time.  Even though this movie show a wife leaving her husband, a not too distant study indicated that the divorce rate actually declined during a recession.  A Huffington Post article offers the following interesting insight into the expected connection between divorce and unemployment, “…divorce decreases when unemployment rates climb because couples are not ready to give up their standard of living by having to pay for one extra household with one less salary.”

At the same time, staying together in strife and discontentment is no good either. Perhaps, if spouses would take the time to examine the emotional impact of job loss, there might be more compassion towards the unemployed partner.  I have come to understand that unemployment can induce a highly paralyzing state of mind.  It can greatly reduce a once thriving and confident person into a confused mindset, who learns to doubt everything.

However in order to get hired, the unemployed person actually needs to have a heightened since of awareness and strategic thinking in order to compete for employment.  Unfortunately, additional pressure from home only diminishes the ability to think clearly enough to plan strategies that could result in gainful employment.

It appears that many spouses who look to their partners for financial stability are often unskilled with encouraging the types of provocation that could help them to succeed.  Perhaps they feel that pressuring the spouse to do something” will result in immediate income.  However, many times the pressure leads to their spouses considering options that were previously unthinkable.  Additionally, once the spouse has been made to feel unvalued, it is difficult gain a level of proficiency and confidence that could attract an employer.

This attitude of defeatism can be quite taxing on a marriage.  The feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are also magnified through the debt collectors and financial obligations that refuse to go away.   Anyone who is constantly faced with such challenges may easily find it difficult to be good company.  However, during this time of financial stress, there is even greater need for encouragement and reassurance.  Financial hardship is a time when the strength of a loving relationship will be exactly what is needed to overcome the growing urge to simply give up.

Ultimately, as in the Cinderella Man movie, a family will be able to reflect upon the great blessing of love and perseverance that actually withstood a great test.  Such challenges can uncover and even develop the true character of a couple that will make their relationship even stronger.  Couples should do their best to reflect upon and recommit to the promise to remain in their marriage- through “richer or poorer”.

Spouses should also encourage each other one to share their feelings that may be causing stress, while striving to give attention to what blessings they still have.  I have learned that everything has a season and hardship does not deserve the worry that it receives. Couples must learn to find ways to comfort each other until the trying season of unemployment passes.  And I truly believe that the more an unemployed spouse is fed encouragement, the sooner the season of worrying about finances will be over.

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