We turned to couple and family therapist Allan Findlay for advice on the best ways to guard your marriage against a traumatic event like job loss, and how to cope when it happens.
1. Have a financial safety net
The simplest way to ease the stress of job loss is to prepare for it before it happens, says Findlay. Preparing for a financial downfall is the best and most proactive approach a couple can take to protect themselves from the possibility of job loss. Findlay stresses that there are both tangible and psychological affects that sudden unemployment can have on a marriage -- and they will always affect both partners.
Establishing a joint savings fund, in which each partner sets aside a designated amount of money from each paycheque, will provide both financial and psychological peace of mind. Most financial advisors suggest having a minimum of six months worth of expenses covered in an emergency fund like this.
2. Communicate with empathy and respect
Ignoring and not talking about the issues at hand won't make them go away. "Be willing to have difficult conversations, and be comfortable discussing sadness, shame and guilt with each other," says Findlay. When a job loss occurs, couples often fight more often due to the high levels of stress being placed upon them.
"If you find yourself quarrelling more, stop and reflect on what it is that is making you angry," says Findlay, who adds that not acknowledging feelings of guilt, sadness, shame and fear are often what leads to misunderstandings. Acknowledging these emotions and dealing with them with empathy, compassion and respect, will help you build up a strong foundation to get through the turbulent time that lies ahead.
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3. Have the capacity to resolve conflict
"Keep talking to each other and don't allow silence to create distance between you because you're upset," says Findlay. No matter how frustrating the experience may be for one or both partners, working through the issues is essential in ensuring that you do not let a life change like unemployment take your marriage down with it.
Building up feelings of anger, pressure or resentment without discussing them will only cause one or both of you to explode at some point. It is always better to deal with issues together as they come, in small, manageable doses that can be talked out and sorted out one at a time.
4. Have the ability to focus on the positives and your strengths
With job loss often comes a loss of self-esteem and self-worth. This is why it is important to remind your spouse of all the things he or she is good at and all the reasons they have succeeded in the past. Having an encouraging cheerleader on their side is what will give your spouse the confidence and ability to fight off their feelings of doubt, sadness and shame, and help them be confident enough to work toward finding future success.
5. Have the flexibility to see beyond today
It is OK to be angry and fearful when unemployment lands on your marital doorstep, but understanding that it is a temporary situation, and one that won't last forever, is a huge part of not allowing job loss to overcome your relationship. Be willing to make sacrifices for your partner and your marriage for the short term, and be positive in thinking that these small challenges will strengthen your relationship, making you a better couple and better individuals.
Job loss can be scary for anyone, and especially for those who have more than just themselves to think about. Never count yourself too lucky and always be prepared for the "what ifs" in life. Protect yourself and your family, both financially and psychologically, for whatever may come your way. Your health, your happiness and your marriage could depend on it!
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