Dear Ask Alina,
The tech layoffs hit our family. My husband lost his job late last year. Ever since his job loss our relationship has been on rocky ground. He is moody and distant. I left my career to become a stay-at-home mom when our first child was born. We live our life fiscally conservative, and I feel confident that we will be okay until he finds another job, but at the same time I am starting to question if I should go back to work. It’s been tough to have any serious conversations with my husband as of late, and I am looking for some guidance on how I can get him to open up to me.
Your family is experiencing great distress, living in uncertainty and survival mode. People often attach their self-identity to their careers, and losing employment can be more detrimental to some people than others. Based on what you have shared, I assume that your husband is experiencing many emotions, including fear and grief—and maybe even anger and depression. His self-esteem is probably going through a ringer as he is searching for his next employer.
I can imagine it is just as tough for you to watch your husband’s disappointment as he looks for work, maybe receives rejections, and all the while you are trying to keep continuity in the family. It sounds like you too are experiencing many emotions, including fear of the future and rejection from your husband.
To begin the difficult conversation, start by identifying a distraction-free time and place to open the dialogue. Approach your conversation from empathy. Pay attention to his body language and use words that make him feel loved and appreciated. Avoid using words of blame and judgment. Don’t name his feelings, or ask yes/no questions. Instead, open up space where he can express how he feels. For example: instead of saying, “You must be tired of all the interviews,” say, “You worked very hard this week preparing for the interviews. How do you feel?”
Express your confidence in him. Remind him of stories he shared with you about past projects he was proud of, or that time when you two thought it was the most difficult time you ever faced but his strength and hard work pulled you through it. Let him know that the two of you are a team, that the weight of the responsibilities are not just on his shoulders, and that your family has the option of you returning to the workforce.
Be specific in why your fiscally conservative lifestyle gives you peace during this transitional time. Suggest sitting down on a monthly basis to review your finances and plan a budget. Suggest that it would be fun and helpful for you to brainstorm potential options for Plan B during these finance talks.
Follow through. Don’t have this one chat and drop it. Commit to continuing this conversation and put the time on your calendars as a shared commitment. Finally, remember to be his cheerleader, not his coach.
Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with offices in Alameda and Burlingame. Alina specializes in working with adult individuals and couples around topics of relationships, co-parenting, infertility, and addiction. She also spent over 15 years in Corporate Human Resources and loves working with clients on topics of their career. Submit your questions to [email protected] and visit alinabaugh.com.
Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.