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Advice from Dr. Stanwix: He’s Out of Work; I’m Out of Patience

Advice from Dr. Stanwix: He’s Out of Work; I’m Out of Patience
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My husband lost his job during the Great Recession. At the end of 2010, they finally informed him that they were cutting the sales force he helped to create and were terminating his position. This was a tremendous blow to him, one that he is still recovering from today. I understand how crushing it was to be thanked for all of his hard work and then given the sack. He put his heart and soul into that job and that company, and this was the thanks he got? Nevertheless, life goes on. Unfortunately, my husband would rather sit stewing in outrage then continue on with it.

At first he was diligently looking for employment. He wrote two resumes and accompanying cover letters per day. However, he had set some awfully high standards for an economy that had sunk so low. He never deigned to apply for anything that wasn’t a supervisory sales position. I tried to explain to him that he might have to settle for something that he felt was beneath him until the economy picked up. However, he remained stubbornly “optimistic.”

He is in the software sales sector, one of the hardest areas to be hit. At first he considered it a mild glitch. However, in almost his sixth year of unemployment he has adopted a fatalistic attitude towards life. He has given up the job hunt entirely and would prefer to sit around all day moping and watching television. It is obvious that he is depressed. However, no matter what I do or say to help, he won’t take any of my advice.

This has created quite a strain on our relationship. I’m beginning to feel indignant for being the only breadwinner in the family. Especially as he barely does enough around the house to keep it clean. Is it so much to ask for him to cook and clean the house if he is going to sit around all day? He is not the man I married, but a despondent cynic who brings nothing but bad energy to our relationship. He is taking advantage of me, and our relationship, and this has to stop.

I realize you’re not an employment guru, but do you have any advice to help him and me to get him back out the door and into the working world? If this goes on any longer, I don’t think I’ll be able to take it anymore.


He’s Out of Work / I’m Out of Patience


Dear He’s Out of Work / I’m Out of Patience,

It is not easy dealing with a despondent and embittered spouse. The lower they sink, the more energy they sap from our relationships. We try to keep them buoyant with optimism, but when we use the last of our own life force, it is easy to be sucked into the fatalistic dynamic, ourselves.

This plays itself out in many ways. We feel like we’re being taken advantage of. We resent having to go to work to support a household when our spouse doesn’t even have the decency to keep the place clean. As we also feel pity for our spouses, we often let this well up inside of us until it reaches its boiling point. It seems it has reached that with you. The question is how are you going to let off enough steam without exploding?

Your situation is also difficult because your husband may be jealous of the fact that you have a job. In his demoralized state, he may become antagonistic towards you and resistant to any of your advice. Although it might be difficult after so many years, try not to take this venting personally. You should always remain empathetic to his situation. However, you certainly don’t want to enable him. If he has been out of work this long, he needs to reassess his strategy. Sit down with him and discuss what he thinks is working and what is not. Help him read over his resumes and cover letters so they shine. Assist him in expanding his searches to include a more diverse range of opportunities.

As for his job search, you’re right; I am no employment guru. However, here are a few things to think about. He is a salesman so he needs to use these skills in finding a job. A lot has changed since he started working for that company so many years ago. The whole way of networking and finding work seems to have been revolutionized. People now use LinkedIn and Instagram as well as Meet Ups of all kinds to get their name out there and find a job. Perhaps your husband needs to figure out a better strategy of networking.

If he feels uncomfortable about going to Meet Ups on his own, offer to go along. Anything that he does to positively lift himself out of his situation is a perfect point to engage him. However, if he uses you for a verbal punching bag or as a shoulder to whine on, cut him off. Tell him you’re out of Kleenex and patience and are only handing out printer paper and possibilities.

If you’ve already done this and he refuses to take any more of your suggestions, then stay out of it. Just make it clear that you’re not going to put up with this situation much longer. If he doesn’t want your help, then he had better find a solution soon. He needs to know that you cannot support him financially and emotionally if he is not going to do his part.

Best of luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix


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