When we are faced with the prospect of unemployment, whether for short or lengthy time periods, it can cause significant stresses within our relationship and trigger disharmony with our partners.

Most people will at some point in their lives experience a period of unemployment. It is important to remember that it is nothing to be ashamed of, and is part of the working life cycle in today’s society. The resources industry in WA is notoriously unstable when it comes to employment, and many people working fly in fly out may experience a time of unemployment.

Being without work can lead to feelings of frustration, disappointment, anger and stress, and you may feel like you are letting your family members down who are relying on your income.

This constant stress can lead to fights within our relationship, and can put your partnership to the test. Feelings of powerlessness, especially if you have trouble securing another job, can also sometimes cause us to pull away from our family or partner, and retreat into ourselves.

During a time of unemployment, try to avoid isolating yourself from your family and friends. Maintaining open lines of communication, particularly with your partner, is crucial. This helps both of you understand what is happening to the other. Patience and empathy are important qualities during this stressful period.

Taking key steps to regain employment can also help in relieving relationships stresses and will help you get your working life back on track as soon as possible.

If you are the unemployed:

  1. Keep open communication with your partner and don’t shy away from discussing the situation at hand. Tell your partner how you are feeling about it, and ask them how they are feeling.
  2. Discuss your financial situation with your partner and consider options regarding how you can manage things, whilst on a reduced income. For example, you may need to temporality cut back on expenses, revise payment plans or your partner may possibly be able to increase his/her work hours. Your partner may also be a good person to discuss any potential job offers with and to help make important decisions.
  3. Every now and again, review together how things are going financially, to make sure you are staying on top of things. Don’t avoid this – you need to know, so that you can make other adjustments if needed. Always approach these discussions as a team, working on it together, on the same side.
  4. Maintain a healthy routine. Get up every day at the normal time, and set yourself tasks to be done during the day, whether it is jobs to do around the house, or following up on potential job leads.
  5. Avoid sleeping for more than 8-10 hours. You might feel encouraged to sleep in and hibernate during the day, but this will only leave you feeling lethargic and unproductive.
  6. Be proactive about finding a new job. Spend some time each day reading job adverts in the newspapers and online, talking to family and friends about potential job openings, or visiting a job agency. This may help to combat any feelings of dejection or frustration.
  7. Avoid a stubborn mindset when it comes to applying for or accepting new jobs. This can be a good opportunity to explore career alternatives. Sometimes you may need to take on unfamiliar work outside your chosen field. Keeping an open mind as you search for future employment in your preferred industry is important.
  8. Treat unemployment as temporarily – whilst rejection is never pleasant, it is inevitable whilst hunting for a new job.

If you are the employed half of the couple:

  1. Remain understanding and compassionate. Remember, your partner may be feeling frustrated and discontent during this time and having someone who they can express their concerns to will help.
  2. Remind your partner of their importance in your life and that their job is not why you love them.
  3. Offer to help with job hunting, from editing resumes and scouring job listings to networking with family and friends to discover new job opportunities, but remember just to offer, not demand or insist. Your partner may be feeling resentful of your employment so be mindful of how you make the offer. Asking “Would it be helpful if I…..” tends to feel like an offer that is supportive.
  4. If your partner becomes angry that they cannot find a job, try to avoid telling them not to feel angry. If that’s how they feel, it’s understandable. If their anger upsets you, try to let it pass you by, rather than buying into it and amplifying it. However, if the anger feels directed at you, it might be helpful to ask your partner what you can do to ease their stress and to (gently) remind them that you are on his/her side.
  5. Express appreciation to your partner for any additional tasks they do, due to having more time available. It is important for your partner to be, and feel like, a contributing member of the relationship team.
  6. Try to find the balance that works for your partner, between being caring and interested in how they are going with the job hunting, and your partner feeling pressured by constantly being asked about it. It can be helpful to check this out with your partner, re what works best for them.
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