Unemployment or changing jobs or being stuck in a career rut is stressful no matter how you look at it, but when you multiply it by two, it can really take a toll on you and your relationship.
When my husband and I lost our jobs within six weeks of each other, we were in shock—and found ourselves spending a lot of time together, for better or for worse. During that harrowing period, we attempted to reinvent ourselves as professionals without losing who we were as a couple.
Now that we’re both collecting paychecks again, it’s easy to see many of the mistakes we made as we navigated the rocky road back to full-time employment together. The following is my hard-won wisdom on how to handle joint career stress without losing your peace of mind or your relationship in the process.
Respect Each Other’s Methods
Remember the old “opposites attract?” Well, my husband and I approached our job searches from completely different angles. I regarded it as a numbers games, sending my resume far and wide, while my husband was more strategic, cultivating connections and networking with everyone he’d ever met.
When I tried to convince him to give my way a go when some of his leads didn’t pan out, he insisted his strategy would eventually bear fruit. Likewise, when he suggested I get back in touch with people I hadn’t spoken with in years, I hesitated. Though we were skeptical of each other’s methods, neither of us was right nor wrong.
Respect your partner’s approach to their career, and if you can borrow what’s working for them and incorporate it into your own game plan, all the better. Because, ultimately, both tactics led us to new positions.
Work as a Team
During a rough career patch, you can definitely feel isolated and alone. If there’s an upside to facing it as a couple, it’s that you’ve got a partner who is attempting to overcome the same hurdle, which means your relationship has probably never been filled with more empathy. Use that compassion to cheer each other on and be encouraging on those dark days when your inboxes seem to overflow with rejection emails.
In addition to providing emotional support, you can benefit from having a ready and willing interview partner. Trust me, it’s a lot better to make mistakes in a mock interview with your significant other than with your would-be boss.
Be Gentle With Each Other
When you’re feeling raw and vulnerable during this time, something as small as a sideways glance can feel like a devastating slight.
Though it might be tempting to offer advice, sometimes your partner may just want to vent and know that their feelings are heard and valid. It’s important to keep communication open and figure out what makes each of you feel supported.
When my husband was passed over for a position we were almost certain he’d get, I found myself saying things like, “I don’t understand. How could you not have gotten it?” This ultimately wasn’t helpful for either of us. People process these life events in different ways, so treat each other with care.
Put Away Your Pride and Get Help if You Need It
There’s no denying that a career bump can cause your confidence to plummet while your stress level skyrockets. These factors can wreak havoc on even the most rock-solid relationship. Just remember, you’re not alone.
From career counseling to marriage counseling, if this period is taking a toll on your mental health or your relationship, seek help. Having a professional third party provide strategies for navigating this difficult period can assist you in getting back on track.
Though it may not feel like it while you’re in the thick of it, you will come out on the other side, and when you do, your relationship may be stronger for having weathered this challenging period nobly together.