The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - Relationships -

When Sarah Milton* learned that her hus­band Steve McKen­zie* had been made re­dun­dant, she felt her heart sink. The 32-year-old ac­coun­tant was al­ready feel­ing the pres­sure of jug­gling a ca­reer and rais­ing a child. Then she dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant with her sec­ond baby. Milton would have liked to work less and spend more time at home, but that was now im­pos­si­ble. Not sur­pris­ingly, she was up­set.

For starters she had to deal with sud­denly be­ing the sole in­come earner of the fam­ily. Se­condly, she had to cope with a house­bound hus­band who no longer felt pur­pose­ful or pos­i­tive.

“It’s been tough,” Milton says. “The lev­els of dis­agree­ment have def­i­nitely been higher. We ar­gue about whether Steve should be looking for work and how free time can be spent more ef­fec­tively. And I worry about him.”

But there have been up­sides, she says. Her hus­band has been able to com­plete his stud­ies and has been able to spend more time with their son.

Kathy and Dave Jones* have had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. When Dave was made re­dun­dant ear­lier this year, the cou­ple was at first dis­mayed. But they soon be­gan to see the pos­i­tive side of the sit­u­a­tion.

“ We’ve al­ways had a very strong re­la­tion­ship and we talk to each other about ev­ery­thing,” Jones, 34, says. “But the fact that Dave has han­dled this so well has made me ap­pre­ci­ate the strong and pos­i­tive per­son he is.”


Times are tough and plenty of work­ers are brac­ing them­selves for job losses. Yet, de­spite their men­tal prepa­ra­tion, be­ing made re­dun­dant still knocks peo­ple for six, says Anne Hol­londs, CEO of Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia, NSW.

“It’s a bit like can­cer,” Hol­londs says. “ We all know we could get it, but if we’re given a di­ag­no­sis it’s a shock. There’s a sense of sur­prise, re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances. We didn’t choose it or have any con­trol over it. That can leave us feel­ing quite help­less.”

Los­ing a job can be dev­as­tat­ing. But see­ing your part­ner go through the ex­pe­ri­ence can be even more dif­fi­cult to deal with.

“ When you are in a re­la­tion­ship you have a set way of do­ing things,” Hol­londs ex­plains. “It’s as though there’s an un­spo­ken agree­ment that this is who we are and this is what we do.”

Los­ing a job may turn all of that up­side down. There are likely to be fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, there may be a loss of iden­tity, which will re­quire ma­jor read­just­ments for both of you.


Some will make those ad­just­ments without much trou­ble. Oth­ers will strug­gle.

“A job loss means com­pletely re­work­ing rou­tines, and that cre­ates many op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­agree­ments,” Hol­londs says. “But you need to try to re­solve those dif­fer­ences without dam­ag­ing your re­la­tion­ship.”

The sim­plest way to do that? Learn to com­mu­ni­cate. Talk frankly and the re­la­tion­ship will ben­e­fit. Be­ing hon­est means that dur­ing this tough time cou­ples will get to know one an­other bet­ter and, hope­fully, strengthen their bond.

“Some­thing like this can be the mak­ing of your re­la­tion­ship,” Hol­londs says. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity for growth. We don’t al­ways wel­come that kind of growth, but gen­er­ally we end up be­ing much bet­ter peo­ple for it. It can take years to see the pos­i­tive side, but it is there.”

Pri­ori­tise your union from the mo­ment a cri­sis strikes. You can then fo­cus on work­ing as a team and sup­port­ing one an­other through the chal­lenges.

“In times like th­ese, we get caught up with the money side of things, but our re­la­tion­ships need our at­ten­tion as much as our fi­nances do,” Hol­londs says. “At the end of the day, our re­la­tion­ships are what re­ally mat­ter.”

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