Redundancy AND RELATIONSHIPS
LOSING A JOB IS TOUGH ON BOTH PARTNERS. HERE’S HOW TO SURVIVE AND HELP YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THRIVE. BY Kelly Baker.
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.”
ACCEPTING THE NEWS
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.
SHARING THE LOAD
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.”