Questions similar to this come often these days,
“My husband has been ‘downsized’ and now he mostly lies around the house doing nothing. Every time I ask him if he sent out more resumes or looked for a job, he gets angry and we wind up in a fight. What can I do to help him?”
A “downsized” person having difficulty keeping focused on finding a new job isn’t unusual. It does not mean that he’s lazy, worthless, or uncaring. More likely, it means that he suffers from some level of depression which makes his job seeking more difficult. As Dave Ramsey pointed out the other night as I guested on his TV show on Fox Business Channel, often a man’s identity is tied into with what he does. Therefore, losing a job does more than cause financial difficulty; it also can cause identity crisis and a sense of hopelessness.
If you genuinely wish to help your husband, make his path forward easier rather than more difficult. Not only will that likely help you avoid marital difficulty, it also is the best thing to do to help him find work.
First, gently coax him to find out if he is depressed. There are several online tests to determine depression. If he is depressed, there are medications that can help in short order. However, you’ll need to reassure him that meds aren’t a sign of weakness, but a gift of God. Without medicines, where would humans be? Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine is just as valid as aspirin when your head hurts or antibiotics when you get a sinus infection.
Second, while you shouldn’t encourage his lying around doing nothing, you need to be understanding and encouraging. A man who lies around – looking a little but not trying hard – probably is questioning his abilities, wondering if he can make the grade, and worrying that he isn’t as good as he thought he was. Guys in that situation often see themselves as failures, inadequate, or helpless. Don’t add to those negative feelings by prodding and nagging. He’ll hear that as further evidence that he’s a failure. Instead, encourage him. Give him space and time. Sincerely and seriously tell him what you see in him that leads you to believe in him. Be careful that it in no way sounds manipulative or insincere. Slowly and mildly build him up by reminding him of who he is, what he is, and what his future can be.
Third, rather than evidencing panic, you demonstrate as much confidence as possible that everything will work out. That doesn’t mean that it’s all up to you. You may be afraid and worried just as he is. However, when a man is acting in “man mode” he is very strong. When he is operating in “am I a failure?” mode, for a little while he needs comforting rather than being the comforter. Do that for him now and you’ll likely see great results later.
Fourth, dream with him about new and different things that he or the two of you can do in the future. New business ideas. New career path. New educational processes. New area of the country. Rather than locking into what was before and hoping to restore it, become creative to see if this temporary setback may lead to something new and exciting.
Fifth, involve friends in whom he has confidence. Ask them to spend time with him over coffee or to go together to some event. Don’t let him spend too much time focusing on the problems by gently prodding his friends to help out.
Sixth, draw closer to God. Both of you. Kids, too.
Seventh, when necessary – NOT TOO SOON! – tell him that the two of you have mourned and worried enough and now it is time to do something. Pull out a pad of paper and ask him to brainstorm with you about all pertinent points. Bills. Selling things. Downsizing your lifestyle. Finding short-term income even if it’s not what he/you wish for long term. In other words, there comes a time when it’s time to DO rather than just FEEL.
If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. Our success rate over the last decade is saving three out of four marriages, even when adultery, porn, anger, or other things have deeply hurt the relationship! (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.