San Diego Couples Advice

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When a Partner Becomes Unemployed – 5 Ways to Make it Through Financial Stress

Financial stress is frequently cited one of three main causes for divorce. When a partner looses a job it strains the relationship – often bringing overwhelming financial and emotional stress into the home. Both partners experience an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty. If not proactively acted upon, financial hardship can easily cause emotional distance in your partnership. The good news is, there are things you can do during this pivotal time to strengthen your committed relationship.

1. Rethink Roles: A man’s sense of masculinity tends to be connected to their paycheck. Women typically feel empowered working outside the home. When unemployment happens, give yourself and your partner permission to add value/contribute in new ways.

2. Communicate Admiration: People under stress often fail to acknowledge the helpful things their partners do, responding only to the negative. To sustain mutual trust and respect, remember and express the things you admire about each other. According to relationship researcher, John Gottman  – stable and happy couples share five positive interactions for every one negative interaction.

3. Identify and Express Your Feelings: When a partner is unemployed, couples often report feelings of building resentment. Resentment is what we call a secondary emotion. It’s a mental process that comes from replaying a feeling and the events that lead up to that feeling. Dig deeper and identify the primary feelings that are leading to the resentment: Anger, Sadness, Surprise/Excitement, Disgust/Shame, Fear, Joy.  Feelings of grief, shame, guilt and anxiety are likely to be present for someone who is unemployed. If left unexpressed, these feelings can become a poison leading to destructive behavior and/or inaction.

4. Make a plan: Work together to make a timeline that highlights your goals as a couple. Include dates where you will agree to reassess the plan. Working together on this will help reestablish that you are a team and are in it together.

5. Focus on keeping yourself healthy. Being “supportive and positive” for your partner is hard to do when you feel run down and stressed. Put some time aside to exercise, listen to music, journal, read, talk to friends – whatever works for you.  Make sure to include “you” time as part of your daily routine.

If you are still having trouble connecting – consider reaching out to a couples therapist who can navigate you through the process.


  Chappell Therapy – Jennifer Chappell Marsh, San Diego Counselor provides Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families who want to improve their relationships. She also works with children and teens to foster a sense of empowerment. 2835 Camino Del Rio S., #120C, San Diego, CA 92108. 858-876-4104.