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Unemployment killed the relationship

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  June 1, 2012 08:32 AM

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Q: I've heard it said that there are fewer divorces because of the bad economy, but I wonder how many layoffs become the catalysts of divorces.

I'm married with kids and am back to work after more than a year of unemployment. Before actually being laid off, my boss made me go from salary to hourly. When there weren't enough billable hours, he took away health care. I agreed to be laid off. We knew this could happen and I had already had my resume on the street for a good 6 months.

Yet when I told my wife I'd been put on billable hours she screamed, "What did you do?" As if the worldwide recession had been my fault. She assumed the lack of billable hours meant that I had been lazy at work. Those comments struck me and effectively knocked the wind out of our marriage. I felt like I was only a paycheck to her. That feeling festered during the time I was at home job hunting, as I saw how little she actually accomplishes at home (she says she's a stay at home mom, not a housewife). Nearly a third of our home is unusable because of her lack of organization. I've tried to help with this but she has to be in charge.

Frankly I'm ready to leave, except after a year out of work and a lower paying job I have no money for a place of my own. When I'm home I'm angry, and walking around (or trying to) makes me even angrier. When I'm at work I'm distracted by the anger and I dread coming home. We don't talk anymore and when we try, it usually becomes another argument. I haven't felt this lonely and anxiety ridden since I was a kid. I don't hate her, I just don't think I can live with her...

...and I need your advice/thoughts.

– Mr. Ampersand, Massachusetts


A: I'm throwing out the therapy card. Sorry. It might be too late for therapy to do magic things, but you have to try. You need to sit in front of a third party and talk about how unemployment made you feel -- and how she treated the situation.

I wish I knew what your marriage had been like before the unemployment. I wish I knew whether there had been a real friendship. Do you remember?

The thing is, unemployment is scary. Fear can make us say some awful things. It can also make us so much more sensitive. It's a bad combo.

You both learned things about each other that you never wanted to know, and I'm sure that if she wrote in to Love Letters she'd tell us a very different story. Maybe her story would be wrong, but it would be her truth.

Demand therapy. And after you've had a little time to relax in your new job, please continue the hunt. This new job isn't enough for you. Regardless of whether you're moving out, you need more. I want you in a more stable place when you make big decisions about what's happening at home.

Also, when you do search for jobs, do it out of the house. Go to the library or check out a career center. It'll be better for your brain.

Readers? Therapy? Does unemployment reveal a person's true feelings -- or does it just make them say crazy things they don't mean? How have other people dealt with these issues in their marriage? Can they get through this? What about how she runs the house? Thoughts?


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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