When you first become unemployed, your initial thoughts are usually centered around the practical stuff -- finding your next job, updating your resume, and managing your money. But what people often tend to ignore, and also what you don’t get as much information about on the internet is the emotional aspect -- how we can manage our relationships with family, partners, or friends. The sad truth is, unemployment can totally strain relationships, but by being aware and proactive, we can save ourselves a lot of pain down the line.
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For those closest to you, especially the ones you live with, they may be concerned about finances, or they may worry that you’ll become depressed, or aimless, and a lot of times they just don’t know how to help. With friends, you may feel ashamed to be around them because you don’t have a job and it’s embarrassing to tell people that you can’t afford something, right? And in their defense, a lot of times your friends aren’t aware that you’re feeling all these things, so to them, you just seem withdrawn and aloof. So how can you manage all the murkiness?
1. Keep open lines of communication. Tell those closest to you how you’re feeling. Maybe you’re stressed out because you don’t know how to begin looking for your next job, or you’re feeling guilty because you can’t provide for your family. Whatever it is, encourage an open dialogue with your parents or partners - you can both air out your concerns and come to a solution together. This will also keep them from nagging you and maybe you’ll realize that both parties are worried about the same things.
2. Be honest. Sometimes there are things you just don’t want to talk about. In that case, let people know -- in a tactful way, of course. A lot of times, friends and family genuinely want to help, but they may not realize when they’re asking invasive questions. So it’s ok to tell them that you’re still processing it yourself and if it’s ok, you’d rather not talk about that particular topic.
3. Take the awkwardness out of the whole money thing. Whether it’s family or friends, money can be a sticky subject, but you can make sure it’s not. Start with being honest about your situation -- tell your friends and family that you can’t afford as much stuff as they can, or as much as you used to be able to. When it comes to things like splitting the check at a restaurant, or going to expensive places, come up with an alternative. Also, you can always use humor to diffuse the situation. When it comes to money, it’s harder for others to understand how to broach the subject with you, so make it easier for them by bringing it up yourself and showing them that it doesn’t need to be awkward.
4. Don’t expect your employed counterparts to be your therapist. Your spouse/parent/significant other may have their own set of stressors from work or life that has nothing to do with you, so don’t make them your sounding board. If you’re unemployed or working from home, they’re often the only people you see all day so the tendency is to bombard them with information about your day the minute they get home. But give them some space to decompress from their day and let them come to you.
5. Take initiative and involve people in it. If the people you live with have 9 to 5 jobs, it’s natural for them to wonder what you’re doing at home all day and they may think it’s easy enough for you to pick up the majority of the slack when it comes to household chores, etc. But if you take the initiative to show them how you’re structuring your day with your job search, networking, etc, it’ll help put them at ease. Also, involve them in the process if you’re making a budget or meal prepping. They’ll feel good that you’re taking the lead on things.
6. Celebrate the small wins. There’s a lot of pain and negative emotion both for you and your partner when it comes to unemployment. But it’s really important to keep a positive outlook and be in the right frame of mind. One way to do that is to celebrate the small wins together. If you have a tough time with maintaining a positive outlook, keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for each and every single day. It seriously works!
Managing relationships is hard enough, without unemployment being in the mix. And sure, it may not be smooth sailing throughout, but it’s always worth putting in the initial effort to prevent bigger issues from cropping up down the line.