My husband and I have always worked. He was the primary breadwinner, and I worked part time as a way to bring a little more income into the home. We both felt very good with that arrangement, as we knew that this was the best way to provide financially for our family. About nine months ago, my husband lost his job. His entire company just shut down one day, with little prior warning to any of the employees. About six months ago, I was given the opportunity to work full time, as another part time worker left the office. Ever since I started working, my husband has taken over some of my previous duties (car pool, dinner prep etc.). Unfortunately, he is becoming more and more angry over it, and extremely resentful. I am trying very hard to maintain some positivity, but, it's getting really hard. What should I do?
Thanks for raising such a tough issue. This is a situation that many couples are experiencing in one way or another due to the economic downturn that the world is experiencing right now. Luckily, you still have income coming into the house which relieves a lot of the stress that you could be facing.
It sounds as though this period of transition has been especially challenging for the two of you. It must also be hard for you as you juggle your new job, and, at the same time try and maintain peace in a very stressful situation. Please try and find the time to do things for yourself to make sure that you are not getting too burned out.
In terms of your husband, try and think about things the way that he sees things. Men tend to wrap a lot of their self worth into their ability to provide for their families. You mentioned that your husband was always a good provider. This was probably a main source of his self esteem and identity. For a man, once that is taken away, he may not feel like he has a lot of other areas where he feels he is making any contributions. Your husband probably feels unsure about what he can do for the family, as the economic situation may not give him much hope in finding a job anytime soon.
Women, on the other hand, are more multi faceted in their roles, as even if they do have jobs, they also identify themselves as mothers, wives, friends, daughters and any other myriad of roles that we engage in on a regular basis. Usually for a woman, if she loses her job, she doesn't tend to feel the same loss that a man experiences in the same situation. Generally, she can fall back into these other roles to help maintain her sense of self worth.
To help your husband, try and voice for him what he might be feeling. When he voices his resentfulness, try and stop and think about what he's really saying. When he says, "I can't stand driving the carpool" it's probably the only way that he knows how to say, "I am so angry about losing my job, and, I feel like I have let everyone down". Try and empathize with him. On the superficial lever, you can agree that driving car pool is tedious, but, remind him how you really appreciate the fact that by doing so, he's keeping the family going. Remember, say it like you mean it, as he will detect sarcasm a mile away.
Try hard not to get caught up in his anger and resentment. I know that it's hard, but, if you get caught up in it, it will only kindle the flame of greater anger and resentment to flare. Try and remain empathic and/or neutral when he gets frustrated. If that's hard for you, try humor. If you and your husband have good senses of humor, and enjoy being together in that way, then tap into that now. Numerous studies have shown that laughter helps relieve tension and anxiety; it could work wonders for you as well. By you being the source of emotional strength right now, it will give him the chance to regroup and find himself. (Of course, if he is becoming abusive, that has to stop immediately, and you must consult with someone privately.)
If he feels that the industry that he was previously in has very little future, or, it will be a very long time until it recovers, help him find another avenue for making a living. Help him figure out other areas that he might like to explore, and encourage him to explore them. Anxiety is caused when someone remains inactive about a situation. By becoming more proactive, this will help lessen the anxiety which in turn will lower tension, frustration and resentment.
Remember to treat him with the respect that you have always treated him. Understandably, you may also be feeling some underlying resentment at having to go out to work full time, as well as giving up some of the "extras". Talk to your husband about it. In a non-accusatory way, tell him that this is hard for you as well, and, you would also like things to be back to the way they were. Don't forget that you are a team, and that you are in this together. Right now, the game plan has changed, but, you share the ultimate goal of keeping your family functioning. Keep the communication lines open, especially at his critical time. Make time to get together so you can reconnect as a couple. Try and remind him that this is only temporary, and G‑d Willing things will return to the way that you both want things to be.
I want to thank you again for bringing up such a sensitive, yet important topic. And, wish you all the best in helping you and your husband get through this challenging time.