Hi Will:

I’m coming to you because I’m not sure where else to turn. See, my husband of 20 years lost his job about a month ago. But the situation is not that cut and dried.

See, Bill went to work for a small company about 15 years ago. In that time, he became an invaluable employee, sort of the de facto boss, when the owner, Jeff, was away. And he loved it, giving the best years of his life to that company.

In that time, Jeff’s son, Jason, was running all over the world; school abroad, vacations to far off destinations, in short, livin’ it up. Well, I guess he got tired of it and came home (with a pregnant girlfriend, but that’s another story) and went to work for his dad’s company. But here’s the problem; Jeff couldn’t afford to keep them both so, after all these years, he let my husband go.

Needless to say it’s thrown Bill for a loop and blown a HUGE hole in our budget. But that doesn’t worry me as much as my husband. Bill sleeps a LOT. When he wakes up he doesn’t bother getting out of his sweats. He doesn’t shave and perhaps most worrisome, he’s started drinking.

Will, what do I do? What CAN I do? I’m really scared.


Worried Wife

Hey Worried,

I’m really sorry to hear about your husband’s job. Right now this sort of thing is a sweeping across the country, and sadly, we’re not out of the woods yet. Things may get worse before they get better, but I probably don’t need to tell you that. The thing is; nothing kicks a man in the balls quite like losing a job. It’s not the end of the world; it just feels that way. Here’s why:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: We men tend to think we ARE our jobs, more so than women. If you  ask a woman to tell you something about herself you’ll probably hear, “My name is Tonya and I’m a married mother of two” and “I’m originally from Ohio” long before she makes it to “…and I’m an attorney”. But ask a man the same question, and you get “My name is Bob and I’m a plumber” or “I build houses” or “I work for the Yates firm”.  When a man loses a job, especially one he’s been on for 15 years, he can lose a part of his identity with it. When we are let go, two major man rules are violated:

*MAN RULE=Men need to feel needed.

*MAN RULE= Men don’t like change.

So now…

Bill’s uncomfortable. For as long as he can remember, he’s gotten up and gone to work.

Bill’s ashamed. He feels like one of those charity cases that he used to think should “go get a job.”

Bill’s scared. He’s been at the same place so long that, now, he doesn’t know if he can get a job somewhere else.

Bill’s mad. He doesn’t want another job; he wants HIS JOB back from that snot-nosed punk.

Bills’ miserable. He doesn’t want to feel these things and alcohol seems to dull the feelings.

Without a good, strong, support system (yeah, that’s you!) Bill could be in trouble… so it’s time to put on your big girls pants and step up.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY: You need to reassure Bill that you still believe in him. Don’t try the “this is just a setback” or the “you’ll find a new job in no time” crap. Those are empty words that may hurt more than they help. He already knows it’s a setback and you can’t know when he’ll find a new job any more than he can. Instead, help him understand that his job didn’t define him and help him see your definition of him: a husband of 20 years, the man that you loved long before he worked for that company, and the man that you’ll still be standing next to when he’s on top again. You may think he already knows all of this, but hearing it can do incredible things for a man. And yes, I’m speaking from experience.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: It’s time to put Bill to back work. First off, if he’s decent with his hands, he now has time to get anything and everything done around his own house. Make him a honey-do list. Sometimes, just knowing we have things to do is enough to get a man out of bed. Then explain that, for now, looking for a job IS his new job, and it means getting up early, dressing the part, and getting things done. There’s no shame in a hard-working man looking for a job. Just for fun, tell him to start with his old company’s biggest competitor. Next, sign him up to volunteer around the community. Nothing takes a man’s mind off of his problems like fixing someone else’s. He may not like doing it at first, but like I said, once he has somewhere he has to be, he’ll get there. It’s a great way to make new contacts, a great way to stay busy, and a fantastic way to feel needed again. I’m betting that, once Bill has to choose between drinking and getting the job done, the alcohol will lose its grip. Having a beer after a hard day’s work beats the hell out of having a beer INSTEAD of one. And even in these troubled times, karma is still at play: work always finds a worker.

Losing a job can break a man’s heart, but it doesn’t have to break his spirit. You just have to believe in Bill so much that he starts believing in himself again. I’ll be praying for you both… and all the rest of us who are struggling these days!

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William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.