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Avoid the double whammy: layoff and divorce

John Heckers //September 8, 2010//

Avoid the double whammy: layoff and divorce

John Heckers //September 8, 2010//

Far too many of our executive clients come to us both in the middle of a career transition and in middle of a divorce. They rarely start the divorce proceedings. Sometimes, when the money is gone, so is the spouse. For the (mostly men) who face this double whammy of job loss and divorce, it is devastating. But there are things that can be done to preserve a marriage through career transition. Here are a few tips.

1). Don’t close off your feelings. We buy Kleenex by the case to keep in our office to be used by people who are breaking down and crying over the stress and loss of identity that has occurred in losing their jobs.

But this is, too often, hidden from their loved ones. Rather than opening up, many people just shut down. This leads to increased alienation and a feeling on the part of the spouse of being unloved. That, of course, leads to divorce.

2). Talk about the situation with your family. Most people feel that it is their responsibility alone to produce money for the family. But this is not the way families are supposed to work. Remember that “for richer or for poorer” in the marriage vows? Your family should be there for you whether you’re a walking wallet or not right now.

This requires that you open up and actually talk to them about the situation. Many people are surprised at how supportive their families are once they understand the situation. Be very realistic about the money situation so that everyone understands that things can’t just go on as if you were still employed.

3). Listen openly to your spouse’s concerns. It is easy to be defensive when a spouse talks about your career hunt. Don’t be. Try to hear the real concern behind what is being said and respond to that. It is difficult when your ego is already battered. But it is also necessary.

4). Don’t put the burden all on your spouse. Often, when one partner is the only one bringing in money, he or she can feel overwhelmed. This can lead to marital problems. Do what you can to take some things off of the still-working partner, such as spending some time to clean the house and, if you don’t have networking meetings or an interview, picking up the kids from events that your spouse would ordinarily have to take care of.

5). Show appreciation for your spouse. Tensions can run high during unemployment. Try to be very clear that your spouse is not responsible. Let your spouse know at least daily how much you appreciate and love him or her, and how important he or she is to you, especially during this time. One rose in a bud vase doesn’t cost much. But it lets someone who is standing by you know that you notice and are grateful for such a great person in your life.

6). Get counseling as needed. While it might seem to be an expenditure you can’t afford, you also can’t afford to lose your marriage. If things are rough, find a qualified marriage counselor to help you through this time. And don’t discount counseling for yourself, either. Depression and anxiety disorder are common among those who have lost their jobs. They can be treated.

7). Be realistic about money. Sit down with your spouse and financial advisor and know your financial situation. Spend money on things to help with your search, but look for every way possible to cut down on monthly expenditures. Know how long a “runway” you have before you crash and burn. You might be pleasantly surprised.

8). Recognize that the problems didn’t come overnight. A termination or lay-off is sometimes just the last straw in an already troubled marriage. See this time as a time to really work on the issues that are making your marriage troubled, and resolve them.

In the end, some marriages just won’t work out. This is especially difficult when there is already job loss. Try everything possible to keep your marriage, just as you did on your job. But recognize that it takes two to make a marriage work. Just like the layoff it may be beyond your control. You’ll get through it, one way or another, and laugh and live again.

If you are an executive at the Director, VP or CXO level looking for a job, and would like to network exclusively with other executives, join John and 35 of your colleagues for Structured Networking, Monday, September 13th, 5:30 – 9:00 PM at the Denver Athletic Club. It is at no charge and nothing is sold nor promoted. Go here for more information and required registration. No vendors, please.

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