Helping your partner through unemployment

Like far too many men, your man likely defines his self-worth by his net worth. While your husband or partner's bank account size has never been an appropriate gauge of his self-worth, they frequently become dangerous yardsticks in a bad economy.

Taking steps that can help him forge a solid sense of self-worth-the sum of all the characteristics that define him as an individual, partner, parent, and member of his community and society-can help him ride out the uncertainties of this financial downturn.

Follow these five tips to help your husband or partner get through an unemployment crisis:

  1. Help him to understand the difference between his thoughts and his feelings. While thoughts are debatable, his feelings are his absolute truth. As such, let him know that you believe his feelings deserve to be treated by you and those around him as sacred and accepted unconditionally and without judgment. If he is unemployed he should be encouraged to talk about his feelings about being out of work.

    Being able to distinguish his feelings from his thoughts and learning to align himself with his feelings can strengthen his sense of self-worth. Speaking from his heart connects him with his true sense of power and allows him not only to feel good about himself, but also to deepen his relationships with you, his children, and his friends by encouraging them to speak openly and honestly from their feelings as well.

  2. Keep the lines of communication open. Difficult financial times can put great stress on your relationship. It is critical to regularly discuss with him how he is feeling as a man with you. Make time at least once a week for you and your partner to discuss how he's feeling and any problems either of you might be experiencing in your relationship.

    Dig deep and get to the root of issues he might never have brought up in the past, but that still influence his behavior. Work with him towards getting him to pay special attention to his buried anger and resentments and unresolved relationships with parents, siblings, or former spouses. Encourage him to practice signaling you when he feels strong negative emotions coming up so he can try to head off blowups before they occur.

    Working together as a team to overcome obstacles that are standing between you can be very empowering. It can increase his sense of self-worth and contribute to a healthy, evolving relationship.

  3. Encourage him to lean on his friends for support. Let him know that this is not the time for struggling, out-of-work men to go it alone. If he has close friends he can turn to for support, he needs to reach out to them. And you should be there for him when he needs you.

    If, on the other hand, he doesn't have those kinds of friendships, now's a perfect time for him to work on forming them. He might take an inventory of the activities he enjoys participating in-mountain biking, political activism, concert-going, model-building, for example. Any pastime he puts his heart into is a potential venue for meeting men who share his passion.

    To make friends, encourage him to take a chance and let others know he's interested in forming relationships. He can ask one or two men who seem compatible to get together for other activities or just to talk and get to know each other. Then allow the friendships to deepen.

  4. Encourage him to join a men's group. Becoming a member of a men's group can put him on a very fast-track to personal growth, self-worth, and deep, intimate friendships with other men. In a men's group, he gets the benefit of what I call collective male wisdom-the sum of all the life experiences other men have had in dealing with problems just like those he's facing.

    Check Craigslist, other online community resources, newspapers, or encourage him to ask any of his acquaintances who are already members of a group about joining. If he can't find an established men's group, then suggest he start his own. My book, The Key to the Men's Room, is a good guide to follow.

    If he knows just one other man who's interested, he'll know someone else, and that person, another man, and pretty soon he'll have six or seven guys-an ideal number to begin with. There's no better boost to self-worth than committing himself to becoming a better man while forming lifelong friendships.

  5. Help your partner identify his assets as a man. To help him realize and focus on his assets as a human being and member of society, work with him to compile a list of the qualities and activities that help make him feel good about himself.
Here are some examples:
  • The qualities that make him a good husband and partner-taking on his fair share of family and parenting responsibilities, respecting your autonomy, contributing to an open, honest dialogue with you, supporting your aspirations, working together to deepen intimacy in your relationship

  • Ways he supports his children-listening to them, teaching them, supporting their dreams, attending their school functions, coaching their teams

  • Friends he can call on in an emergency and whom he can trust to be there for him in an emergency community or neighborhood activities he's involved in volunteer work he does charities he supports

About Ken Solin:

Ken Solin earned a B.A. in History from Fairleigh Dickinson University and spent a year studying economics at City of London College in England. He spent four years as the women's bathing suit buyer for Macy's in New York City. He was a partner at Unicom Computer Corp., financing large IBM systems for Fortune 1000 firms for another four years.

Then, in 1979 he and a partner formed Bridgeway Capital Corp., which provided $500 million in growth capital for international high-tech companies and California wineries. For over 16 years Ken has been leading a men's group in the Bay Area to help men of all ages discuss the most personal issues in their lives in a safe environment. He has discussed men's issues on TV and radio programs and lectures on this topic across the country.

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