Ashamed His Wife Must Support Family

Q: I've been unemployed for about 2 years now, though I've certainly been trying. Thank God my wife of 30 years is in a good, stable job which has been keeping us afloat. I've done everything suggested to me by job coaches and nothing has panned out. I feel like I've exhausted my own field and I'm at the point that I am looking for almost any kind of employment. I'm willing to be retrained, yet nothing has panned out.

I know it's affecting my marriage and how my wife feels about me. I sense it. I'm feeling shame and embarrassment and I try as best as I can to keep my head up. She knows I'm trying daily and that I'm not lazy, but I've let her and our family down. I can't keep blaming the economy, as I see others going to work. I know this has chiseled away our marriage and I fear what will happen if I don't find a job soon. What can I do to instill confidence in her that things will be okay when I, myself, don't believe it right now? — Monroe, 56

Dr. Susan: I don't know your wife, but you wrote that she is not making an issue of your joblessness. Most of your concern is due to your own frustration and shame. And it's a real concern: you're used to caring for the family financially, and in many societies, that's certainly expected. If your wife loves you, and you've always done your best, I bet she's not feeling that the marriage is threatened. You're the one who needs reassurance that there's more to being a man, more to being a good husband, than bringing in a good steady paycheck.

Unfortunately, when the economy is this messed up, you can still blame outside forces for your lack of a job. It sounds like you're trying everything. As you get older, it certainly gets harder to find good jobs. I suggest you talk to your wife about your and her feelings, and admit to her that you're worried she thinks lesser of you lately. It's possible that your joint financial situation isn't going to be bright for some time yet. But that's no reason for your relationship to suffer. I'm almost certain your wife keeps you around for a lot more than your earning ability. Good luck!

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