For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Experiencing trouble in life is not a new concept only relevant to our world today. Pick up a Bible and read it for any length of time. You're sure to see there are numerous stories of trial and tribulation throughout the pages of God's word.
God loves us, there's no doubt about it. But He doesn't promise us a life that's always smooth and easy going.
If you've followed my writings at all, you already know my husband and I have endured many major life trials over the past decade. All of which could have easily destroyed our marriage if we hadn't been vigilant in not letting that happen.
Most recently, he was unemployed for a very long, grueling three years. It wasn't his fault. It was a result of a company closure and a very poor economy, but those facts didn't reduce the level of tension in our home.
Last night I asked him to share with me the good things I did (or didn't do) as his wife that made him feel loved during what he admits was his most difficult life trial to date - long term unemployment.
I found what he had to say interesting and thought you would find it helpful in your own circumstances.
Engage in Regular Intimacy
Turn the Barry White music on if you have to, to get yourself in the mood. Whatever it takes - just do it. Have sex with your man. Even when I was so emotionally drained I could barely smile, I still had sex with my husband. This meant so much to him, because his self-esteem was continually dwindling away with every rejection or lack of response to his job hunting efforts. One thing he could count on was knowing his wife still desired him.
Most men aren't talkers when it comes to sharing their feelings. My man isn't one of those guys. He has been known to retreat into a mental "man cave" more often than not, but he's also pretty good about sharing his feelings or what's on his mind when I let him know I'm concerned about him. I couldn't fix his unemployment, but I helped my husband immensely by being a good listener. In a sense, I was his sounding board so he could think and talk through different scenarios.
Nagging is unproductive and only stirs up already destructive and overwhelming emotions. I really didn't want to feel like I was being my husband's mother. I wanted to love him and treat him for who he was - my husband - not my child. So even when I would feel frustrated if there seemed to be a particular moment of "lack of effort" on his part, I would tame my tongue and find something positive to say instead.
Keep Life as Normal as Possible Around the Home
The trials we faced were issues I had no control over. Nothing I did or didn't do would change their outcome or timing. So I focused on things I did have control over, like our home life. I kept the normal routines of our day in place, kept the house clean, the kids fed and happy, and scheduled regular family activities to make life feel normal and consistent. This wasn't just good for my husband, but it was good for me and for our children as well.
Speak Words of Love and Affirmation Every Day
Not a day went by during my husbands three years of unemployment that I didn't tell him how much I loved him and why. This was so important to me because I understood how so much of his identity was wrapped up in what he did for a living or how well he provided for his family. I never wanted him to feel unloved on top of everything else he was feeling. As it turns out, those words of love and affirmation gave him strength to continue persevering in the storm.
Respect His Role as the Leader of Your Family
No matter what circumstances you're facing, give him respect as the leader of your family. It's how God designed marriage. Even though my husband was out of work, I still treated him with respect as he led our family through major decisions needing to be made. The fact that his company closed down leaving him unemployed didn't mean he was no longer capable of thinking strategically, goal planning, or preparing for our long term best interest.
Pray For Him
I prayed for my husband and our marriage every day. There were days when I felt like a broken record, begging God to fix our situation so my husband wouldn't feel so depressed and so our marriage wouldn't feel like there was a silent tension between us. Then I started praying for my husband's spirit, for his outlook, for his health, for his other roles in our life as spouse and father, and so much more. Here's a 6-Week Prayer Guide for praying your husband through unemployment. I prayed every prayer in this guide at one time or another. I also prayed many of these prayers for myself as well.
Find Healthy, Productive Ways to Cope
One of the best ways to show love to our husband during difficult times is to make sure we take care of ourselves first. I was no good to my husband when I was balled up under the covers with tear stained cheeks. So I found healthy and productive ways to cope. That's what my book, UnEmployed Faith, is all about. Additionally, finding healthy ways to cope also means finding an outlet for your emotions that isn't your husband. Find emotional support through friends who understand your role as wife to an unemployed man.
Be Wise With the Money You Have
Don't spend money unnecessarily. Be willing to give up non-essentials when money is tight. Shop smart, watch for sales, or check for a needed item in the thrift store. Or see if someone you know has the item you can borrow temporarily. Think creatively for gift giving, focusing more on personal acts of love rather than monetary gifts. If you need inspiration, just Google "frugal living" and you're sure to stumble across some great blogs or websites full of ideas.
If your white collar, career-minded husband is out of work, don't try to get him a job at the local supermarket because you feel he isn't shopping his resume around to your satisfaction. Trying to control his steps to resolve the difficult situation your family is in, is only treating him like a child and not respecting the man you married. Instead, encourage him in his efforts and politely let him know when you hear of an opportunity he might want to look into. Then let him decide if it's something he would like to pursue or not.
Everyone copes with hardship differently. Don't judge your man for the circumstances you're both facing. He's already throwing enough personal negative self-talk at himself for not preventing whatever it is from happening and for not being able to quickly resolve it. He needs you to be his cheerleader, spurring him on with positivity and an attitude of hope.
Don't withdraw from the relationship. Once you withdraw it's very difficult to pull yourself back in to the relationship on a positive note. And once you withdraw, it won't be long before he does exactly the same thing. Keep talking to him. Keep loving him. Keep finding reasons to laugh with him. Keep hugging him and kissing him. Keep thinking of all the reasons you fell in love with him in the first place. Keep on keeping on.
Being married to a man who is out of work has it's challenges. But he won't be unemployed forever. (I know it sometimes feels like he'll never work again.) In the meantime, remember this - if we never experience difficult times, we won't grow and mature in our faith, which means we don't become willing participants doing God's work as He calls us to.
Somewhere, somehow God has an opportunity for you in all of this. Be still each day and listen for the Holy Spirit to guide your steps. Look for the opportunity to do something good for God. It's there. I promise.