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Layoffs put relationships to the test

Ben Tischler did not see it coming. He was shocked to learn he was being laid off from a Miami advertising agency. As he cleared out his desk, he worried about how his girlfriend would react.

One of the biggest challenges a relationship can face is one of the pair losing his or her job. The situation can bring intense emotions such as humiliation, despair, fear and frustration.

Across industries, downsizing has become the de facto quick fix to address business woes. As of November, more than a million people nationwide had lost their jobs this year due to layoffs. To make matters worse, employers don't seem to be hiring, making it difficult to predict how long a job search will last and how well a relationship can weather the storm.

Tischler found a new job after three months and said his girlfriend was very supportive. "It was a huge boost for me."

Support struggles

Keeping upbeat can be tough when your loved one is sinking deep into despair.

For Jamie Rodriguez, her husband's layoff from his job as operations manager at a Florida financial company put her marriage under tremendous strain. A former workaholic, she said her spouse's immediate response when his position was eliminated was anger. The months following brought even more tension as job leads turned into dead ends. Money concerns began to dominate all household conversations as her husband insisted he was letting the family down.

"I tried to be open-minded but it became all he could talk about," she said.

While a partner's support is helpful, talking to an outsider can provide levity.

Susan Leventhal, a career counselor with WorkForce One, encourages laid-off workers to get together to exchange job leads or find a support system outside of their marriage or relationship, like the groups at her center. "When a spouse is impatient, it can be very painful," she says.

Marriage counselors recommend ratcheting up communication during the job search. Miami psychologist Wendy Joffe suggests couples discuss how much and what type of participation is helpful in a job search to avoid a suggestion coming across as a demand.

Joffe says the conversation also should include finances and lifestyle changes, two other heated sources of tension.

Layoffs put relationships to the test 12/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 28, 2008 8:16pm]
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