8 Tips to Help an Unemployed Spouse

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Helping a Spouse When They’ve Become Unemployed

Did your wedding vows include “for richer, for poorer” and “for better, for worse”? Those promises were really put into practice for many couples as more than 120 million spouses have become unemployed over the last few years.

Are you currently married to an unemployed spouse? Do you have the tools you need to support your spouse through a job loss like being laid off or even fired? These hard situations are truly the nitty-gritty moments of marriage, but the opportunity for some beautiful connection amidst the vulnerable circumstances might just leave you with a new outlook!

An unemployed spouse doesn't have to strain a marriage | The Dating Divas
Couple gathers at table to create a plan together after being laid off

So you received the dreaded phone call. Your spouse has lost their job. Or maybe they simply arrived home early one day with a defeated look on their face and rounded shoulders. Knowing what to do and say when your spouse becomes unexpectedly unemployed is really more than tricky.

Do you comfort your spouse? Does your spouse need space to process? Do you question if they really did their best? Does your spouse want help fixing the situation? Do you ponder your own feelings and concerns? Do you tell the kids?
Seriously, what on earth should those first timid steps be?

Guide for How to Help Your Spouse When they’ve Been Laid Off

When it comes to navigating ANY type of tough situation in marriage, it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to others! Your sweetie’s needs during this difficult time being unemployed will likely be totally different than your friend’s spouse.

With that said, there ARE lots of little things you can do when a job loss hits your home to ensure you put your best foot forward in marriage:

  1. Communicate that you are physically and emotionally available to your spouse
  2. Create space for your spouse to share thoughts and feelings or to have time alone
  3. Find support for yourself so that you can show up better for your spouse
  4. Practice compassion often and work to share empathy for their experience
  5. Do your best to avoid pressuring your spouse for a “next step” plan if possible
  6. Get moving with your spouse outside to be proactive with their mental health
  7. Re-negotiate roles, household functions, assigned chores, and your budget intentionally together
  8. Decide to make your marriage MORE of a priority than you ever have before

Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these points below.

Tackling finances as a couple after being laid off keeps communication high | The Dating Divas
Young couple sits in the living room together to weigh options after a job loss

A Deeper Dive into Navigating Unemployment in Marriage

Task 1: Communication

While your spouse may not be willing to process their thoughts verbally right away, it is really good for you to set the tone early that you ARE a safe place for them. Communicating verbally that you are willing to be emotionally available even during a season of stress creates the expectation that transparency is okay even when both of you are unsure of the future. Tough circumstances have the potential to drive you and your sweetie closer together or further apart. The outcome depends on you.

Task 2: Making Space

Once you’ve communicated that you are readily available to help your spouse process this massive loss and ego-hit, let your actions follow by creating space for conversations as they arise. If your spouse prefers to be with their thoughts alone first, create space away from responsibilities and the loud voices of kiddos. Your spouse will appreciate you catering to their preferred method of processing and stress relief during these early days. You know your spouse better than anyone! Serve their grief as best as you can, just as you would want them to do for you.

Task 3: Support Yourself

Now that you’ve swallowed your own fear for a few minutes, hours, or even days, it’s time for you to give yourself some support. Hopefully your spouse has been appreciative of the ways you’ve made space for their emotions and will return the favor for yours, but it is also important you find some ways to achieve self-care on your own too. Exercising, calling a friend, seeing a therapist, or even a short walk once the kids are in bed are great ways to give yourself some time to self-soothe!

Task 4: Practice Empathy

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your spouse being laid off or fired, the importance of empathy in your marriage still remains. The Gottman Institute’s research proves massive benefits to showing compassion, empathy, and curiosity in long-term relationships. Compassion shows concern. Empathy shows understanding. Curiosity shows interest. All will provide more trust and positive outcomes in the upcoming conversations you will need to have together.

Supporting your spouse through their job search is important after being fired | The Dating Divas
An unemployed husband begins his job search by scheduling interviews

Task 5: Avoid Pressure

Whether the income lost was from a husband or a wife, a spouse facing layoffs will feel immense internal pressure. Their contribution to the family that once felt certain is now gone. Guilt, shame, and pressure do not notice gender. Your spouse is stressed. That is for sure and certain. When possible, try to be aware of the internal pressure your sweetie is already feeling and do your best not to add to it! Remember that you BOTH feel the urgency of next steps and your marriage needs nurturing.

Task 6: Get Moving

For some, a job can be replaced within weeks of loss or layoffs. For others, the job search takes much longer. Encourage your spouse to join you for movement outside in the sunshine even on the bleak days. Whether this stress lasts for only days or extends into a much longer time frame, prioritizing mental well-being together will be such a blessing to your personal health as well as your marriage’s health! This will promote more productive thought-patterns, healthy conversation between you too, and more happy hormones for your sweetie!

Task 7: Re-Negotiate Roles

Your spouse may be unemployed longer than you hoped. This could rearrange a lot of factors for your family! Schedule an intentional conversation to talk about these changes and renegotiate what you need from each other. A spouse that is home more may be able to help more around the house than before. Or maybe your spouse needs hours in the office to search career options. Make an effort to talk about your finances from the beginning, too! This is a common pain-point for couples in your circumstance. Get ahead of your budget TOGETHER before it gets ahead of you. Being open and honest about your expectations will help you avoid bitterness or contempt later.

Task 8: Prioritize Your Marriage

You had to have guessed we might say this. This makes the list for good reason, though! Now, more than ever, you will be leaning on your marriage. It is important to keep filling up your love buckets so that the stress of this season does not empty them too low. Your marriage deserves the maintenance! Even though finances and careers are high on your “to-do list” make sure you keep each other as high on your priority scale as possible! Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of having FUN together! Plan the date night. Do something new. Be silly! I promise, it will pay off.


Though the tension may {understandably} be at an all-time high when your spouse becomes unexpectedly unemployed, it really has never been more important for you to intentionally take each step in tandem. Excess communication through each part of the process after job loss is critical to ensuring both parties feel supported as a happily married team. Be sure to create moments separate from the heavy conversations to be present outside of this loss. Have FUN with your spouse!

If you need a little jump-start in the “fun department,” we have hundreds of ideas for you to choose from on our blog. You can check out our Date Night tab for some short, simple, FREE date ideas, OR you can subscribe for Dollar Dates for pre-planned monthly ideas that are unique AND don’t break the budget.

Remember, this too shall pass! Don’t let your marriage pass with it.

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I am a 5'2" girl living in my 6'2" husband's world and loving EVERY second of it! I am the proud dog mom to our beautiful Corgi Australian Shepherd mix, Kobe. (Lovingly named by my hubs after his favorite LA Lakers Basketball legend Kobe Bryant.) I am an Enneagram 3 with equal wings 2 and 4 who dreams to be the vibrant intersection where right brain meets the left. I am an introverted extrovert...or was it extroverted introvert?! I live for good music, challenging books, ALL forms of the glorious and ever-versatile potato, any DIY project that requires a big-girl power tool, binge marathons of The Office, every home renovation show that exists on a streaming service, and moments in time that are filled by nothing but loud, lawless laughter.

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Recent Comments

  1. I love the way you write these serious topics with such love and care! This is going to be so helpful for so many people!

  2. This is something I am saving in my back pocket because you never know when you might experience unemployment. Thanks for the great tips and thoughtful advice.

  3. We’ve been through the unemployment cycle before and I wish I had had this article to help me figure out what to do. It’s really hard to navigate and this list is extremely helpful!

  4. I really love the reminders for Tasks 7 & 8. Life changes all the time but changing up responsibilities to help with those changes and keeping your marriage a priority are so important. And can definitely help when jobs change or are lost.