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Relationships: How to cope with job loss

By Liza Finlay
Relationships: How to cope with job loss

Relationships: How to cope with job loss

Shock waves

Whether it’s one of dual incomes or the sole income, when you or your partner loses a job, your relationship suffers shock waves.

Indeed, there are few things that push our stress buttons like job loss. Solid, secure earnings provide the perception of stability. Without this, we feel like the earth is moving under our feet. It's frightening.

Here's what to look out for, and how to cope, if job loss happens in your family.

Relationships: How to cope with job lossPhoto: Knape/iStockphoto

Either/or thinking

Fear often triggers a fight, flight or freeze reflex that can have serious repercussions for your relationship. Dukes up, duck out or dead silence aren’t desirable strategies for facing this particular relationship challenge. Nor is it helpful to “catastrophize." Catastrophizing is another automatic response that comes from our reptilian brain — and it has little use in an evolved marriage. When we catastrophize, we look at life in black-and-white absolutes. I call this kind of cognitive distortion “either/or thinking."

Here’s what either/or thinking sounds like: “Either I find another job, or the family will end up homeless"; “Either my luck changes or we’re doomed.” This type of thinking should be avoided in favour of "neither/nor thinking."

Relationships: How to cope with job lossPhoto: laflor/iStockphoto

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Neither/nor antidote

The antidote to that insidious either/or mind-trap is "neither/nor." Remember, the world is neither collapsing nor perfect. You are neither flying high nor crashing and burning. You are neither employed nor unemployable. Such small attitudinal shifts can create huge emotional change.




Relationships: How to cope with job lossPhoto: Laflor/iStockphoto

Five-point problem-solving plan

The key is adaptation: the ability to bend, acclimate and adjust. It is one of the greatest predictors of relationship survival, more crucial than romance or even sex. The key to adaptation is being creative and flexible. It’s time for both of you to unite and create solutions. Here’s a simple five-point problem-solving plan:

1. Analyze: Define the problem. Is it money? If so, how much? Put specific parameters around the problem at hand.
2. Prioritize: If there are multiple issues (money, long-term fulfillment), decide what needs to be done now and what can wait.
3. Strategize: Make a list of any and all possible solutions. Can the car loan be renegotiated? Are there any good retraining programs?
4. Research: Explore your options, acquire data, ask questions.
5. Plan: Map a course — this map may change, but at least you have a starting point.

Relationships: How to cope with job lossPhoto: laflor/iStockphoto

Search for silver linings

Finally, and I say this at the risk of collective eye rolling, search for silver linings. They are there. Often opportunities come disguised as obstacles. This is an opportunity for change, an opportunity for reinvention, an opportunity to realize what you have (and not what you’ve lost). Don’t squander those opportunities by permitting fear to hold you hostage. It’s scary to lose a job. But you can choose not to stay scared and move forward together.

Relationships: How to cope with job lossPhoto: Dean Mitchell/iStockphoto

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Relationships: How to cope with job loss

Here's what to look out for, and how to cope, if job loss happens in your family.

This article was originally published on Apr 08, 2013

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