Man Down: How Long Is Too Long For Your Guy To Be Unemployed?

December 10, 2013  |  

“Your BFF’s new husband just got dropped from the 49ers,” my sports fanatic boyfriend matter-of-factly informed me one evening.

He was all too aware of the friend-in-my-head that is Kerry Washington. With me working in media and his undying love for all things sports, athletes and the women who love them, it always seems to be where our worlds collide.

“So like, what does that mean for him? Is his career like, over? You know they supposedly have a baby on the way,” I asked nervously.

“It’s a tough call,” he said before giving me the run-down on Nnamdi Asomugha’s athletic performance history.

“That’s absolutely awful. I really pray they can survive it. I mean, that kind of burden has to weigh
heavily on a relationship. They’re newlyweds. She’s at the top of her game right now and his career might be over.” I said that with enough concern to convince anyone who may have been listening in on our conversation that Kerry and I actually had a friendship somewhere other than in my head. But I meant it. Unemployment is hard on any relationship.

The call grew eerily silent. We had both temporarily escaped into our own thoughts.

“So how long?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

“How long what?”

“How long can your man be out of work after a layoff before you get fed up?”

That was a great question—one I’d never put much thought into and one I tried to answer with caution. You see, I have an extremely low tolerance for able-bodied men who get knocked on their butts and decide to stay there, leaving their significant other to carry the burden of an entire household alone. In the same breath, I must admit that I realize how sucky the job market is right now and I’m fully aware of our country’s alarming unemployment rate. Securing a new gig can be pretty challenging.

“Six months to a year and a half, depending on the circumstances,” I eventually said, estimating my breaking point. I’d happily hold my family down in the interim, but I think between six months and a year and a half is a reasonable amount of time to secure a new job for someone who is actively and aggressively seeking employment,” I continued.

He, of course, felt that anything past six months was too long for a man to leave his wife carrying such a heavy burden alone.

“Hell, even six months is too long. I may not be able to get the job that I want, but I’d rather hand out flyers and scrub toilets than leave my woman paying all of the bills,” he said.

I let out a sigh of relief. Unemployment in a relationship isn’t always a money thing, but more so, a partnership thing. In my years on this earth, I’ve encountered my share of men who seemed a bit too comfortable with being chronically unemployed—family members, friends and unfortunately, some ex-boyfriends. We then began discussing a mutual friend, who recently revealed that her husband was not only unemployed for more than a year, but despite being home all day while she went to work, was even reluctant about helping out with household chores. This friend, who was never shy about professing her love for her hubby in the past, confessed that his laziness was slowly stirring up a bit of resentment within her that sometimes made it difficult to be around him.

“Kerry and Nnamdi will be fine. They have millions to fall back on,” my boyfriend eventually said.

They probably will be fine. Hopefully our friend will be too, I thought to myself.

All relationships have their challenges and rough patches, but I believe that two people wholeheartedly committed to working through those tough times and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel are what the best love stories are made of. However, it has to be pretty tough when you’re struggling just to keep Con Edison from shutting that light (and the rest of them) off.

Follow Jazmine on Twitter @jazminedenise.

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