I came home this afternoon with a headache and found a flooded basement. Now that the plumber is gone, I need to head downstairs and do yucky work, being very grateful that I have a carpet cleaner that will suck much of the water away.
While the plumber was repairing my sump pump, I learned that a close friend of over a decade had been fired from her job. It wasn’t a surprise. She’s had a rough year at her job, and there have been several other times over the past months when she has expected to be let go. Still, it was a tremendous shock.
We’ve undergone this same shock so many times that it’s actually lost its shock value. My husband’s career has been the victim of the economy and politics several times. Once, after his first job after extended unemployment, he made a huge mistake and was fired for cause. We’ve gone through this time and time again; it’s never easy. In the midst of personal and professional despair, there are processes to go through and decisions to be made. At a time when the most mental clarity is needed, that clarity can be so clouded by emotion.
My husband and I have gone through unexpected job losses when our marriage was at its weakest, and we’ve gone through these losses when it was strong. Even when our marriage is strong, a job loss is hard. When it comes after other challenges—such as taking on the work of downsized colleagues, a change in management, medical issues or other personal struggles—it is incredibly wearing. At one point, in fact, I remember thinking that I felt like the Appalachian Mountains—old and worn down.
A job loss that happens when a marriage is strong is infinitely easier than when it is weak. The first couple years, my husband and I were fighting the same battle, separately. Our finances tanked. We constantly received calls from creditors. We had to make extremely difficult financial decisions that continue to leave their traces on our lives and will for some time. Our marriage wasn’t strong, so instead of being able to draw strength and encouragement from that, we sucked our individual selves dry. No wonder my husband seemed like a shell of himself. At a time when he so desperately be reminded of his value as a man, he couldn’t even find comfort in his wife. There are times I am amazed that we stayed married. God was holding us together, because we weren’t doing so well ourselves.
Since we’ve begun our marriage improvement efforts, we’ve faced a few more job losses. Each time, I watch my husband question himself as a man. A couple months ago, I wrote, “Every time he loses a job or gets turned down for one he really wants, I feel like a piece of me is worn away permanently.” This is no different from when our marriage was weak.
What is different now, however, is that we experience the journey in a completely different way. Instead of coping in parallel ways, we now share the sadness, the effort, the decisions. Instead of us battling each other over who spends what or what bill did or didn’t get paid, we battle our financial struggles together. Instead of needing God’s help to face our financial challenges and a spouse, we draw on God together to face our shared struggle. The last time he lost a job and the times after when he got turned down, he knew he could seek comfort in me. And I was able to seek comfort in him as well. Our marriage was part of what gave us so much strength to face uncertainty.
The last job that turned him down called the next day and said they changed their minds. He loves what he is doing, and they like his work. And we are rejoicing together, which is pretty awesome.
I worry about my friend, though. Her marriage has been drowning for a couple years. He was withdrawing from her, and by the time he tried to re-engage, she had withdrawn from him and gotten involved in an emotional affair. My heart weeps as I think of what is ahead of them. Their marriage is not in a good place. I know that the coming days will be incredibly difficult. My prayer is that their hearts will be open to how God can use this to strengthen their marriage.
Thinking of the challenges ahead of them makes me almost relieved that all I have to deal with tonight is cleaning up a flooded basement.