Job loss is a family affair

Some years ago, when experts began saying that wage earners would probably be employed by a number of different companies in their lifetimes, I wondered just how that would work.

The predictions were right: Rarely these days do people stay with the same company their whole careers. But my apprehensions were correct, too. No one explained - or planned for - a process by which someone could easily change professions several times.

Now we know that working for multiple companies and reinventing our careers often involves stretches of unemployment. And that can be demoralizing not just for the former job holder but also for the spouse. (See story.)

When my husband's job was in peril through downsizing, and again when it ended, our marriage went through plenty of ups and downs.

Some of his fellow employees got divorced. I've often wondered what made the difference for us. Several things stand out, although they wouldn't necessarily be the same for others. We had always been used to discussing and sharing every aspect of our lives, including finances. How to allocate funds became a real problem for husbands and wives we knew who were used to keeping their earnings separate.

I think that all couples who share a strong spiritual background have a good foundation from which to overcome trouble. Our faith gave us courage and hope. It showed me that I didn't have to offer criticism thinly disguised as advice, although I was often sorely tempted.

We have found, as did the couples Marilyn Gardner interviewed, that the lessons we learned during that period continue to strengthen our marriage. But if given a choice, I would rather have learned them some other way.

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