We’re both unemployed

Dear Ms. Goldstein,

I am desperate for some neutral advice. My husband and I are both out of work. His unemployment is running out soon, mine will last for a few more months. I look for work every day and share my efforts with him.

He, on the other hand, sits at his computer with the door shut and never shares any information about his job search efforts. He refuses to reach out to former colleagues, join alumni groups, or get involved in networking events, etc. He will not apply for anything that he does not view as a lateral or step up from his last job.

Over the last 3 years I saved money (for a new car when mine dies, because I won't qualify for a loan due to my high student loan debt). My husband thinks we should use up my savings to pay our bills while he continues to sit at home looking for work. I am unwilling to use it because he won't (1) share his job seeking efforts with me, or (2) apply for anything "beneath" him.

I suspect his behavior may be because he is depressed but he refuses/denies any depression. What can/should I do?

– Clueless in Cleveland

You need to ask your husband why he won't talk to you about this stuff. It's possible that after an entire day of looking for jobs, he wants to focus on something else. It's possible that the "sharing of efforts" is making him feel competitive -- or more stressed. Please ask him -- when you're just sitting around and watching TV -- whether there's a better way to communicate.

Also, try to stay social. It's easy to become isolated with your computer when you're unemployed, but you need to see friends and find a balance for the stress. Invite some people over to watch a movie you already own (that's cheap). Do something simple. Being around others will remind your husband that you have a community that wants to help. It'll also remind him that you're not the only couple with job issues. Some of your friends are probably dealing with similar employment problems.

As for his potential depression, who knows? But therapy would be great for you as you cope with this discomfort. Assuming you have some health insurance, find out whether you can connect with a professional. It would be great to get some consistent third-party guidance during this difficult time.

Readers? How can she get the husband to talk to her and to ask for help? How can unemployed couples avoid taking their stress out on each other? Thoughts? Help.

– Meredith