Dealing with cohabitation and unemployment

Thanks to all who entered to win the Museum of Broken Relationships book. A winner has been notified. I will try to give away some more stuff soon.


My fiancé and I have been together for about one year, and he recently moved into my house. We're both in our late 30s. When we first met, he told me his company was downsizing and that his job was unstable. I've been there and empathize with that. We discussed him doing the things one would typically do to proactively prepare for a layoff: freshening up his resume, networking, etc. He didn't do any of those things, and right before he moved in, he lost his job. Since then, he's gotten his resume together and applied to a few things, but it doesn't seem like he's really hustling to find something else. Part of the reason it has been difficult for him to find a job is that he is here on a work visa. That said, I would think that would make him even more motivated to look.

I love him and feel terrible that he lost his job. I've tried to be supportive, and am not hounding him about his progress. He's contributing to the bills and helping out at home, and I am thankful for that. Still, I'm struggling to handle this gracefully. He's in this situation because of his own complacency. He's laid up in my house all day long, which is irritating, especially because I lived alone for so many years before this; it was already going to be an adjustment for both of us to live together. He has said he doesn't want our marriage to be about his visa situation, but my friends and family are concerned that it will be. If his visa comes close to expiring I will certainly marry him . . . I love him and don't want him to be forced to go home. But it'll put our marriage in a different light than if he were gainfully employed when we tied the knot.

This situation has added a lot of strain to a relatively new relationship that was already undergoing a substantial adjustment in living together. I'm not adapting or handling it as well as I need to be. Splitting up is not an option. I am asking you all for some tips, insights, techniques, strategies, etc., to help improve this tough time in our lives.

– Tips?

Years ago, I had dinner with a family member who was looking for a job. I didn't know how hard she was searching – we hadn't talked about it much – but she revealed that night that she had submitted dozens of applications, reached out to friends about any opportunities for work, and spent most of her daytime hours trying come up with a plan for the rest of her life. She'd always seemed breezy about the process, but she said that wasn't the case. She was just sick of updating people on what she did all day. Also, she didn't want to get anybody's hopes up; as soon as she mentioned a possible job, friends and family asked her about it all the time.

I won't make guesses about your boyfriend's productivity, but please don't assume he's unmotivated or casual about work. It sounds like this is a very recent job loss that comes with complicated questions. You can be frustrated, but try not to jump to blame.

The real source of your stress, I think, is your new living situation, and the fear that you might need to get married sooner than later. Try to remember that you moved in together because you wanted to set up a shared life, and that you're still on that path. Right now, you're learning to share space, plan together, and support each other when things get difficult.

I know it seems like you're veering of course, but you're not.

– Meredith

Readers? Tips? Things to remember?