My husband has been offered a job — assuming he passes the physical. He has been unemployed for more than a year. This doesn’t actually mean that he has been unable to find a job for a year. It’s more like he has been able to avoid finding a job for a year, while we lived on my income and our retirement savings. Now he has been offered a job very like the one he had before.
He’s not reacting well to his good fortune. He’s been pouting all week, sleeping not on the sofa but on a love seat, huddled under his jacket. During the day the sits on the same loveseat in the same jacket, sullenly watching boxing matches on YouTube.
From my point of view, he could have spent this time training and working toward finding a job he would love. From his point of view, he worked hard and paid taxes for many years, and is entitled to every penny the government will give him. He has reached the point at which he cannot refuse a job and still receive benefits.
I spent months trying to help him figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his working life, but I think he really wanted to retire. After those months, we could hardly even talk about the situation without anger, so we just haven’t discussed it.
He’s angry now. He thinks that I could have helped him more — not helped him to find a preferable job or to take advantage of the government training program he didn’t succeed with, but to get more benefits with less effort, as he thinks he saw his friends doing.
And I’ve been angry all year, honestly. The humiliation of having a layabout husband, the worry over using up savings that we may need in the future, the inconvenience of having someone sitting around in the house all the time while I worked (and I feel bad about feeling that way, but there it is), the stress of the ongoing disagreement.
Now what? Will he continue to be angry with me because I somehow forced him to take a job when he could have stayed on the dole? Will I continue to be angry with him because he spent a year slacking off? Will we get past the extreme disconnect in our views and values which this episode laid bare? Will life go back to normal?
For some definition of normal?
When people talk about extended unemployment, this is the kind of situation I think of. I don’t believe that they’ve been doing all they can to find a job. But I can also see that there are undesirable jobs. And perhaps for some people, that is what they’re going to end up with, no matter what kind of program we put together. It’s hard to find motivation for success thinking if you’re looking at manual labor and trying to see it as better than unemployment. Our nation may have this divided viewpoint as part of what keeps us from working together to solve problems of poverty.