A lay-off doesn’t mean a love-buster

Today’s guest blog is written by Benjamin Gladden, husband and father of three, who’s currently logging lots of hours in the “What makes for a good marriage and parent” department. He writes from his home in Framingham, Massachusetts.

About three years ago I got laid off from a job that I absolutely loved. I could have sat in that chair doing that work for the rest of my life and been very happy.

It hadn’t been easy managing the care of three children while my wife and I both worked full-time, but I really loved the work. It was completely fulfilling.

But then I got laid off.

The severance package I received included a class on resume writing, job interviews, etc. The resume tips were useful, but the most helpful part of the class was a little flier in our folders that discussed the emotional state of the person who just lost their job.

This little sheet talked about the need to take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually. But it also stressed the importance of taking care of your relationships–like your marriage.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about how my marriage would be affected. But this little flier got me thinking, and it began a journey that continues today.

I started making more of an effort to maintain and improve my marriage. I read several extremely helpful books. (See below for a list of those books.) And, most importantly, I prayed – a lot!

A recent New York Times article discusses the stress that long-term unemployment can do to a marriage. Although the article focuses on money-related issues, it has a lot of very helpful suggestions about making your marriage better.

After 16 years of marriage, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier about the state of my marriage.

Here are a few of the things that I tried. I feel they really worked.

Communicate. I made a conscious effort to communicate more often and about more things with my wife. Whether it was where and when I was going somewhere, or what I was thinking about my job search. I just started being more communicative. It wasn’t easy at first, but I think I’m getting used to it.

One book helped a lot in this regard. It’s called The 5 Love Languages. It made a huge impact on the way that I communicated with my wife, because it helped me discover what made her feel loved and how she could best understand what I was saying. You can read the book – or at least take the online quiz to find out the best way to communicate love to your spouse.

Take time off. I made an effort to take time for my marriage and myself, instead of spending every waking moment caring for the kids and looking for work. My wife and I started taking walks at night. This eventually developed into a near weekly “date night” – when we’d get a babysitter and go out, just the two of us.

Pray. I started getting up early (like 4:30am early) to read the Bible and pray. I tried to place God and Christ at the center of my marriage. This made a huge difference in the way that I behaved, which in turn affected the way that I treated my wife. Now when I read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4-6), I ask myself if I am treating my wife according to the guidance in these chapters. When I read St. Paul’s guidance for husbands to “love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), I asked myself if I was properly loving my wife and giving up “myself” for her.

None of these things were easy – or are easy, since I’m still working on them. But they made a positive difference in my marriage and in my own mental health. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been happier!

What things have you prayed or done in your marriage that has improved it? How have you changed your behavior toward your spouse or changed the way you think about your spouse? I’d love to read your comments and suggestions down below.

Further reading:
“Marriage Maintenance When Money Is Tight”, NYTimes.com, accessed May 17, 2012

“Love Languages Personal Profiles”, 5LoveLanguages.com, accessed May 17, 2012

Other resources to consider
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary D. Chapman
(There’s an editions for kids and a really helpful one for teenagers!)

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, by Willard F. Jr. Harley

Love Busters: Protecting Your Marriage from Habits That Destroy Romantic Love, by Willard F. Jr. Harley

Comments

  1. says

    Like Sharla, I’m not married either, but these ideas Communication, Taking Time, and Praying, can be applied to any relationship that one holds dear. It can be a relationship between parent and child, friends, church members, co-workers, neighbors, etc. I’ll be stepping up my activities in these three areas related to valued relationships. Thanks, Ben.

  2. Sharla Allard says

    I very much appreciate your marriage tips even though I’m not currently married. Marriages definitely need strengthening, and every unselfish thought helps. Such thoughts help in my life, too, of course, as taking other people’s needs into account definitely strengthens friendships.

  3. Ben G says

    Thanks for the comment, Holly. We don’t come from money either! So, we made a lot of very substantial changes to our lives. This included shopping at thrift stores for clothes, cutting way back on dining out, buying cheaper food brands – I even cut back on the amount of meat we ate! We got rid of my cell phone, switched to a cheaper provider for phone and internet service, started using the library instead of buying books or movies, traded child care with a neighbor so that I could work, and spent a lot more time home instead of going out and doing things.

    The biggest change we made, though, was budgeting. I became an expert budgeter! We switched to an all-cash system and even used little envelopes for our budget categories – if there wasn’t money in the gas envelope, we didn’t put gas in the car. There were at least two instances of when I took my son to school, but didn’t have gas to pick him up. In both instances, something happened during the day that allowed me to put a few dollars of gas in the tank. We also received $150 worth of Shell gift cards in the mail – the envelope had no name or return address on it! I still have no idea who sent them.

    I knew that making these changes required a strong, healthy relationship with my wife and with God. We both chose to rely on God to guide us and to make us stronger.

  4. Bethany says

    I just got laid off last week. This is timely, relevant and very helpful. Thanks for the lovely article, Ben!

  5. Anne says

    It’s interesting, but I felt impelled to quit all the part time jobs I was doing a few years ago in order to spend more time devoted to prayer and helping others through my practice of Christian Science. This in itself has been a huge blessing to our marriage and whole family, with all the spiritual growth going on. At the same time that I quit my jobs, one after another, people began to come to live with us who have, in different ways, blessed our whole family and hepled us grow together, just by being who they are. Each person, or couple, who has been here has showed us how to bless each other and appreciate each other more.

  6. Holly Zietlow says

    Thanks for the article. Although there are many helpful ideas, bills still need to be paid. We were in this situation also, but had to work five jobs and the time to cultivate other aspects of our marriage was not there. We did not come from money nor did we have family resources to rely upon. It was hard work a commitment to save what we had, and it brought a new understanding of what our relationship to GOD was. An appreciation of the Bible was also renewed. But thanks for the ideas.