Bread, bacon, clams —whatever you call it, women are the ones bringing it home these days. According to The New York Times over the past year, as companies from Citibank to GM announced massive layoffs, a full 82 percent of the people getting pink slips have been men. Any day now, women are expected to become the majority of the American workforce.
On the one hand, more women being primary money-makers is amazing—a real opportunity for us to get over the way-outdated idea that supporting a family is a man’s job. But on the other hand, relationships can suffer when one source of income is lost and power dynamics shift.
We talked to six women whose husbands/fiancé/boyfriends have lost their jobs. How it’s affecting their relationships, after the jump…1. Down to necessities. But now, he’s needy.
“My live-in boyfriend of 17 years lost his mechanical engineering job three months ago. We haven’t gone out to a restaurant since and are buying store brands at the market. He’d never admit it—but he’s become more needy. When I’ve had a stressful day at work, it’s hard to come home and be upbeat and supportive.” —Lynn Brown, 44, life coach in Greenfield Center, NY
2. Forget love. He goes where the work is.
“Between September and January, my boyfriend has been laid off four times. He applied for tons of jobs in Los Angeles, but got zero response. Then he posted his resume in Boston, where he’s from. He got 10 calls quickly. We decided it was best for him to move back to Boston. The recession has split us up.” – Jennie, 27, counselor in Los Angeles
3. He’s become a house-spouse.
“My husband Paul is now responsible for keeping the house clean, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, taking our son to practices, helping with homework, plus walking the dog.” —Elizabeth Naculich, 40, event services manager in Fort Smith, Arkansas
4. Or not.
“I’m angry at my fiancé. I’m working around the clock, picking up hours so we can afford our apartment. I’ll ask in the morning if he can do the laundry or figure out dinner. When I get home, it’s obvious he’s done nothing all day but play video games. I sympathize with him being out of work, but that’s no excuse to not pick up the slack.” —Suzanne, 31, consultant in Chicago
5. Starting a family is even harder.
“I’m nine months pregnant, I am so uncomfortable, and I just want to be at home. But, I’m at work. I have to stick it out until the very end because my husband recently lost his job as a consultant for Merrill Lynch. I am the only one bringing in an income now and our health insurance is through my job. The worst part is that I only get four weeks of unpaid maternity leave. I’ll have to be back at work when our baby is a month old. It’s just not what I had imagined.” – Katherine, clinical social worker in New York City
6. To be involved in their job search, or not to be? That is the question.
“My husband has been out of work for months, and I don’t get the impression he’s doing enough to change the situation. I keep asking, ‘What jobs did you apply for today? Did you talk to so-and-so about things at his company?’ I feel like a total nag. I’m trying to figure out the line. Do I print out job listings for him, or is that totally emasculating? I don’t want to be like an overbearing mom.” —Samantha, 25, teacher in Atlanta