DEAR AMY: Like many others these days, we recently learned that my husband would likely be laid off within the next month. We are fortunate in that we have enjoyed successful careers, so with tight budgeting, I am hopeful that this will not financially impact us too dramatically.
My husband is devastated; in addition to the impact this has had on his professional ego, he feels as though he's letting his family down by not being able to support us until he finds another job.
I have tried to reassure him that this is actually a chance for him to re-evaluate whether he likes what he does and to get the kind of job he will love moving forward. His paycheck is not what makes him the amazing father and husband he is.
He listens and smiles, but I know in his heart he believes he's letting us down.
Is there anything else I could say or do to make this easier on him? I hate to see him beat himself up over something that was out of his control.
How can I make him understand that where "taking care" of his family is concerned, there's no one better, paycheck or not?
-- Concerned Wife
DEAR WIFE: One extremely unfortunate aspect of the current unemployment situation is that men are losing their jobs at a disproportionally high rate. This creates enormous stress and challenges for men and their families.
You can't completely inoculate your husband from the ego wound of his job loss. This painful journey is one where he will have to find his own way.
I read an article recently about a group of professional men who had been downsized from their firms and found a positive solution to some of the challenges presented by their job loss. These men got together a few times a week to network on professional prospects. What they found was not only professional support, but friendship too.
Your husband could benefit from the friendship and fellowship of men in similar straits.
You could suggest that he set up a regular meeting with other colleagues (or former colleagues) at a local coffee shop. Volunteering in areas of his interest will also give him the opportunity to grow.
Po Bronson's book about 50 people who searched for their "true calling" might inspire your husband to find a new path: "What Should I Do With My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question" (2005, Ballantine).
DEAR AMY: My husband and I met a couple on a cruise six years ago and became close friends with them. Neither of us has children.
The problem is that we have never once been invited to their home or out to dinner with them.
They have been to our home for holidays and cookouts at least five times a year since we met. They always bring something to share when they visit.
Friends and relatives call them freeloaders, and now I wonder if they are. Are they? Should we cut ties with them?
-- Friends of Freeloaders
DEAR FRIENDS: If these people respond to invitations, enjoy themselves at your home and always bring something to share, they're not quite freeloaders. Freeloaders have a tendency to help themselves to the contents of your fridge and have to be pried off of your sofa.
Usually, when people don't invite you to their home it means that there is something about their home that they don't feel comfortable exposing to other people.
You don't mention whether you've ever inquired about visiting these friends in their home, but if you did, they'd probably offer an excuse revealing their discomfort.
If you enjoy your friends' company and feel appreciated by them, then other people's opinion of them shouldn't matter.
DEAR AMY: "Always a Bridesmaid" wondered if her friends could possibly have a good marriage because they argued all the time. I had similar concerns about friends of mine.
Twenty years later, they're still scrapping with each other but seem very happy and are very well matched. I'm glad I didn't interfere.
-- Never a Bridesmaid
DEAR NEVER: Bickering doesn't necessarily predict the strength or length of a union -- though it often makes others uncomfortable.
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