What To Do When Your Partner Won’t Get A Job

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Shorter Version

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“Love is shown in your deeds – not in your words.”

~ A Frustrated Partner

You’re tired of keeping your family afloat. You’ve been shouldering the financial responsibilities for you and your partner for a while. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and super annoying. I get it.

You didn’t sign-up to be your partner’s “keeper.” You’re still young so you don’t want to be tied to a job outside of your field or that you hate simply because your significant other refuses to help you out by getting a job.

But, could it be that you are a willing accomplice to your spouse’s complacency – even if you don’t mean to or want to be?

So, what should you do if your spouse won’t get a job?

The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out what’s going on with him/her. What is causing their reluctance to get a job? What thoughts and feelings are preventing your partner from contributing to household bills?

The truth is, there may be more to the story than you think.

In other words, there is probably something bigger and more complex causing your spouse to shirk his or her financial responsibilities. Maybe you and your partner aren’t communicating as effectively as you originally thought. Maybe he or she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his or her real feelings with you, especially about finances and employment. 

If your husband or wife doesn’t have a job and doesn’t seem particularly interested in finding one (even though you desperately need the extra income), the worst thing you can do is:

  • Nag
  • Criticize
  • Demean

It will not make your partner get a job any faster.

Next, you’ll need to determine if your partner understands what marriage or your relationship entails. Does he or she fully understand his or her financial responsibilities? This may be part of the problem.

Perhaps all that is needed to inspire your spouse to get a job is a little…clarity. If that is the case, sit down with your partner and talk about your financial expectations. Are you on the same page? Because that’s a big deal in a relationship. It is important to resolve these issues because they will damage or destroy your relationship if left unchecked.

What if you can’t identify the root cause of your spouse’s reluctance to get a job?

If you cannot identify the root cause of your partner’s reluctance to get a job, it is probably time to get professional relationship guidance and advice. In other words, you may need to see a marriage counselor to get your relationship back-on-track. A marriage counselor will not only help you improve your communication and problem-solving skills, he or she will also get to the root of why your partner won’t get a job.

A counselor can help your spouse understand why it is so important that he or she help you with the family finances. This is especially important if you are a young couple with young children. A counselor will also provide you with the tools you need to cope with and manage similar issues in the future.

The best thing about marriage counseling is it offers you a “safe place” to voice your concerns, worries, and issues. If a counseling office is too stifling for you and/or your spouse, you may want to consider attending a marriage retreat, seminar, or conference to hash out your relationship issues.

These events provide you with guidance, advice, tools, and support in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Tough love

If your husband or wife won’t get a job but helps around the house or with the kids or pets, then you may want to cut him or her some slack…for now. He or she is helping in some way, so that’s something. No, it doesn’t help pay the bills, but it does provide you with support. However, if your partner isn’t working or helping you in some fashion, it may be time to ramp things up a notch or two. How? By giving your spouse a dose of tough love.

For instance, you could say something like, “[Insert your spouse’s name], I have been holding us down for a while, and it’s becoming overwhelming. I need your help. So, you have two choices – (1) find a job – any job at this point or (2) find other living accommodations until you are willing to help me with the bills.”

Truth-be-told, I’m not fond of ultimatums because most of the time they backfire. But, some situations call for desperate measures. So, in cases like the one listed above, it’s better to take your chances and roll the dice than to allow resentment and anger to fester until it changes who you are and destroys your relationship for good.

Once, your spouse is forced to take care of himself or herself, he or she will understand how important it is for him or her to pull his or her own weight. Your partner will also see how difficult it can be to shoulder all the financial responsibilities alone. This may encourage your husband or wife to get a job asap.

Honestly, nothing about this situation is or will be easy, but if you play your cards right, your spouse will find a job and you will end up in a better place – emotionally and financially.

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Actionable Steps


Try to figure out why your spouse doesn’t want to get a job

First, you’ll want to figure out why your spouse doesn’t want to get a job. This is a tough one. Why is he or she so resistant to the idea of working? Did something happen at their last job that made him or her hesitant? Does he or he suffer from poor self-esteem or low self-confidence? Is your partner depressed or anxious about starting a new job?
Do you and your partner have a hard time communicating with each other? Do you tend to be judgmental or overly-critical when he or she “messes up?” Are there unresolved issues in your relationship? Does your partner have trust issues? Is your partner able to work (ie. have a chronic illness or disability that prevents him or her from seeking meaningful employment)? Or, is your spouse simply self-centered, narcissistic, selfish, or lazy?
The reason behind your significant other’s lackluster attitude towards working matters, so it is important to figure out why he or she won’t get a job.


Be honest about your finances

You’ll also need to be honest about your finances. Issues can arise in a marriage when one spouse controls the money and pays the bills (i.e. mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, gas, groceries, etc.) and the other is clueless about how much everything really costs.
Be honest about the state of your finances. Develop a spreadsheet of your weekly and monthly expenses. Show your partner where you are struggling. Explain to your partner that you are overwhelmed and need help; don’t sugarcoat things or “dumb-down” what’s really happening. Your partner will be more apt to get a job if he or she can see how you’re drowning in debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck.


Be encouraging and supportive

Let your husband or wife know you’ll be there for him or her through the “ups and downs” – just like in your vows (if you are married). Praise, encourage and support your spouse when you see him or her taking steps towards getting a job – i.e. looking online for job opportunities, revamping his or her resume, going on interviews, and networking with those in his or her field. 
Your partner is trying – acknowledge that. If you see your partner struggling, help him or her. Help your partner look for jobs in their field, edit his/her resume and make suggestions on how to “ramp it up,” be a shoulder to lean on if he or she doesn’t get a response or gets a disappointing one from potential employers, and/or keep your partner’s spirits up if he or she starts to get depressed. And, when your spouse finally gets that call back for an interview, help him or her prepare, practice, and pick out an interview outfit for it.
In other words, highlight your spouse’s strengths and boost his or her self-confidence.


Read more on this topic

You can learn more about what to do if your spouse won’t get a job by reading the following articles: Addressing Refuse-to-Work Syndrome, Reader Question: My Husband Is Lazy and Won’t Get a Job, and Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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