I was laid off for the second time in November 2005. I'd been laid off once before, so I knew what to do. I sent out resumes, networked, looked online for jobs and leveraged the resources at an outplacement firm. By March, I had a few strong prospects but no job offers.
I knew it was going to be a long haul and felt resigned to that. Experts said it took one month for every $10,000 in salary. My wife was getting concerned; being a stay-at-home mom, she didn't relate to the job search process. And because I was home, why wasn't I spending more time with her? Tension mounted. Stress culminated. Fear increased. Not for me, but for my wife.
By June 2006, we had separated, and she filed for divorce. In July, I moved out. I found a job in August (with a nice pay increase), but the inertia of the divorce process and ill feelings towards one another was too great. In May 2007, our divorce was final.
At first I thought my situation was uncommon. But as I met more divorced men through my company, I was surprised to learn just how common it was. Being laid off seemed to increase the chances of getting divorced.
This suspicion was confirmed in a study led by Liana Sayer at Ohio State University examining marital satisfaction and employment status. The examination found that when men are not employed, it heightens the possibility of either the man or woman leaving the marriage. Why? We've found that among the men we work with at Divorced Guys, coupled with the results of the above study, there are three main reasons for the layoff-divorce correlation:
1. Marital dissatisfaction amplifier. If marital dissatisfaction is great, the loss of a job is just another reason to end the relationship. The pesky habit that she has that was a minor annoyance is now blaring in your mind like a voice through a megaphone. The lack of effort he shows to help with housework is like a thousand fingernails scraping against a chalk board. Instead of creating way to stay together, thoughts turn towards dissatisfaction and an exit strategy.
2. Heightened negative emotion. The uncertainty of sustained living conditions is like a flame accelerant, feeding negative emotions to new heights. Tension mounts as the duration of unemployment increases. Accusations regarding the job search effort increases.
Stress builds as the saving account balance dwindles. How will the bills get paid next month? How will we put food on the table? Fear increases at the prospect of major life changes -- losing the house or filing for bankruptcy.
3. Broken societal expectations. Further exacerbating the situation is societal norms. He's the bread winner; he's supposed to take care of the family. But being unemployed, the spouse's mind frame begins to create an emotional poker game.
The couple starts to fight and jostle for control like two poker pros raising the bet. "You're home so why aren't you spending more time with me?" "Oh yeah, well why aren't you trying to help out the household and find work? Then one of the two goes all in and says, "I want a divorce"; the other can't fold or show too much weakness, so the response is, "Fine, sounds like a great idea to me."
Let's face it, if two people really loved each other, nothing would come between them. The loss of a job is a relatively minor event. But as marital dissatisfaction increases, ways to create the end of a marriage increase. This leads to heightened negative emotions and broken societal expectations.
As I reflect back on 2006, did my layoff cause my divorce? I don't think so. We were not happy. The layoff just accelerated the inevitable.
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