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Archive for April, 2009

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Marital Fun

Marital Fun

What Would Janet Do?

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

READERS: Here is my proof that I still actually write my advice column. Since CoastViews doesn’t publish both of my columns any longer, I’ve gotten sort of lax on WWJD. But for your reading pleasure, here it is, back by popular demand. If any of you have questions for me, please feel free to use my WWJD contact.

Dear Janet:

My husband of twenty-five years got laid off nine months ago from his job in high-tech. All he does is sit on the couch watching TV and feeling sorry for himself. Meanwhile, I’ve had to take on two more jobs (giving me four total) to cover our basic expenses. Not only isn’t he looking for work, he barely lifts a finger around the house. He says he’s depressed. He looks for work, but only on the Internet and only for an hour or two a day. I snuck up on him yesterday when he was on the computer to see what he was looking at and just as I thought, he was surfing some site on fishing. We got into a huge fight and now we’re not speaking. Before this, he worked solid for ten years at the same company and did loads of unpaid overtime. I don’t understand what happened to my very responsible man. If he doesn’t get a job soon, our kids will have to stop going to college. Not even this will motivate him. What do I do?

Desperate in Belmont
Letter by email

Dear Desperate:

I can’t tell you how many of my friends have come to me with this same story about their newly unemployed husbands. All of the guys are in their fifties and are now depressed couch-potatoes. I think our society does a disservice to men. They’re raised as princes, used to having people work for them, take care of them. Used to having things go their way. So when they run into difficult situations, they have no tools to deal with them. A friend of mine described her unemployed husband as a “princess”. She said he sailed through school, got the jobs he wanted and only now in his late fifties is he dealing with unemployment. He’s gotten job offers but won’t take them because he wants exactly what he had before: the corner office, the great job, great pay and a huge staff. I think your husband may be in the same boat. Basically, your husband doesn’t have the tools he needs to deal with the situation. And he’s afraid. He’s feeling emasculated and lost. He needs to reinvent himself, but simply has no idea how to approach the problem. So he retreats within himself. Which is clearly not the answer.

I suggest couples therapy to deal with your (rightful) anger and his lack of support. I also suggest individual therapy for him to learn how to deal with his fears. In conjunction with therapy, you need to set some limits with him. While his reticence to look for work is understandable, it is not logical. He needs to set his emotions aside for the good of the family. He’s acting like a self-indulgent child, not an adult. Hand him this article.

Here’s my direct message to him: Dude, man up. You want to feel powerful again? Put your family first and your depression last. Step up to the plate and get some money in there. Only six percent of jobs are advertised. You need to talk to everyone you’ve ever met. Find out about the projects the businesses in your field are working on, find out if you know anyone in the company and get an informational interview. You need to talk to people face-to-face. Getting a job is a full-time job. And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t find work right away. As long as you’re doing everything in your power to find work, that’s the best you can do. Ask yourself at the end of the day this question: Did I do everything I could to try to get work today? If you did, relax and give yourself a pat on the back. Then get up tomorrow and get back at it. Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean you’re less of a man. If you’re doing all you can, then you have nothing to be ashamed about. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you’re a loser. Only quitters are losers.

And don’t be afraid to take on some part-time work. Whatever helps your family is what you need to do. Good luck, honey. There is a job out there for you. You only have to find it.

Dear Janet:

My teenage son won’t listen to me. He leaves his clothes all over, tracks mud in the house and won’t clean up after himself. He demands I cook special meals for him, but refuses to do anything I ask of him. He plays sports and is getting good grades, which is why I don’t push him. But I’m still sick of being treated like his maid. His father is no help and always takes his side and tells me “to leave the boy alone.” I have a full-time job of my own and don’t get to bed much before midnight these days while my men sit on the couch and watch TV. I’m tired of being a doormat. How can I get them to listen to me?

Maid Not Mom
Letter by email

Dear Maid Not Mom:

The only reason your men take advantage of you is because you let them. No one is putting a gun to your head, forcing you to cook and clean. The reason they don’t respect you is because you won’t stand up for yourself. Call a family meeting. Tell your men what you need. If they don’t listen, stop doing the shopping. Stop cooking for them. Stop cleaning. Take yourself out to dinner. Join a women’s group. Get out of there. You aren’t helping your son by letting him take advantage of you; you’re just screwing over his future wife. You aren’t helping your marriage by taking crap; all you’re doing is building resentment which undermines the bond with your husband. Only you can fix this. Empower yourself. Get in your corner and fight. After the dust settles, I think you’ll finally gain that respect you so crave.

©2009, Janet Periat

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