Q: My husband recently lost his job. I'm still working and we aren't destitute, but it's obviously tough on the whole family. Is there anything I should prioritize while he looks for a new position?
Jim: You have an important role in helping your spouse deal with the uncertainty ahead. So, to the best of your ability, you have to stay calm and focused. Admittedly, it's a bit of a tightrope.
If your husband is unemployed for weeks and months, it can feel like the search for a new job will never end. But it's important not to let discouragement set in. Keep a healthy perspective and try to remember that as difficult as this challenge is, it's only temporary.
One of the best things you can do as a couple is to keep life as normal as possible. Maintain a routine. Take life one day at a time and understand that there will be good days and bad. Also, don't overlook the value of staying engaged with the people closest to you. When life gets tough, it's easy to hunker down and isolate. But those are the times we need the love and support of a community of friends and family.
Meanwhile, don't let your daily life become consumed by this situation. It's healthy to plan (inexpensive) activities that have no other purpose except to have fun. Go for a bike ride or a hike, or have a picnic. It's a good opportunity to set aside your worries, even if just for a short time, and refresh yourself and your marriage.
And that's key. Somehow, with all of this uncertainty, both of you have to stay focused on the most important goal of all: keeping your relationship intact -- even making it stronger -- until you get to the other side of this challenge. So whatever you do, in the midst of your spouse's unemployment, make your marriage your top priority.
Q: My wife and I have been married for several years. Our life certainly hasn't been what we envisioned -- the road has been a lot tougher than we expected. We love each other, but we're discouraged. Do you have any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Many couples struggle with what their marriage is, compared to what they dreamed it would be. But what they often fail to consider is whether their expectations were realistic in the first place.
Marital bliss is a common dream when people are dating. In those early stages of romance, they can't imagine feeling discontent with their spouse or their conversations not stretching into the wee hours of the night. And disagreements? What disagreements?
But once you're married, those expectations usually hit a speed bump. There's the monotony of work and paying bills week-in and week-out. Then there are all the stressors. Maybe a spouse loses his or her job, or a baby is born, impacting the couple's finances. Real life sets in, and the dream begins to fade.
Here's the point: Good marriages aren't built on lofty expectations. They're formed through the ups and downs of day-to-day, year-to-year experiences.
So if your relationship isn't all you'd hoped, take a look at what you'd originally hoped for. Maybe some of your expectations were unrealistic in the first place. If so, cast a new vision for your marriage. But this time, temper your dreams with a little less fairy tale and a little more real life. And build that vision on your individual and mutual strengths. Your marriage can be greater than the sum of its parts.
For extra guidance on how to build a strong and thriving marriage, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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