Six months after I started dating the man who is now my husband, and one month after we moved in together, he lost his job. The start-up publication Peter worked for shut down with no notice, just as the country was entering the worst recession in 70 years. We had an expensive new lease, a few thousand dollars' worth of furniture we had purchased together, and — suddenly — a single income to support our lives.
A veteran of start-ups myself, I was back in familiar territory; during the 2001 recession, I spent two years looking for a full-time job. So I knew how to handle the money part of the problem: an immediate shift to an austerity budget, with dates set for further cuts — this is when we sell one of the cars, that is when we break the lease and find something cheaper. So we kept our finances in order. But our household was still in a mess.
Remembering well my own humiliation and fear, I encouraged Peter to play video games when he wasn't freelancing or looking for a job, which was the only thing I could think of that might keep his mind off his worries. It probably helped that I understood what he was going through. Although, only to a point. If you're out of a job, even the most supportive partner can't alleviate the agony of not knowing when you will work again. And helpmates, meanwhile, can't assuage their own frustrations and helplessness at watching their loved ones suffer.