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Ask Arlene: Encouraging an Unemployed Husband



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Hi Arlene!

My husband is unemployed and it’s driving us both crazy. What can I do to encourage him without being critical?


Dear Amy,

Being unemployed or underemployed is generally more difficult for men to cope with than women. So before you open your mouth to say, “Honey, have your tried this?” or “I just wish you would get out of the house,” put yourself in your husband’s shoes. Listen to what one husband named John said in my book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband:

When my job was taken away, it really stripped away my identity. It’s certainly my responsibility to try to manage that emotion, but sometimes it gets the best of you. It’s helpful when wives have good awareness of what’s going on and keep in mind that it’s temporary. Don’t question him, give him the third degree, or try to fix him.”

Even though your husband may look like he’s doing fine — or maybe just the opposite, he’s crabby and irritable — remember that unemployment takes its toll on the confidence of your man. Pray with and for your husband to find employment. Cling together to the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Come against the problem of unemployment together instead of allowing your circumstances to drive a wedge between you.

Keep upbeat and positive. Encourage your husband to listen to solid Bible teaching while he has extra time on his hands. Books by great motivators such as Zig Ziglar or Jim Rohn can also be a life saver.

Lastly, don’t forget to make time for intimacy with one another. When a man feels like he is losing in the workplace, it’s so important for him to feel loved and supported at home.

In 31 Days to a Happy Husband, you’ll read about a man who lost his job eleven times in twelve months — and how that actually brought him and his wife closer. Anything is possible with God!


In her monthly column, “Ask Arlene,” author and speaker Arlene Pellicane answers readers’ questions. If you have a question you’d like her to consider for this column, submit a question here.

Enter Our Giveaway!

We have one copy of Arlene’s book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His Wife to give away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment with a question for Arlene. The question Arlene chooses to answer first will win the book.

This contest closes on Friday, July 20th, 2012, at 12 a.m. Our apologies to our international readers, but it’s only open to those residing in the United States.

This contest is now closed. Congratulations for our winner, Shanda!

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Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman). She has been a featured guest on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children. To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit

  • Shanda

    It is important that our children see a healthy relationship between their parents. And I want them to see their Daddy spending time reading his Bible and praying, not just watching tv. He is a God fearing man and I hope our children see this. How do I encourage my husband without coming across as nagging? I do love him so much and the Daddy he is. Thanks!

    • Congratulations, Shanda! You are the winner of the book! Arlene will be answering your question in her August column. I’ll email you soon.

  • Kim

    My husband’s currently unemployed and may have the opportunity to return to work for the company that fired him in April ’11. Because of the details of him losing that job, I have a lot of bitterness and unforgiveness towards his former employer that I’m trying to give to the Lord and worry about him taking a job there again because of what happened. He had worked there for 5 years and was fired out of the blue and denied unemployment compensation because his former employer lied and said that he didn’t fulfill his job duties. His losing that job put us in financial distress that we’ve yet to overcome and we require government assistance to make ends-meet even with me working full-time. If he goes back to work for his previous employer, we’ll immediately lose all assistance and one program takes over a year to get so I’m worried about him taking a job only to be fired again because we would not be able to pay our bills without assistance with only my income. My husband says I need to trust God, but I say we need to make wise decisions as well. After what his former employer did, I see no reason to trust him not to do it again and I don’t want my family to be in a worse situation than we already are. We’re praying about this, but I’d also love some advice from other Godly women. God bless you & thank you for your service to the Lord:-)

  • Cyndie

    I love my husband and he is a wonderful provider. My husband lacks patience when it comes to our 4 children. I am a submissive wife that feels the husband is the head of home and family. If I bring up his lack of patience, he gets upset with me and says I baby them too much. They are 7, 4, 2 and 7 weeks. How do I approach him without making him feel like I’m questioning his parenting?

  • How can you stay calm and submissive when you know your Husband in in sin over a matter/decision to be made and is NOT seeking God over the matter and it concerns the whole family!! Thank You

  • Denise

    So glad I found this! I would love to win, so I could give it to my sister. Her husband has been out of a job for so long and has other issues, and is so discouraged. I plan on buying your book soon, because I really want to learn better (biblically) how to encourage my husband rather than discourage him with my comments that aren’t meant to discourage. Sometime I dont realize what I am doing until it is too late.

  • Patti B.

    How do you encourage your husband when he is looking for a different job? He is unhappy where he is because of changes. He has worked at this place for over 25 years.

    • Bethie

      How to make a husband happy in 31 days if he is a controlling, a critical and an abusive man? My sister has been married to him for 30 years and lovely put up with him. She almost left him a few times but she is still with him. We all know we can’t change a person (only God can),but what can a wife can do with that kind of a husband and make him happy?

  • Cathy

    My husband has been unemployed and/or underemployed for more than half of our 16 year marriage. We have 5 children. While I agree with advice to be supportive, there has to be a limit. Sadly, having an overly supportive wife causes some men to become lazy. Why should he look for work if you are happy to have him home all day?!

  • Aimee

    Our parenting styles are VERY different. We have discussed and both agreed upon how to discipline the children. However, my husband slowly goes back to his old ways and we end up back where we started. What is the best way to approach him so he doesn’t get so defensive?

  • Jennifer

    My husband was diagnosed a few years ago with bipolar disorder. It has been a struggle for him and us as a family. There have been times when he will not take his medication and has gotten angry at me for reminding him. I have seen and heard about other families that have been torn apart by this wretched disease because of the person not taking the proper meds or not consistently. The end result is an emotional roller coaster for all involved. How can I lovingly encourage him without coming across as a nagging wife?

  • Ellen A

    I have the opposite issue. How do I encourage my husband when he is having to work many, many extra hours. We’re grateful that he has a job but the pressure wears on all of us. How do I encourage/ support/ appreciate him when what I really want to do is tell him to come home?!

  • My husband just recently lost his job. Through God’s grace, I’ve been able to take a part time job open at my church. However, I know he is hurting so much. It is hard sometimes to be positive and encouraging when you are really scared. My faith remains in the Rock of Ages, and I know my husband will do everything possible to find a job, soon! Thanks for the reminder.

  • I know my husband loves our kids. But when he watches them he always seems board, browsing his phone, and uninterested in what they are doing. He watches them, makes sure they are safe, and does interact some, but I always get the feeling he doesn’t enjoy being a dad. What can I do to help him enjoy being a dad. Or what should I do to look at it differently?

  • Krystal D

    How can I respectively get my husband to see that the friends he hangs out with may not be the best for him. A lot of them are divorced and like to party.

  • Hi, when I first got married, it really bothered me that my husband drank so much diet soda. He hardly drinks any water! I used to make regular comments, but don’t want to act like his mother. Can you make some suggestions for how to help both of us be healthier? Thanks!

  • Suzie M

    My husband is highly educated and qualified, and had been self-employed for many years, in the building industry. When that collapsed, his business slowly dwindled down to almost no work, and he has had to consider himself unemployed, although in the eyes of the government he doesn’t exist, and doesn’t qualify for any government programme to help with re-educating in a different direction or whatever, because he was self employed, not some-one else’s employee. We have forked out a fortune to privately re-qualify him, however when looking for work he is laughed away because of his age and lack of experience in this new area. They only take graduate employees who are young “straight out of college”. I guess they think my hubby won’t be as flexible, because of his age. He continues to look for work in his original qualification anyway, but often feels hopeless and suicidal. Fortunately, while finances are tight, I do have a job with relative security for now. We keep on trying. My problem is I find it really hard to be “there” for him all the time, to keep reminding him that it is “temporary” (3 years already now)and that the collapse in the building industry isn’t his fault, it’s not personal, to keep trying, even though he doesn’t feel like going on, etc. I try to be a good listener, and to be supportive, but it gets me stressed and down too, and I have no-one to turn to with my feelings. My only outlet is my job, and then it is back home to the depression there. My husband never liked my friends very much, and he is quite possessive of me, he cut off his own friends when we got married, because one of them made a joke about fancying me. So I am all he has. I cannot share my feelings with family as he has his pride, as do I, and we can’t let people know things are hard. For a while, last year, I found an online game, where I made some really good friends, who, because of the relative anonymity, I could share some of my feelings with, as well as have fun. But when my husband found out some of these friends were men, he hit the roof, and I had to cut off all contact and stop the game. I had to delete my facebook account, and he still hasn’t forgiven me, it was like I had an affair, although I didn’t. So while I do my best to help my husband, and I am not the unemployed one, I need help too.


When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.



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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.



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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.



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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Ask Arlene: Encouraging an Unemployed Husband

by Arlene Pellicane time to read: 2 min