Ask Arlene: Encouraging an Unemployed Husband


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.

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Ask Arlene: Encouraging an Unemployed Husband

by Arlene Pellicane time to read: 2 min