How My Boyfriend's Unemployment Brought Us Closer Together

I'm seeing sides of him I never knew existed, and I like it.

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

According to a recent study, seventy-five percent of women wouldn't go on a date with an unemployed man. Reading this gave me pause, since my boyfriend of six months recently got laid off. If we'd met now, would I consider dating him? I hope the answer would be yes, but I can't say for sure. But I've found a silver lining; his joblessness has taught me things about him I never would have known.

Let me be clear: I wouldn't wish unemployment on anyone. It's challenging and demoralizing, and unless you're independently wealthy, it means cutting back. On the other hand, one thing it immediately gives you is more time together. Instead of rushing off to work at eight each morning, my boyfriend can spend the day with me, him job-searching, me writing. He can spontaneously offer to drive me six hours to Virginia for a trip I'd planned to make by bus. The downside is it's hard to appreciate that time when so much uncertainty comes with it.

Hearing him in a professional mode has given me a newfound respect for him.

His unemployment has also brought us closer together by forcing us to talk about issues that had previously been off the table, like housing and money. I wouldn't have dreamt of asking how much money he made, but I found out when I overheard a conversation with a recruiter, and was impressed — it was more than I'd thought he'd been making. I haven't listened to all his calls, but sometimes I'm around when they come in, and hearing him in a professional mode has given me a newfound respect for him. With me, he's silly and playful most of the time, calling me a "burrito" because I sleep with the covers wound so tightly. But his business side was proud, knowledgeable, and insightful. He clearly knows what he's talking about, and that confidence was, frankly, sexy. The more I heard, the more I was convinced I'd hire him.

The day my boyfriend got laid off, he ended up in an almost chipper mood. I was worried, since it felt unexpected to me, but he assured me that it wasn't the time to mope. When I said I loved him, in a tone that contained a silent "no matter what," he admonished me. "Don't say that," he replied, not wanting my pity. Figuring out how and when to approach the topic has been a challenge in our relationship. I've looked for jobs for him online, but I'm not entirely sure if that's helpful or feels infantilizing. Still, I want to support him in any way I can.

Which brings me to that study and why it annoyed me. I've never been the type of woman who expected a man to support me; maybe that's because I was raised by a single mom, where alimony was iffy. One of my best friends once accused me of being low-maintenance after I went to Teriyaki Boy (a sushi fast food place) on a date. But I don't consider that a bad thing. I don't think you need a lot of money to have fun dating. I also know that if someone were judging me based on how much money I make, I probably wouldn't pass their test.

NEXT: "The most humbling aspect of his unemployment is precisely that there's little I can do about it..."

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