Supporting Boyfriend through Unemployment

Dedication: To everyone who is going through similar situation as me.

In the midst of Pandemic, many has lost their jobs. And so is my boyfriend. So here I am sharing my story.

To begin, let me explain my boyfriend’s character. He is a man of good value, he is hardworking, passionate and deeply dedicated to his job. However, on the other flip side of the coin, he is very sensitive, perfectionist, easily irritable, and has temper issues.

He is working as a chef in a fine dining industry. For those who might know, fine dining is not the most easy job to begin with. It consist of long working hours, high pressure, low pay and physically draining work. I have seen him many times going home with very drained look. Extremely exhausted and stressed after work.

And it is often at restaurants that workers are treated unjustly. For example, overly demanding boss, over time for consecutive days with no compensation given, foul mouthed colleagues, etc. My boyfriend especially is not someone that can stand injustice so he is always extremely bothered by this.

Throughout his career, he has been in and out of jobs many times. He is 28 years old and he has been switching jobs more than 10 times in his life. This year only he has been working in 4 different restaurants. Many said that it is normal for retail industry such as Restaurants. As it is one of industry that has the highest turnover rate. Moreover, we are both located in Singapore. Which, according to HCA Mag, Singapore has the highest turnover rate in Asia.

“Singapore employees have the highest expected turnover rate in Asia Pacific with 46% likely to leave their jobs within a year.”

These factors: tough job nature, high turnover rate industry, bad working environment laced with his perfectionist nature are probably the main cause of his bizarre number of job switch. However for the record, it is not difficult for him to get accepted in a new job. Every time he is unemployed, he is always able to manage to find a new one quickly. Apparently many of his ex-colleagues look at him as a good performing employee, thus he got a lot of recommendations. However, it is just difficult for him to find a workplace where he can dedicate himself into.

On contrary, a little bit background on myself. I am 26 years old and am currently holding a stable position in my first workplace, an SME with a normal working hours and a decent pay. I am earning S$1000 more monthly than what he is earning and been working in this company for 5 years.

In my whole life, I never face any unemployment. I never switch job, nor being unemployed. Even no one in my family, except for my mom which is a homemaker, has ever been unemployed before. So the thought of unemployment is an extremely bizarre thing for me. I never intend or even think of quitting my current job without getting a new one. Where as for him, he will just quit whenever he can’t take things in his current workplace.

I am not proud, but I find it extremely difficult to support him in this situation.

I am constantly torn in between I care for him and do not want him to stuck in a job that he does not enjoy. At the same time, I care a lot about financial stability and anxious about his future.

I know for a fact I can’t control him, because it is a fact that it is his life. And he never financially depend on me as he is quite responsible in savings. However, coming from conventional Asian background, a 28 year old man whom keep switching jobs and did not have stable income is considered a very concerning situation.

I tried to be supportive to him by giving advice in finding jobs.
However, this is a big mistake.

Here is the reasons why it is a big mistake of giving advice in this situation:

I never been in his shoes. So I do not know exactly how he feels in this position. I only can imagine what he felt. Thus this lead to me failed to be empathetic to his situation.

Because I failed to be empathetic to his situation, I tend to give out the obvious solutions. “Why don’t you look for another job?” “Why don’t you take this job instead? It does not seems that bad..” “Maybe, we should look at things at a different perspective. Don’t be too picky..” This words seems harmless, however, to people whom in the middle of unemployment, those words are recipe for disaster.

This has led us to many heated arguments and tensions.

So here are the lessons I learned facing his unemployment:
1. Acknowledge how he feels. Sometimes all he needs is not your advice, but your comforting support. A hug and “It’s okay everything is going to be alright.” works wonder.

2. Looking at a situation that seems very concerning, it was very easy for me to try to solve the situation quickly. Especially for someone that has controlling tendency such as myself. Naturally, I will quickly come up with list of what to do next to fix the situation. Where as what he needs the most is my comforting hug. He has been in this situation more times than me for God’s sake. He knows what he needs to do. What he truly needs is emotional support.

Do my part. Doing my part does not mean finding him a new job. That is my boyfriend’s part. What I can do is to give him emotional support during this tough time as his partner and someone who deeply cares for him. The only thing I can do is to inspire, not dictate on what he should do next.

Balance. This is the trickiest part. Luckily this has not happened to me yet. However it happened to my best friend’s boyfriend. Her boyfriend is stuck in low paying job and yet no desire to advance his career. She has been trying her best to be supportive. But what he has done is taking advantage on her care and depends too much on her.

3. It is true that I should give him support in this tough time. But that does not equal to spoil him. You are not his mom. He is still equally grown adult and he needs to be able stand for himself. Of course if there is a time he is not able to stand up, it is my role to support. However, sometimes tough love is needed to keep him on his feet and prevent him to stuck in self-pity situation.

Balancing between giving support with love and not overly spoiling him. So how to be in balance? Fully understand your boyfriend situation would be a great start. Understand him first. How does he feels in this situation? Does he want to get out from this situation? Has he tried his best to find a solution? Has his action reflects his words?

4. To love more. It is easy to love your spouse/ boyfriend when things are great. But it is tough to love when things are tough. This is actually a point where I learn the most. I am naturally not someone who can easily feel empathetic to someone else’s struggle. And what make me able to learn to be more empathetic to my boyfriend indeed is love.

I am still learning on how to love, to accept him as he is. Sounds cliche, but love indeed make it possible. And when I am ran out of love, I need to go back to the source of love, God. God is love. Be close to Him and I will be filled.

5. Be patient. Not your pace but his and His. I tend to be a control freak. I like to plan my life, thus I unconsciously try plan his life too. I have miserably failed in trying to plan my own life. How can I ever be planning someone else’s life?

Surrender everything to Him. God has plans for you, and so He has plan for my boyfriend. Pray for him and support him.

Do you ever face similar kind of situation? Share with me! : )