The burden of dating someone unemployed
“Every time I talked about my own personal successes…he made me feel bad.”
by Jenn Ficarra
"Is it wrong that I said no because he's unemployed?" My friend asked one day. She was referring to a guy who asked her to go for drinks. To his face, she simply told him she was seeing someone else. But the real reason she said no was because he didn't have a job.
"It's hard to sort of find common ground with someone who is at a different stage in life," she told babe. Dating, particularly in this day and age where most Millennials still live with their parents or have difficulty finding jobs, is hard. Couple the initial dating difficulties with being a successful female with her career together and you have a recipe for potential disaster.
There's an antiquated belief that still permeates society — males should be the breadwinners in relationships and be able to support their female partners. When the tables are turned in a relationship and it's the female who is the breadwinner it often creates underlying tension in relationships.
The men can feel 'emasculated'
Beth knows all too well about the tension that comes from being with someone unemployed. Beth works full time to support herself and her husband while he's in school. "Does his unemployment cause tension? That's a big, fat yes!" Beth told babe. "Obviously I support him and his going back to school will be a huge thing for us in the future but while you're in it? The stress level is tense."
Often, females feel as though that their success somehow emasculates their male partners. As the employed one, Beth is responsible for handling the bills. "We've had so many fights over bills. In the end, I know it's because he wants to take care of me and he feels guilty that I've been the one taking care of him, especially financially."
For Lydia, her boyfriend recently became unemployed and it's left her with the majority share of the bills. "His parents pay his personal bills but I pay all of the household bills," she tells babe.
Although their relationship is solid, she says, she feels as though they can't splurge on vacations or dinners or gifts anymore. "I feel like I have to curb my spending… he can't afford to do those things anymore even though I offer to pay. Ultimately, he feels really uncomfortable with me paying for our social life."
It seems as if this antiquated, anti-feminist notion that men should pay and provide can cause tension in even the most solid of relationships. Why is it only okay for a man to pay? What is emasculating, specifically, about a woman covering the bills? More so, it seems as though the man's feelings of emasculation can prevent a couple from enjoying their time and doing things. This belief hinders couples more than it helps them.
Imbalance can lead to internalized resentments
Mostly, the unemployment disparity seems to also cause resentment on the side of the employed. "It just leaves me with a lot of questions," Moira, a single but looking female, tells babe. "Like, why are you unemployed? Is it because you're lazy? Is it because you had a bought of bad luck? Are you actively trying to find a job? I'm happy to date someone unemployed as long as that's a pitstop and not the final destination. Otherwise, it's not fair."
I personally won't date anyone that's unemployed and/or doesn't have a steady flow of income. You have to be able to match me, at minimum.
— kaymoneyy. 🇬🇾 (@eauxkayy) April 29, 2017
When one partner works while the other doesn't it creates an imbalance not just financially but confidence-wise as well. Should you feel guilty, as if you're doing something wrong, for being successful? Ellie, who had been dating an unambitious, unemployed guy, really felt the strains and internalized guilt that comes with being the successful one in the relationship. "Every time I talked about my own personal successes I felt like I was dragging him down because he made me feel bad," Ellie told babe.
Eventually, over time, the resentment can build between both parties. For her, the resentment that she has to hide her successes to make her partner feel better about himself. And for him, it's the resentment of being less than; of having to rely on someone else.
What happens when you're the unemployed one?
On the other end of the spectrum, however, is the idea that if you're a female who is unemployed you're simply looking to be taken care of; that you're lazy or a gold digger. There's this idea that somehow dating while being unemployed means you're looking to be dependent on someone else, that you don't want to have to work and you're happy to let someone else handle things.
Ambition is sexy. Intelligence is sexy. It's not all about money, it's about pursuing dreams which is sexy.
— roxanne g. randel (@roxannerandel) October 7, 2017
"When going on dates since I've been unemployed, I've always been super nervous when asked about what I did for work because I thought they were going to look down or judge me for [being unemployed]" Aria, 25, says. Collectively, it's as if because one person has a job and the other doesn't already they're starting off on uneven footing. Their experiences will be different. Their days will be different. Their stresses & pressures will be different.
How can two people connect when so much of their lives are fundamentally different? How can two people connect when there's already so many assumptions about males & females who are unemployed? How can two people get past those preconceived notions about gender roles?
Start praising women instead of punishing them
Women are often crucified for having careers. In popular media like Sex and the City and The Intern very successful women find that while their careers blossom, their relationships crack. They're somehow penalized for being the one making the money and, often, portrayed as the villain; as the reason why their husbands cheat or leave. If only they worked less and did less then their husbands could feel like "men" and wouldn't have to seek validation outside of their households.
The truth is this: Women aren't stopping anytime soon. Society needs to catch up to the present and nix the idea that men are the only ones who can and should provide. It's toxic. It creates unnecessary tension between partners. It places a burden and sets expectations on the shoulders of men whilst simultaneously punishing women for succeeding.
Women should not be punished for succeeding. They should not be made to feel guilty for having financial success. They should be supported and applauded. And occasionally cooked for.
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