When I was a newlywed, I had a front-row seat to the tough career decisions couples I knew were making.
One friend had a tough decision to make. After a long job hunt, she and her husband had narrowed it down to two options: her hometown, or his. Each desperately wanted to settle near their own family and long-time friends, but the two cities were 3000 miles apart.
They chose his. “Here’s the thing,” she said. “My husband’s entering his profession on the bottom rung. In my hometown, the field is saturated, and he’ll have to beg for work. In his hometown, it’s wide open, and clients will be begging him to take them on. A man who’s happy in his work is easier to live with–so we’re moving.”
It’s been 7 years: he’s thriving, and so is she. I think it’s largely because my friend has been chosen to encourage her husband in his work. Whether your man is in his dream job or just punching the clock to pay the bills, you can give him the encouragement he needs. And you’ll both be the better for it. Here’s what to do:
1. Show your man you’re interested in his work.
Ask him questions about his job–get to know the characters in his daily stories and become familiar with what his days at work look like. An older, wiser friend of mine, who has a Ph.D. in education, told me once she never thought she’d be interested in the roofing business–but since she’s married to a roofer, she has to be interested! Whatever it is your man spends his days doing, it’s your job to be interested. You can’t offer him genuine encouragement if you don’t understand what he does all day. Knowing what’s going on in his workplace has another benefit–you’ll know when he’s under a lot of stress at work, or when he’s riding high. You’ll know when he’s in a busy season, or when his schedule’s a little freer. And you can use this information to better calibrate your relationship.
2. Show your man respect.
Your man wants to know that you, his woman, thinks he can handle it–no matter what “it” is. Obviously, this applies to his work. Show him that you respect his ability to perform in the workplace. He wants to be seen as capable and competent–especially by you.
3. Be your man’s sounding board.
Ask him how his day went, and listen to the answer. Be supportive and understanding. Try and set aside some time every day to have this end-of-the-day conversation. Encourage him by giving him the opportunity to feel truly heard and understood.
3. Take his side.
If your man trusts you to be his sounding board, then you’re going to hear the bad as well as the good. You’ve got to show him you are on his side. This is not the time to criticize or question him. Let him know he has your support, that you believe in him, and that you’re on his team.
4. Don’t give unsolicited advice.
If he wants your help, he’ll ask for it. Don’t try and solve his problems for him. This means you don’t email him “helpful” articles or otherwise make him feel like a “project.” Don’t micro-manage him or try to make his workplace decisions for him. If he asks for your advice, it’s because he wants your advice–go ahead and tell him what you think. But ultimately, give him the freedom to be in control of his own job.
5. How to encourage your man when he’s not at work.
MMD ranks high on google search terms for variations on phrases like “how to encourage a man.” Lots of women want to know how to best offer encouragement to their husbands and boyfriends. My keywords are showing lots of hits right now for phrases “how to encourage my husband when he’s unemployed” and “how to encourage frustrated husband can’t find a job.”
Here’s how to do it: Show him you’re interested in how he spends his days. (Does he want to talk about his job prospects? Potential interviews? Be interested. Know what he has on the horizon.) Let him know you think he’s capable, competent, and employable. Be on his side. Don’t give unsolicited advice.