UnemploymentLooks like just a smidge over 9 percent of America’s population is currently out of work, split almost 50/50 between men and women. That’s 14 million folks who are uploading their resumes to Monster.com. Dodging bill collectors and past due notices. Shucking and jiving for The Man to get those piddly little checks.

If you’ve never weathered a stretch of unemployment, well la ti da ti da. Lucky you. You’re certainly in the minority, considering how people have been dropping like flies everywhere. One minute Jim from accounting is hogging the community microwave in the kitchenette, and the next, you’re getting a bounce-back message when you shoot him an email. It’s rough out there.

So if you’ve been able to survive joblessness and keep your love affair in tact, you and your boo are like the Olympic gold medalists of relationships.

Considering money is the number one thing couples fight about, it can be a recipe for disaster when the two streams of income flowing into one household are abruptly clipped down to one. If people can’t agree on how to spend the dough they do have, imagine the meltdown that unfolds when there’s no cash coming in to squabble about. Kudos to those of you who have bested the obstacles of being canned, strapped for cash, and figuring out your next career move, but still managing to keep the fires of love burning at home.

Being unemployed sucks, no doubt. But it sure will show you who’s down for you, no matter what — including your man.

The Mister and I were dating for about two months before we both got smitten with each other. He got there a little before I did. I mean, he was a nice guy and all, but he was so different from anybody else on my resume, I wasn’t really sure if I liked him like that. Seemed like he was treading dangerously close to the dreaded Friend Zone for quite a while. But through several strategic plays on his end, he won me over, and when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I giddily accepted. You know, you gotta take that kind of proposal first before you can get any others.

That was a Sunday. On Monday morning I went to work as usual, got called to the HR office, and got fired. Just like that.

He was the first person I called after I was standing on the street, looking up at the office window that, up until a few minutes before, had been mine. In light of my new circumstances — or lack thereof — I gave him a get-out-of-having-a-relationship-with-an-unemployed-girl-free card. He was still pretty fresh so I didn’t want him to go down with my sinking ship. But he insisted he was in it for the long haul.

For a year and four months, I was poor. I invented a new brand of brokeness. You never really realize how many financial obligations and bills you have until you can’t come up with the money to pay them. And you darn sure don’t have the money for the little things you used to take for granted, like happy hour with the girls or random trips to TGI Friday’s. You might not feel like cooking, but you take a look at your checking account balance and you pull out a doggone skillet. There’s not enough room in the budget for those kinds of luxuries.

I’m happy to report that we’re still together today. He passed the ultimate test, especially for our long distance relationship that relies on one of us saddling up and traveling the two hours to the other’s house. It was a humbling experience for me, that’s for sure. I hate, hate, hate asking for help from anyone, but especially from a guy. I don’t want that favor hanging over my head and obligating me, but more importantly I can’t stand that feeling of helplessness and neediness when I have to choke down my pride.

That period freed me up just a little to let go of my fierce independence and accept his innumerable offers to give me a little assistance here and there. When the lights were getting ready to get snuffed out and my cellphone was about to be shut off, he enthusiastically paid them. We had plenty of challenges because of me being out of a job, but it also showed me that he was the kind of dude I could see myself being with 10 jobs from now. Or whenever I become a self-made millionaire, whichever comes first.

Has your relationship weathered a period of unemployment? How did you get through?


Image via clementine gallot/Flickr