Joint Accounts

When Unemployment Is Killing Your Relationship

Tying your self-worth to your job can backfire

Kristin Wong
Published in
3 min readFeb 18, 2020


Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

I have been married to my husband for two years. After our wedding, I gave up my job as a corporate lawyer so we could move abroad to be near my in-laws. Ever since the move, I’ve been trying to figure out a new career plan, but being in a foreign country makes it extremely difficult for me to get a job.

We get by on my husband’s income, and I try to keep my expenses as low as possible — I almost never go out, and I keep groceries as basic as possible. My husband has said that I’m going overboard and that I’m going to make myself miserable. To be honest, I’m already miserable, but I feel uncomfortable spending any money we have on anything besides necessities, because it doesn’t feel like mine. My lack of personal income has created a lot of issues for my self-esteem and a lot of tension for our marriage. How do I get out of this downward spiral?


Jobless in a New City

A job loss can be a tough thing to cope with, even when it’s voluntary. It’s totally normal to go through a period of grieving that loss.

But you are more than a job. You can get into emotionally dangerous territory when you start to think of your career as the only thing that makes you valuable, and it sounds like that may be part of what’s making your misery as acute as it is.

The other aggravating factor, of course, is that you’re still adapting to a life that’s changed in nearly every conceivable way: a new culture, time zone, house, environment, and friend group (not to mention a new kind of relationship with your in-laws). It’s no wonder you feel like you’re hitting a downward spiral.

I know money is tight right now, but if you can afford a therapist to guide you through the transition, it can be a great help. If that’s cost-prohibitive, a less expensive option might be to find an online therapy service — I don’t know where you live, but it’s worth doing some searching to see what’s available in your new home country.



Kristin Wong
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.