Love in the Time of Layoffs, or One Works, the Other doesn't

BlogHer Original Post

 For many of the people I know, it’s as if, all of a sudden, the bubble burst and their income—or their credit—took a nose dive. Formerly employed writers are on food stamps, caterers are taking in roommates, and people are assessing what they have—jewelry, vacation rentals, artwork—that they can afford to sell without losing too much of their former profits.

Just as frightening, many of the people with jobs are either wondering how long they will be keeping them, or experiencing their own massive pay cuts while staying employed. More than one straight, suburban mom I know is contemplating sex work or writing porn to pay the bills; I actually have an acquaintance that  is having twice monthly “cuddle” parties to cover the mortgage.

But whether or not you’re the person strapped for cash, what this means is that many people you know are either hoarding their funds or doing without (cash, that is).

Broke is the new black, and all that, but it’s not fun if you’re wondering how paying transport to coffee dates is going to affect your job-hunting fund, or whether your dates are going to want to split the cost of dinner, leaving you short for next week’s lunches.

So, for singles that are dating, for couples in new relationships, and for friends with benefits, how does this love in the time of layoffs thing play out?

If you’re actively dating in this new, shrunken, economy, what do you need to know about the etiquette of dating while broke?   Are there new rules to follow? Unwritten codes you’re supposed to know? 

Without claiming to be the ultimate expert—but as someone who stays aware—here are some things—and tactics—to think about while dating in this recession-sphere:

  • Deep recessions like this one—the worst in MANY years—disrupt the ecosystem of who pays, so everyone is confused.
  • If you’re the one with a job and you’re going out with this person more than once, consider ponying up for both of you on a night out, or offer to split it.
  • Riffing on that,  if you’re the one with the job, make sure you have a gentle conversation with your date to understand what he actually can afford, or to articulate your rules about paying or going dutch before you hire the stretch limo or get that bottle at the club.
  • Don’t let whining make it all better. Even if one or both of you—back in the day—thought nothing of running up bills for hundreds of dollars of sushi, now ain’t the time to say so. You can be good people without harping on what you had, and lost.
  • How do you make plans if he’s working and you’re not? Since this is the traditional male/female model, with a new relationships let BF set the tone; just don’t let him take you out and make ALL the plans over time unless you are a) a submissive b) a kept woman  c) both.
  • On the other hand, if you’re an established couple and he’s got the dough and you don’t like feeling like being Miz Helpless One, drag him out for a spaghetti dinner, or a movie or something.
  • What if you’re working and he’s not? Well… don’t recommend paying his way all the time; that’s tough for most guys,  Instead, go to cheap places where you can split the check, or agree that when you go out to nicer spots, the cost split will be current-income proportional.
  • What if one or both of you is basically penniless; weeks away from couch-surfing and all that? If things are that dire, stay home  and go for walks, truth is, these are very touchy conditions under which to sustain a relationship.
  • In this environment, expect the straight men you meet to act a little strange: for guys, for whom wining and dining a woman they hope to impress is the equivalent of the turkey’s big feathered, big ass preening courtship dance, having the credit card be over-extended even before they’ve romanced you is pretty stressful.
  • What if you’re arm candy, you like being arm candy, and you want to be wined and dined but the fellas’ ain’t showing up? Four little words: Older guys on Say you’re an athletic blonde (or brunette); a certain type of guy will flock to you. It’s not a long-term solution, but it could lead to some nice meals(and maybe some good people).
  • Can you really meet someone and fall in love while the economy is falling apart, global warming is heating up and we’re starting to worry about water rights? I’d say yes; in fact, storming the barricades and all that shared purpose is enormously sexy.
  • Can you really meet someone and fall in love when you are worried about losing your job, your house value is in the toilet and your ex is unemployed? In truth, this is a lot harder than #11; I’d say going to the gym for a bit might deliver better results than dating, but by all means, trust your gut.
  • The hardest scenario, in truth, isn’t for daters, but for those who are living together. If things are precarious, the uncertainty will make it worse; if they’re just crummy, it’s merely stressful (merely—huh!)
  • If you and your partner are facing that who’s working inbalance—and the financial issues it implies—agree to discuss it, treat it with respect, and then give it a rest.  In other words, unless you want to break up at that  minute over money and what might happen, fiercely protect your movie nights, your fun in bed, your jokes and whatever other little rituals keep you happy with one another.
  • This too shall pass.  Like the characters in Love in the Time of Cholera, your challenge can be to endure, maximizing joy and minimizing chaos, till the economy stabilizes and we see where we’re headed.

How are you managing your relationships—especially your dating life—in light of the sucky economy, the shrinking workforce and the fear—and resolve to do something about—global warming and the consumerist economy? 

Share your views here. 

Interesting posts from around the blogosphere:

Amy Gahran, Contentious: Failure as Taboo

"Back in January I attended — and live-tweeted — the She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA. Very slowly, I’ve been mulling over what I tweeted from there. Especially from Susan Mernit’s Jan. 31 session on that taboo of taboos, especially for women in business and tech: discussing and dealing with failure.
Perhaps more than any other She’s Geeky session, this one resonated with me. Right now, I’m in the process of ending my marriage, relocating from a community I’ve loved and called home for nearly 14 years, entering midlife, and dealing with much emotional backlog that has accumulated while I’ve kept busy busy busy for so many years."

Joining the Thin Club: Dealing with the Job Hunt Blues
“Sadly, unemployment has taken a toll on Judy's social life, which is largely facilitated by online dating.  Judy has to get out more - explore new horizons and try to meet people in person instead of online.  Although it is hard for her - since she feels like a freak since she is unemployed, the good news is that with all the other unemployed people out there, she is certainly not alone.  The question is, does she really WANT to meet other unemployed people?”

Twenty-Nothings: Closed-minded? perhaps.. Correct? probably.
“And so – after a great deal of thought and research – I am from this moment on only looking to be dating a guy who works at Google. That’s it – plain and simple. One man whom I am reasonably attracted to and whose checks are signed by Google."


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