How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage

How To Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

Petersons take risks.

This precedent was set up early in our marriage. When, after being married for just a year, a friend asked us to quit our jobs and move with him from Seattle to southeast Wisconsin to help him start a church, we said yes. Now, it wasn’t as easy to do as that sentence was for me to type. There was a lot to consider and plenty of logistics and timing to work out. But, in the end, we basically said, “What do we have to lose? Even if it flops, we still have each other. Let’s do it!” So, we did. And, it didn’t flop. By all accounts most people would say we succeeded. In fact, that church still exists today, ten years after we said yes.

Then, after three years of hard work, a depleted savings account, and an 18-month-old, we moved back home again to Seattle to start new jobs at a different church.

I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a good fit. Now we had two babies and we took another risk; we quit! I would have stayed, but my dear Tony put it very simply to me when he said, “I cannot take a paycheck from a church when I am not on board with the vision of the leader. Can’t do it,” and that was that. He began hustling some freelance graphic design work, I carted my newborn and toddler with me to do some book-keeping for a friend’s construction company (these friends were very generous to employ me because I was not at all good at that job) and we kept believing in each other and putting one foot in front of the other.

We take risks. We believe in each other.

So, last year, after six years of living in our favorite place in the Pacific Northwest and finding ourselves in a church community we really loved and felt we could be ourselves in, and Tony working at Microsoft on projects that energized him, and me finding my voice as a writer with #staymarried and fulfilling a dream of publishing my first book, we took a risk again. That old friend from Wisconsin asked us if we would come back to work at the church we helped start all those years ago. This time the stakes were much higher. The first time we moved to the midwest we were newly married with no kids. This time we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, raising three incredible daughters, Tony was in a career he loved, and I was loving being a stay-at-home-mom-writer-dreamer. This time it was not so easy to say yes.

Still, after nearly a year of negotiating and putting all the puzzle pieces together, we said yes again. For a couple of people who never feel like we fit in at church, we sure say yes to the local church a lot. Tony would be the Executive Pastor of Music and Creative and I would be the Executive Pastor of Communication and Leadership Development. We were energized and full of vision and we moved and believed we could help and do good work here. We believed it was worth the risk. 

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

But, sometimes, the risk doesn’t reap a reward.

Just a year later, because of “reprioritizing a tightening budget” I’ve been laid off. I’ve been assured it has nothing to do with my job performance, it’s not personal, but SHEESH! This is a tough one.

Tony and I found out I would lose my job the day before our eleventh anniversary in June. Because ministry life is effing complicated, we couldn’t share the news with anyone but each other. I hadn’t received a formal notice, and wouldn’t for more than a month after I was told. It was just a conversation, it hardly seemed real. Did I really just lose my job? How exactly, was this decision made?

That night, we sat on our blue couch, the couch we’ve interviewed countless couples from for The #staymarried Podcast about their own struggles and triumphs, and we played out the worst case scenarios we could think of.

Will we have to move again? We haven’t saved enough. We weren’t prepared for this. Will we stay in Wisconsin? What choice do we have? What will we tell our nanny? WHEN will we tell our nanny? Man, I wanted to get bikes for the kids this summer. That’s out. I was thinking of a trip home for my birthday. That’s out. We already cut Tony’s salary because church work simply doesn’t pay as much as Microsoft graphic design work, but adding my salary with his brought us almost back up to his salary alone from his last job. We are about to lose nearly half our income. We didn’t see this coming. This is not cool…

And I cried, and Tony had tears in his eyes, and he hugged me and we agreed; we have each other. Even if we have nothing else, we have each other and we will be okay…

Have you ever been there? Have you ever faced the hard thing, turned toward each other, and been able to believe wholeheartedly that even without any external guarantees, having each other would be enough?

It’s in the vows, right? “For richer, for poorer…” we say, as we gaze into each other’s eyes before we’ve ever actually sat across from a kitchen table and paid bills together. 

A few years ago Tony and I watched our friends Jim and Annie put their own spin on those classic words when they their exchanged vows.

“In poverty, I promise to make our love rich. In wealth, I promise not to let our love grow poor.”

This picture of intentionality has always stuck with me. And here we are, facing the reality of losing half our income for an unknown amount of time. Can we still make our love rich? We determined we would.

How To Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried Modern Wedding Vows

We determined that we wouldn’t let ourselves fall into panic or despair. We grieved, we still grieve, and we did our best to ask questions and make sense of how this could happen, but then we’d pivot and try to spend more energy on what could possibly be next instead of what was no longer.

We decided to focus on 3 questions:

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can I do?

It was easy to come up with answers to the first question, and once we began naming good things to each other, we were reminded of even more goodness in our lives. We have great kids, we love the school they go to, we are thankful for our home, we have good good friends. We can name what is good.

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried Peterson Family 2018

What was true was that I did my best in my job. Nothing about it was easy, but I worked hard and with transparency and integrity. It was also true that I didn’t cause the loss of my own job, so spending my time tracing back every possible turn I might have accidentally taken in the wrong direction over this last year was a futile exercise in finding the lie. What is good? What is true? Now, what can I do?

For a couple of clumsy months I began sending out my newly refreshed resume to local companies and non-profit organizations. I wasn’t totally clear on what I wanted to do, just aware that I needed to get back to work. I also began dreaming again about #staymarried and all of the new ideas I want to explore to help support couples.

Another thing I could actively do was choose to navigate my own grief and confusion. I’m great at stuffing things down and marching on, but that wasn’t going to work this time.

Most nights Tony and I head outside for a minimum of 15 minutes, we call it our “Nightly Debrief.” So, nightly, we processed how we were feeling, what I was working on to try to find work, what I was thinking of for #staymarried, and absolutely everything else. We focused our conversations always around those three questions…

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can I do?

Our Nightly Debriefs helped me focus on what was ahead. I knew I didn’t need to be too worried because, well, at least Tony still had his job. And, despite watching me lose my role on staff, he was still determined to do his best to course correct and build up the creative and music team at church into something really wonderful. I’m here to cheer him on. I don’t know anybody who works harder than my husband.

Then, on a Monday morning just eight weeks after finding out I would lose my job, Tony sent me a text from a meeting telling me, “I just lost my job. [Our friend] believes I’m taking the music team in a direction he doesn’t want it to go and he said my time here is done.” Just like that we went from Sleepless in Seattle to Jobless in Wisconsin. Now what?

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

In her article Job Loss Tests Marriages: 5 Tips to Detour a Marital Meltdown, Laurie Puhn writes, “Even happy couples admit that the sudden economic downturn is testing their ‘I do’ commitment.” Even happy couples, guys. This stuff is seriously stressful. So, before we turn on each other and panic, Tony and I are back to asking those same three questions…

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can we do?

Petersons take risks. We believe in each other. We are in this thing together. We take risks and sometimes those risks don’t reap a reward, and that’s okay. We’re excited to see how this path will unfold and since our calendar is suddenly pretty clear, we’re choosing to head full throttle into the work we love to do together and that’s right here on #staymarried!

The #staymarried Podcast is back!

We’re excited to announce that on Wednesday, September 19th, we will launch Season 4 of The #staymarried Podcast. A LOT has happened this past year and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to, what we’ve learned, how working together in tense environments challenged our marriage, and we’d love to bring you along on our journey as we try to figure out what’s next.

We realize that unemployment can certainly test the strength of a marriage. We are living in that struggle and stress even as you read these words. But, we are determined to draw closer to each other, to build into our relationship, to work through this as a team, and to #staymarried.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017

Wait! What’s the plan?

It’s true, we don’t really know what we’re going to do next, but we have a 3-pronged strategy…

1. Resumes
Submit our fancy new resumes to all of the interesting jobs.

2. Freelance
Tony is now accepting new projects. Check out his portfolio here. I am also accepting projects on his behalf, because teamwork.

3. Patreon
We are now looking for supporters for The #staymarried Podcast. Interested in how you can help? Find out more here.

Learn more about these custom #staymarried Snapback hats on Patreon.

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work? – #staymarried blog
♥ Your Baggage Doesn’t Have to Wreck Your Marriage – #staymarried Podcast

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

44 thoughts on “How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage

  1. I just went through my own job loss, was permanently laid off December 4th 2017. It took 6 months to get a good job, it also took 6 months to start getting paid by Employment Insurance (aka the government). With the wife as a stay at home Mom already, hugs & cereal don’t pay the bills apparently. Emailing my resume out everyday and taking a leap of faith here & there net me 3 Jobs. In that 6 months I ran into multiple scam emails so please be careful. It became so ridiculous I created a Facebook group called Alberta Job Scams, take look and avoid every one of them that come through your email. They are not just localized to Alberta.

    Good luck on your search, and I can’t wait for Episode 1 to drop on my Birthday!!

    1. Thank you, Brendan. I sort of forgot about scams. What a bummer that trolls prey on those of us earnestly looking for work.

  2. Good grief, guys. That’s a lot to have on your plate. But I’m super excited for new epsisodes of the podcast to come back. I will be praying that God leads you in the direction to doors that are going to open to something amazing. XOXOXO

  3. Love how you remain committed as a team and to who you are and those three questions. Most of all, I appreciate how you still identify as risk takers. It can be hard to not let fear win. And those three questions will keep fear in its place. Love to you all and hope things become clearer soon and cheering you and the podcast on in the meantime!!

    1. Staying committed to each other and to our little girls will never change… TEAM PETERSON! Podcast is coming back and we’re so excited!

  4. oh, you two! That has got to be so tough, and refining, and an opportunity you two have taken to draw closer together! I’m sure each day isn’t easy, but you two have a lot of grit and faith and I know this must just be a nudge in the best direction possible to live the life of your dreams. I’m confident great things are going to happen with #staymarried and with the rest of your life! All the love – Aaron & April Check out my favorite clip that I watch when I get a bit discouraged –

    1. Thanks Aaron and April. You’re right… great things ARE on the way for #staymarried and Michelle and I are looking forward to the time we get to invest here.

  5. Michelle! Tony! We are heart broken for you. And amen to church being complicated….life is complicated and sometimes so stupid. We are so sorry you have to go through this. We love you guys and are using all of our tech skilz to support you thru Patreon (what!??!) and might even buy a snappy hat:)

    1. The. Best. You two have been with us through thick and thin and here you are again. Is there a better example of #staymarried than you two… no… no there isn’t.

  6. We’re in this boat with you Michelle and Tony. I lost my position August 15th after signing for our new home rental on the 14th, but Paul and I were able to look at each other and say, “We have each other and we could have been in this boat after moving in anyway.” I love the reconfirmations of knowing you married the right person when they’ll take that crazy leap of faith with you and, in Paul’s case, will still push and challenge you to trust God and be crazy with him when my risk aversion was hitting it’s peak of panic. Absolutely love this blog, even if I’m not at all happy to hear of the additional job loss for Tony, but I hope we’ve rubbed enough Wisconsin off on y’all to keep your here if it’s in God’s plan for you. Love you both!

  7. Michelle, thank you for posting. This hits home. I remember the day in Seattle (I lived there for 8 years) sitting in the audience when the church you are referencing announced that they would be planting a church in Kenosha… It really caught my ear as I had grown up in Kenosha and in fact my ten year old nephew was visiting me from there that day and looked up at me with big eyes. Since then, I got married, changed jobs, moved countries, my husband lost his job, we got divorced and I am now about to move back to Kenosha with 3 young kids as a much stronger person with a lot of perspective and a much stronger faith. I think your message is important… and love how God is using your pain as he often does, to help others as they journey through their own similar stories.

    1. Wow, Holly! You were there? What an interesting connection. Thank you for journeying with us and encouraging us. It means a lot!

      1. Michelle, if you’re still in/staying in the Kenosha area, I’d love to get together for coffee. What’s the best way to get in touch without posting my details publicly?

  8. You’ve been through so much crap and what I love is that you both are leaning on each other and are TEAM PETERSON no matter what! Such a beautiful example to everyone that even though life sucks and the future is unclear, you can still have a strong marriage. We love you guys so much! And can you please write for our blog? Hehe … I’m being serious

    1. Meygan! You and Casey have been such pillars for us. You’ve been through this, so your encouragement means a ton. And… uh… I may have started a couple of drafts for Marriage 365 already <3

  9. So sorry to hear this! I’m praying for you guys – for help and health in processing all of the emotions involved as well as for clarity about how to move forward. This has not thrown God for a loop and I trust He is as attentive to you and your family as always.

    1. PREACH! Sometimes in the transition it’s hard to see any further than immediately in front of you, but I’m really looking forward to the day when we’re looking back on this time and laughing. What a ride.

  10. I am so sorry you guys. Our family didn’t move but well we sure have been through a ton too. We have church planted for 10 years. We were with a church 20 years ago and I was the head of the nursery there. It was a small church but well it was a big role for them and the heart of the church. We took on the task of re-doing the space as well as helping setup some of the tech things for the church back then (we worked for tech companies). Then we moved north to find a church and have a family and a couple kiddos. We found a great church that we made great friends and visions with. We helped them tech vise and were the IT support for them and then planted churches. After this season and our kids growing up they were having needs and we knew they needed something for themselves. So we started to find something for them. As we did of course we knew we could do most anything walking in but we wanted it to be the kids turn this time. Well one day my husband found that there was a need and said I would be a good fit. I didn’t know if I really was ready for it even though I knew I could do it I just didn’t know. So I said I would give it a go to do something while the kids were there. I did. Well the journey lasted a year. We know that we don’t know what the next steps are but we do know that we have elderly parents now that we have to help with. I know that all of this has been hard on our family and marriage and well I want you to know you both have been so encouraging to us. Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing more from you both.

    1. Thanks Michele… though we’re in the thick of it RIGHT NOW, we’ll look back on this some day and see Him in it at every turn and just laugh at the orchestration of it all. Thanks for sharing

  11. Michelle and Tony, God bless you guys and the amazing work you do through #staymarried. We love you guys and you beautiful family and we know that brighter things are on the horizon. You both are just teeming with talent and meant for incredible things. Can’t wait to hear about what God has next for you!

  12. I kinda know the feeling. It hurts!!!!! Especially when you feel like you are a part of something and then you realize you are not. I faced this 3 years ago and I am sorry to say the sting is still there. However, my family has become more and more MY WORLD, MY MISSION!!!! Stay true to each other and your beautiful girls!!! Both you and Tony are created in the image of God!!! God is working!! You guys are such an inspiration. We will be praying for you and will be listening to your wisdom in the Podcast.

  13. So excited you are back and wow what a year you have had! You are so inspiring, I love how you guys communicate with each other and stay strong together. I may need to borrow your nightly debriefing idea! How do you manage to keep it til 15 mins! Looking forward to the 19th 🙂 I am going to go write those three questions down on our board, great way to keep a conversation focused on the positive!

  14. I’m a past Great Laker, and I remember you guys and when you left. You are both talented individuals and you will do just awesome. My husband and I just dealt with the same thing, our company that we both work for is slowly dying. But, God had our backs and we both found jobs in same week. It’s a job seekers market. I wish you to all the luck and prayers. Jen DeVore

  15. I am so grateful that you two are risk takers! I started going to the church you are talking about a couple years after it formed. Tony was singing the first time I went. It kills me that I don’t know the words he said, but what he said made me realize I can talk to God when ever I wanted. Silly I know, but I didn’t know that then. As the years went by and my marriage started to end, I talked to God more and more. It was such a hard decision for me, one that I struggled with for a long time. I’m sad that I didn’t get to hear Tony sing again and possibly say what he said so many years ago. You two have touched so many lives. I hope that you continue to do what brings you joy. Thank you for letting us be voyeurs into your marriage. #staymarried #teampeterson

    1. “Talk to ya later”… it’s what I say at the end of my prayers.
      I’m sad too, maybe we’ll all bump into each other someday. Thanks for being a listener 🙂

  16. As a pastor myself. Me and my wife are heart broken for you guys. The church world can be ugly. My greatest encouragement to you is find a church you love serve in it and if you have a source of income to help your family that’s great but don’t take a check from a church. You don’t want the lively hood of your family dependent on if someone is enjoying the direction you feel the lord is taking you or not. I’m upset that someone Would ask you to leave your home twice to burn you. I’m sorry I love the local church but we do a poor job of treating our employees most times. Jeremiah 29:11 he already knows what he has planned for you guys.

    1. Thank you Danny. You summed up well how we’re feeling. We didn’t think we would return to ministry in the first place, we were loving serving our local church in Bellevue and earning our income elsewhere. Alas, we did return and I’m holding out hope our time on staff wasn’t a complete waste. Pivoting is rough, but not impossible and we keep having this sense that God is not going to let us fail. He has always been so good to us.

  17. Beautiful family and ministry, but the line “……ministry is “effing” complicated??? Do you know what the word “effing” stands for? I’ve used the wrong word myself a time or two, so I just thought I’d let you know.

    1. I *think* I know what it means. I thought it was kinder to type than actually swearing, which is how I was feeling at the time. Do you ever feel like swearing?

  18. Love the little saying about keeping love strong “in poverty” vs. “in wealth.” So true! Thanks for an excellent article. This is the first time I have found your blog.

  19. We are going through the job loss struggle as well. After a decade with a prominent company (also in Wisconsin) as an Engineer my husband walked in one day in January and was fired… and hasn’t gone back to the corporate world yet and has no plans to. I would say the struggle that we have endured since then has made us closer and our marriage stronger. It’s a daily struggle for me to stay supportive after 18 years of marriage, military service, multiple cities for him to get his degree and now this – balancing act for sure! Stay strong you two and know you are not alone in this crazy world!

  20. its always a challenge to keep your love strong when you are in hard times its a nice article i like that you have the real knowledge about love keep posting Thanks!

  21. Greetings from Seattle! I stumbled upon your blog via your 6 year memory post to George and Erika. (Who I was FB stalking for twins pictures!) Hello you two! Long time!

    First off, SO sorry to hear about all of those challenges and u-turns. Whew.

    This is so timely!!!! I just got laid off, one month to the DAY after JT and I finally got married. Big-ish wedding too. Not awesome financial timing. So newlyweds looking to stay married? Check. Job loss? Check.

    Thank you for the great post! You’ve got a new reader. Much love. ♥️

  22. Wow. This is truly inspirational. I’ve always had the worry that my spouse will lose his job and wondered what we would do in that situation. I love how positive you are and how you have taken it as a challenge to try another direction.

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