As a couple, having a sound financial future is usually a goal. That’s why it can be really difficult to determine how to respond if one spouse wants to quit their job somewhat unexpectedly. If they don’t have another position lined up – or don’t plan on finding something new – you may wonder if their quitting is actually alright or if it’s unreasonable. Regretfully, the situation isn’t always cut and dry. So it’s critical to remember there are times when quitting is wise. Here’s a look at when it’s okay for a spouse to quit a job.
When It’s Okay for a Spouse to Quit a Job
The Workplace Is Dangerous
If there is one time when quitting a job without talking to a spouse first is definitively okay, it is if the workplace is unnecessarily dangerous. While companies should do their part to protect their workforce from harm. Some don’t do this well. Some may order employees to cut corners in a manner that needlessly puts them in harm’s way. Others may forgo maintenance. Thus, increasing the odds of dangerous mechanical failures that could harm an operator.
If your spouse is in a risky role and their employer keeps putting their safety on the line because it refuses to follow tried-and-true protocols or regulatory mandates. Exiting immediately could be essential. Otherwise, your spouse could end up catastrophically injured. Which is something that comes at a far higher cost than losing a paycheck.
There’s a Health Issue
Similar to the point above, if a job is causing or aggravating a serious health issue – or preventing your spouse from taking proper steps to care for a condition – quitting might be a necessity. There are scenarios where a person’s job can have a major impact on their health, either purely based on the nature of the role or the environment in which they do the work. In those cases, the only remedy is usually to leave. If they don’t, they may continue to deteriorate, potentially irreversibly so.
If a job is causing significant mental health damage, that’s also a justifiable reason to leave. For instance, if there’s toxic management, bullying, or similar conditions leading to severe depression or anxiety. Quitting might be the best way to get re-centered and on the road to recovery.
A person’s health isn’t something they should have to sacrifice in the name of a paycheck, particularly if the situation is getting severe rapidly. That’s why, in those scenarios, quitting is often okay.
Burnout Is a Problem
In many cases, burnout is a far bigger burden than people expect. There are both mental and physical side effects to burnout, leaving a person pretty miserable. That’s why, if burnout is the issue, quitting might not be a bad choice.
However, quitting over burnout without taking some key steps could be irresponsible. For example, if your spouse is burned out because they’re bored at work, ideally, they should speak with their manager. They may be able to take on additional duties that keep them engaged, effectively solving the issue.
The same is true if they’re overworked. At times, a meeting with their manager to discuss the situation could lead to changes, allowing them to conquer their burnout.
But not all sources of burnout are easily solved. First, managers can refuse to make any changes, making the problem inescapable without quitting. Second, if the burnout is related to the field or industry being a bad fit, leaving the role may be a must. Finally, if burnout is tied to the workplace, such as an aspect of the culture, heading for the exit is potentially essential.
Since burnout isn’t typically catastrophic, it may be preferable that your spouse find a new job before leaving. However, if the impact of burnout is severe, a quicker exit could make sense.
An Ethical or Legal Issue Arises
There are times when a person may be cruising along at work, only to witness an incident that makes staying problematic. For example, seeing a higher-up make an unethical choice could put an employee in a bind. The same goes for signs of illegal activity.
Even if your spouse isn’t directly involved, remaining in a workplace where an ethical or legal issue could rear its ugly head isn’t always wise. As a result, they may need to quit without any notice, mainly as a means of protecting themselves from a potentially risky situation.
A Multitude of Other Reasons
The examples above outline some extreme situations that most would agree make quitting – even spontaneously – primarily justifiable. However, they, by all means, aren’t the only ones.
Every person’s workplace and job are different, so your spouse’s could come with challenges not outlined above. Additionally, every person is unique, so what’s tolerable to one person may be a dealbreaker for another.
While quitting is a big decision that impacts all members of a household, spouses can’t necessarily force their partner to keep a job. Trying to do so usually only brings negativity and resentment to the relationship. The same goes for chastising a spouse who’s already quit, as that’s a reactive approach that won’t help you both find solutions to any challenges the choice creates.
How to Navigate a Spouse Quitting Their Job
If your spouse quits their job unexpectedly, you’re free to ask why they made that decision. You may discover that there were issues or challenges you weren’t initially aware of, making their quick exit completely justifiable. However, even if that isn’t the case, take in what they share and avoid being outwardly judgmental. Instead, shift gears to become solution-oriented.
Review your budget with your spouse to determine how losing that income impacts your finance. See if you need to cut back and, if so, what you should change. After you pare down, see if tapping your emergency fund is a requirement or if you can proceed while leaving your savings intact.
After that, speak with your spouse about their career plans. Find out if they intend to launch a job search, acquire new skills to make a career change possible, or have other ideas for how they’ll proceed. Determine if there are steps you can take to support their transition, as that may help them move forward with greater ease.
Work Together On A Solution
If your spouse isn’t sure about their professional future, work together to find a reasonable solution during the interim. For example, they may be able to secure a part-time job to help make ends meet while they use the rest of the time they would usually spend working if they were full-time to explore various options.
Ideally, you want to work together to figure out what comes next. That way, you can get back on the same page, allowing you to make progress as a team. Often, that can do a lot when it comes to repairing any potential damage to the relationship, making it easier to remain future-oriented and move forward.
Can you think of any other times with it’s okay for a spouse to quit a job? Has your spouse had to quit their job unexpectedly, and you’d like to offer advice to others in the same boat? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.