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by SixFigureStart | February 12, 2009


It?s been a month since my husband Marco?s ex-firm broke up with him. And, like a romantic breakup, it takes time to heal?for us both.

I was on the road to such healing, eating ice cream in the middle of the day, when the doorbell rang. I finished a work call and opened the door. It was Marco?s ex-coworker, dropping off seven cardboard boxes filled with the remnants of Marco?s life with Ex-Firm. I felt a rush of betrayal. The ex-coworker is chipper and sweet, a decade or two my husband?s junior. The break-up is not his fault, but still, like a mama bear, I felt the intense desire to snarl.

?Tell Marco we all miss him a ton,? said junior coworker. The kid was sincere. I could tell he felt bad.

?I will,? I said, suppressing the urge to give him poison apples to bring back to the office. ?And thanks, really,? I managed. I smiled and closed the door.

Anger swelled. Not only were our closets and storage unit packed (Where is this all going to fit?), the boxes were filled with gadgets, gizmos, photos, and books?rosy momentos from the past life. They triggered sadness. Marco and his team had been pals. We?d invited the partners to our wedding. I enjoyed his co-workers? company. They were a crew of creatives who understood that ?freelance writer? was actually a job. I really hoped we?d stay friends.

?That?s the last time I treat an office like it?s home,? said Marco when he came home that night from his freelance gig and surveyed the carnage.

Layoffs at small firms are hard not to take personally. But it was surprising to discover just how frustrating they can be when it happens to your partner and there?s nowhere to vent your rage. I knew it wasn?t personal, when the ax falls on you or your loved one, but I couldn?t help wonder: why us? The difference between this breakup and a love affair, of course, is that in January 2009 ?us? meant 598,000 Americans whose jobs divorced them. There is dark comfort in knowing your pain is shared.

When a romantic relationship ends, if you?re like me you gather your girlfriends, eat chocolate, and kick into self-nurture mode. I find myself doing that now. Part of being in a relationship is that what happens to your partner happens to you. In these times of layoff, it?s not just the laid off but their spouses and partners who feel emotionally bruised.

The day after Marco?s Ex-Firm dumped him, I signed myself up for a surprisingly affordable Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training course at my local JCC. Since Marco and I are trying to start a family, I suddenly needed a new arsenal for trying to keep calm. Every weekend since the layoff, I?ve made cookies. I spent a night at a nearby Ashram. Though I haven?t been able to splurge and replace my expensive lavender shower gel, I?m taking lots of baths.

Marco is further along in dealing with the pain of the breakup than I am at this point. The man?s had closure. On his last day of work, his colleagues took him for drinks. They toasted him. He?s since had cocktails with his ex-boss. In short, he said goodbyes.

But for me, the wound remains open. There?s so rarely an appropriate vehicle through which partners and spouses can give those who axed our beloveds a piece of our mind.

So on behalf of all the hearts broken by proxy, on behalf of all partners and spouses of the newly un- and underemployed, I say this:

Take this heart and shove it.

Happy Valentine?s Day!

--Posted by Laura Rich,

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