"He's Been Out of Work Too Long"

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His Turn

"I don't blame Lisa for being mad that I'm out of work," said Ted, 46. "I understand her anxiety. We need two salaries to maintain our lifestyle and to save for retirement. We should have cut our spending. Instead we gave our adult children handouts without really considering the impact on our finances.

"I'm not the slacker my wife makes me out to be. Yes, I took time off after being downsized. But I was exhausted from years of 70-hour workweeks. During my break I've done a slew of home-improvement projects that Lisa never gives me credit for. And I've looked for all kinds of engineering jobs, and not just in alternative energy. I blame my unemployment on the hiring slowdown in this terrible economy and on age discrimination. My field is dominated by kids, and I'm a dinosaur in their eyes.

"Lisa thinks I spend too much time volunteering, but I'm passionate about the environment. And when I'm doing projects I believe in I'm expanding my network and keeping my spirits up. I'm more likely to meet someone in the energy field by volunteering than by getting a part-time retail job. That's a short-term solution to pay off some bills -- not the path out of debt and to a solid retirement. For all that I need a decent-paying professional job and a flexible schedule to get one. How can I go on interviews if I'm stuck at a minimum-wage job? I'd rather ask my dad for what he calls an 'advance on my inheritance' while I continue to job hunt. A few months ago Lisa pestered me so much that I finally applied for an adjunct teaching position at a local community college. I never even got an interview although I called the dean to confirm that my application had arrived -- twice.

"I've always marched to my own drummer, just like my dad, a stockbroker who made a lot of money, burned out, and quit at 52. He did some consulting and traveled a lot with my late mother. Dad was a rebel in his professional life -- men of his generation didn't retire in their prime -- but as a parent he was strict and controlling. When I hit adolescence I defied his authority by cutting school. As a result my grades weren't good enough for a top university. So I spent two years at a community college, got my act together and transferred to a state university, graduating cum laude. I worked as a research engineer for five years but at 27 got bored and returned to school for my PhD. It took me seven years to complete because I wrote two theses -- one that my faculty adviser assigned and a second one, the one I wanted to do.

"I loved seeing Lisa when I visited my sister, so when I moved to this area I asked her out. She's smart, beautiful, and outgoing and I'm in awe of her strength in raising four kids alone. I get along great with the kids and with Lisa, too -- until recently, that is. Now I get the cold shoulder, inside the bedroom and out. I understand her anger but I can't take any old job just to suit her."

Continued on page 3:  The Counselor's Turn


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