‘It just caused so many problems’: How unemployment can drive young couples apart

‘It just caused so many problems’: How unemployment can drive young couples apart
With one in five young people jobless in London, one married couple in their 20s who faced months of unemployment together tell how their search for work left them arguing and angry with each other

A married couple who faced unemployment for five months have talked of their frustration at failing to find work and how it has spilled over into their relationship.

Jude and James* both in their mid-20s, had been unsuccessfully scouring the job market, making dozens of job applications from their one-bed in south-east London. James said they were “lucky to have each other” during such a “horrible situation” but that their “arguments had increased”.

He said: “We weren’t angry at each other – we were just angry with the situation we were in. But it was stressful and our relationship started to take strain. At first it wasn’t too bad but then Jude started getting annoyed because she felt that I wasn’t trying hard enough. We would argue when I did anything other than applications but I tried to explain to her that I can’t live like that. I was trying to find a balance while she was completely focused on finding a job and it just caused so many problems.”

Jude, a former bar manager, finished college with a BTEC in Business before working her way up the ranks in hospitality, while James dropped out of high school without GCSEs and worked in security. They were both working in a bar and restaurant where they first met three years ago before quitting in June because of “work place bullying” and “a toxic environment”.

Jude said: “The second I quit, I started searching for jobs. At one point I filled in 37 applications in a single day. I’ve had six interviews, but no jobs, and every single interview I’ve had to fight to get. After six years in hospitality, I want a job where my pay reflects my effort. I am tired of working to barely make ends meet.”

James was even less successful, scoring just one interview in that time. Jude said: “The whole process makes you feel hopeless. I used to be such a confident person but this knocked me. I hoped to be back to my usual self once I could start working again.”

They have been surviving on universal credit, but it has meant living very tight with no excess for travel and so actually getting to the interviews breaks the budget. Some job applications had multiple stages, said James, causing them to dip into their food costs and leaving them “not really enough to survive”.

James added: “A month after we left our jobs we started to feel a sense of panic because we needed to pay these essential costs.” He said their domestic arguments became more frequent and that it became just as important for them to find a purpose as an income: “We were trying to stay focused and hopeful, but it wasn’t easy,” he said.

Recently James had a breakthrough when he scored another interview, only his second, and heard that he had successfully secured a position with an environmental impact analysis company which he will start shortly.

It is a huge relief to the couple, but Jude is still smarting and feeling the impact of her own failure to find work. She said: “If it’s a win for one, it’s a win for both, but to be frank, it’s hard for me to fully celebrate with James because I am feeling so disheartened about not being able to find a job myself. It’s been a horrible, horrible time.”

*names have been changed