How to be supportive of my SO with job offer anxiety issues?
October 29, 2010 11:34 AM   Subscribe

How can I help my SO keep his cool while waiting to hear about a job interview?

He was supposed to hear back today, Friday, but I don't think he will hear until next week. We both have a history of anxiety and depression, so I understand where he's at, but all he can talk about is the job. All. the.time. Nothing distracts him, not normal leisure activities, tv, exercise or sheet karate. It seems like pretty typical "anxiety hampster-wheel" style obsessing.

"Wanna play golf?"
"Wanna grill burgers?"
"There are burgers at this job." &c.

We usually spend most of the weekend together and I need advice about how to be supportive without letting him stew too much and losing my cool... I know anxiety is not his fault but it can wear one down. Thanks MeFi.
posted by ShadePlant to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Surely you can think of something to distract him.... nudge nudge wink wink
posted by zeoslap at 11:38 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last time we went trhough this we found ourselves doing the exact same thing, only both of us. When we realized, we simply banned the subject from our conversations. If one of us brought it up, the other one said "change of subject" and that was that.

It's really hard, and of course, not talking about it does not equal not thinking about it, but we forced ourselves to watch movies and think of other things.

In the end, I did get the job, and he confessed he had been thinking about it like crazy. Me too.

Good luck to you guys, I think the best thing you can do now is convince him to be a stoic. He did his best, things aren't in his range of power now, so it's useless to worry.

posted by Tarumba at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2010

He's too anxious to get freaky! I try, then he, uh, falters, apologizes, tries again, rinse, wash, repeat. The failure almost makes him feel worse I think! And he knows therapy is a good idea to help with the immobilizing anxiety but he is waiting to get some health benefits at a new job in order to start it...
posted by ShadePlant at 11:42 AM on October 29, 2010

Take the initiative: how about instead of "Wanna play golf?", saying "Let's play golf", dressed and ready to leave? Or instead of "Wanna grill burgers", try "I bought some meat, I'll make the salad if you grill the burgers."
posted by halogen at 11:46 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Take a trip this weekend. Off the cuff trip somewhere within driving distance to a B&B. Make it about reconnecting. Unplug, go to dinner/brunch, enjoy each other's company. Leave the cell phones and computers at home.
posted by TheBones at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2010

This is somewhat of a long shot, but when I am anxiously waiting for something that is absolutely vital to my future, I place a huge question mark on my wall, and let the wall worry about it for me. This is related to the Tibetan prayer wheel, which as it turns generates prayers for you, so that you don't have to. Although this doesn't really make sense, I find it oddly reassuring.
posted by grizzled at 11:50 AM on October 29, 2010 [11 favorites]

If the interviewer didn't specifically ban phone calls, is there any reason why he can't just call the company, say he was supposed to hear back today and ask?
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:54 AM on October 29, 2010

posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:02 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would second the question of calling if it's appropriate (only you and he know the situation). However, I would wait until Monday, at least. If he struggles with anxiety, making the call could either go badly (they hear desperation in his voice) or, regardless of outcome, only make it worse ("Hey, buddy, still looking at you, but we still have to talk to one other candidate" -> he called me buddy that's good right but who is this other candidate and why are they waiting on him/her oh god OH GOD OH GOD)

Lest I sound like I'm making fun, this would be me.

Let me share a story about the last time I was a basket case. I worked for the company from hell, a company from which I would eventually get fired after five months, and by then I was glad of it. I'd had a particularly bad week, and we were scheduled to go to a party.

I had come home from work that afternoon (Friday) and (this is unusual for me - I do not have a history of serious depression) gone to bed. As if I was physically ill. And I was not sure I was capable of getting out of bed until maybe I could try getting up in time to go to work Monday.

But something told me that not going would disappoint my wife, and that I could be miserable at this party as well as I could be miserable in bed, etc. So I went. And I had a GREAT time. I know the loop he's tripping through, but if you can afford it, take a weekend trip, or at least go to dinner. Have a few drinks. Non-sexual touch (or tell him you have no expectations either way) wouldn't be a bad idea either.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

cmgonzalez: If the interviewer didn't specifically ban phone calls, is there any reason why he can't just call the company, say he was supposed to hear back today and ask?

Unless the interview ended with "you've got the job, we'll send you an offer letter Friday" instead of "you'll hear from us on Friday", please don't do this.
posted by mkultra at 12:37 PM on October 29, 2010

Unless the interview ended with "you've got the job, we'll send you an offer letter Friday" instead of "you'll hear from us on Friday", please don't do this

No reason not to, if it would ease his anxiety by finding out. Nothing wrong with being proactive.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2010

When I'm like this, there's nothing my partner can do to help me let go of the worry. What helps is anything that shows people know that I am actively waiting and can do little else, and that shows their sympathy for me, caught in its grips.

For instance, when I wake up and check email on my phone at 4 am to see if something came in since midnight, my partner notices that I'm checking, then after I'm done gives me a big hug that helps me fall back to sleep. Or, for instance, when my friends email to ask "have you heard?" and wave off my attempts to apologize for not returning their earlier call. There are things I can do on my end to minimize how paralyzing the wait is. But sometimes the usual tricks don't work, and particularly if this is one of his earliest bouts with intense anxiety, he may not yet have tricks and could most use your understanding and concern.

That's if your question is about helping him. I don't want to suggest you shouldn't speak up about it being hard on you. He can try to be more present for you or whatever you need. But some of that may be faking it, as he may not be able to truly set aside his anxiety at the moment. So the most helpful thing may be to be understanding now, then talk about preventative measures when the crisis is over.
posted by salvia at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2010

cmgonzalez: No reason not to, if it would ease his anxiety by finding out. Nothing wrong with being proactive.

Most companies don't want you doing this. Many explicitly say not to. You risk making yourself look unprofessional and desperate.
posted by mkultra at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2010

That's why I began with the caveat of "If the interviewer didn't specifically ban calls". Many companies will state no calls. But some won't, and one person's "desperate" is another person's proactive and eager. You don't know. It's probably late now, but companies react differently, so one particular piece of advice (call or not) isn't unilaterally wrong.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2010

I spent the past two weeks waiting to hear about a job (and as each deadline past, the company called me and said they needed another couple of days before they made a decision). The weekends were the worst, because I knew it would be another two days before I could possibly get news.

There was little I could do to make it easier. I slept a lot, because that made time pass faster. I also drank a little more than usual (hmm), and exercised a LOT to burn off my nervous energy and get myself out of the house. For exercise it had to be an intense level, so that it was hard to think coherently, otherwise I kept obsessing. Having upbeat music playing loudly in my headphones while exercising also helped.

See if you can get him obsessed with something else, too. "Flow" makes time pass really fast. I find I experience flow when drawing or painting, baking, or playing computer games. Sometimes when reading a really good book. It's hard to get started on those activities when you are worrying about life-changing news, but if you can just start, then you lose sense of time, and stop thinking about other things.
posted by lollusc at 6:43 PM on October 29, 2010

Rereading your question, it seems to be a lot about protecting yourself from being worn down. Maybe this is a good weekend for you to take some time with friends? That way he can worry, and you can be sympathetic when you're with him, but you can keep from being worn down. Trying to change someone else's state of mind, especially when they're not an active participant in making that change, is pretty much the hardest way ever to protect yourself from it.
posted by salvia at 7:45 PM on October 29, 2010

Nothing wrong with calling back to follow up unless you have been explicitly told not to. I was in a similar situation before starting my current job (hadn't heard anything in a week), called back, and was given an offer same day.

Having now been on the other side of the table, we had a few candidates call back. We'd already decided not to hire them by the time they called back, but it certainly didn't reflect poorly on them. In this case at least, calling would not have made any difference, but they learned the outcome sooner (we'd forgotten to call them back).
posted by pravit at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2010

I appreciate everyone's experiences and ideas. The question really is a "both and" type of inquiry. I am open to trying to distract him and trying not to snap at him, as I am much more snappy than he is. We are both pretty broke and we don't drink (not bean-plating, really!) but I have tried to implement some ideas already. Last night I spur-of-the-moment took him out for wings and he said he felt much better. Our reality is more BW3s than BnBs. :)
posted by ShadePlant at 5:54 AM on October 30, 2010

« Older Which is less sanitary: not washing your hands...   |   Appliance Clock Anomaly Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.