By one estimate, 40 percent of American workers get laid off at least once in their careers. And when that happens, companies will often say, "It's not personal. It has nothing to do with you or your performance. We're just changing priorities, making a strategic shift."

It's like the business version of: "It's not you, it's me." And just like a breakup, it feels terrible.

This happened to a man we're calling V, who was working at the same company as his husband when he got laid off. And for V, the experience felt shocking. It left him and his husband with a lot of unresolved questions.

On today's show, the story of that layoff. And we help that couple get some answers by taking their questions to an HR expert who gives the low-down on lay-offs.

This story is adapted from a 3-part series on layoffs produced by Yowei Shaw for her show, Proxy. The layoff series was edited by John DeLore with research and reporting help from Kim Nederveen Pieterse. You can listen to the full layoff series from Proxy wherever you get your podcasts, and you can support the show and find out more by going to And you can check out her original song "Gold Star" on Spotify and YouTube.

Today's Planet Money episode was produced by Sam Yellowhorse Kesler and edited by Molly Messick. It was engineered by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.

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Music: Epidemic Sound - "On My Side," "Candy Clown," and "Company Keeper." Proxy theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder. "Gold Star" is by Yowei Shaw and Kyle Pulley, mastered by Ryan Schwabe, with additional production from Danny Murillo.

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