How to Support Your Partner During a Difficult Time
Is your partner going through a difficult time and you don’t know how to help them? In this article, I will help you learn how to support your partner during a difficult time. It can be tricky to deal with this situation since you are not sure if what you say or do is helpful or making it worse.
It can be tough to watch our partner struggle with tough times, even harder than going through it ourselves. Tough times bring strong feelings. We might feel like we can’t do anything to help with these feelings.
There’s a special sentence you can use to make your bond stronger while you help your partner.
But the truth is, both you and your partner can react in different ways, like fighting, running away, feeling stuck, or trying to please. You might act like a superhero or avoid talking about it, like things you learned when you were a kid to deal with tough times.
You might have seen that these ways might not work well when you’ve tried them with your partner. You can learn to stop, notice, and let go of old habits you do without thinking. You can also learn how to help your partner during hard times using a special sentence.
Do you want to stop doing old jobs and learn a new way to help each other? This new way is about really listening, being kind, caring, and making each other stronger. This can bring you closer together.
Hard times are something everyone faces in life. They can actually help your relationship grow and become better.
1. Tough Times in a Relationship
Sometimes, your partner or you might face tough times. These could happen every now and then or even every day. They might be small, like having an argument with the person at the store, or bigger, like dealing with a bad situation at work. They could also be very sad, like feeling very upset after someone you love dies.
You might also have ongoing problems with your body or mind, or you might start thinking a lot about what life means. No matter how big or small the problem is, it’s important to know that your partner’s feelings are still important.
2. A Perfect World
Imagine your partner sitting with you after dinner and saying something like this:
“Sweetheart, you might have noticed that I’ve been struggling with my parents lately. It’s been really tough for me, and it’s gotten so bad that I’ve set up appointments with a therapist to deal with these problems. I might need some time alone to think about everything, and I might want to talk to you about it. Would you be open to hearing how you could help and support me while I deal with this?”
But usually, they don’t say it that simply.
3. A Real World
Your partner might react without thinking, by fighting, running away, freezing, or trying to please. These reactions happen automatically when things seem scary or stressful.
When we feel stressed, our bodies and minds react. We might feel like we have to either fight the problem or run away from it. This is something we learned from our ancestors to stay safe.
When your partner is having a tough time, you might notice:
- They are easily annoyed, distant, or getting mad for no clear reason.
- She might have hinted at her problems but stopped talking when you asked.
- He could start thinking strangely and being too scared.
- They might seem like they don’t have any emotions, are sad, or not interested in anything, and don’t want to be around others.
These reactions are what people do when they weren’t taught how to handle tough feelings during scary or stressful times.
The first thing you can do is understand and care about this. But you don’t have to accept their anger or take on their fear or sadness.
Reconnecting Through Difficult Times
Every relationship has tough times. Imagine your partner has been telling you about increasing problems at work. One night, they come home very upset and tired, saying they can’t handle the situation anymore. They are clearly very stressed, finding it hard to manage, and feeling completely worn out.
1. Take a breather and Assess Yourself
At first, you might wonder what’s happening. Instead of asking the wrong question, it’s better to take some time to understand things.
Guide your partner to the sofa. Instead of rushing, take a moment to slow down and not judge. First, notice how you’re feeling.
Remember, this is your partner’s experience and lesson, but ask yourself, “Are you feeling upset?”
The goal is to avoid reacting without thinking, like getting into a fight or feeling scared. This way, you can offer the best support and what your partner needs right then. Consider these questions.
- Did you become mad at your partner or the situation?
- Do you feel a bit helpless?
- Do you suddenly want to escape to something else you have to do?
- Do you close off your emotions?
- Do you also feel overwhelmed?
- Do you pull away in some way, especially if they’re crying?
2. Pay Attention to Your Automatic Coping Mechanisms
When people around you are having a hard time, the way you usually respond shows how you take care of yourself.
When you were a kid, you might have felt really strong emotions that were too big to handle, and nobody helped you understand them. These feelings could be because bad things happened at home, even if they weren’t big. But don’t worry, you probably figured out smart ways to protect yourself from these strong feelings and feel more in control.
You might have learned these ways from your family, or you might have thought of them yourself. Some of these ways could be:
- Getting mad
- Forgetting everything
- Blaming others
- Making jokes
- Acting like nothing happened
- Thinking a lot
- Trying to be invisible
- Trying really hard to make others happy
Imagine that when you were a kid, you made a special suit to protect yourself. You became like a superhero, even if sometimes you felt like you disappeared.
You keep using these smart tricks to help yourself and others, as long as they keep working. The important thing to ask is, “Do they work now?”
3. Notice Your Superheroes
You’re not giving support yet, but you’re still observing and evaluating yourself. The time will come when you can use your real skills, but not right now. You’re working towards finding the right words, remember?
Check if any of these types of people show up with their questionable methods. Remember to be kind to yourself, as these were your best tries when you were a young child, trying to deal with strong feelings.
- The Rescuer – You want to get them out of trouble and help them fight their conflicts. This is great for parents, but not so good for the grown-up partner you’re helping.
- The Fixer – You quickly give advice and tell them what to do. You take charge and organize things to make them easier.
- The Ostrich – Deep down, you avoid getting involved. You start to feel numb and distant. Your face will show this as you mentally and emotionally disconnect and go somewhere else.
- The Deflector – You make jokes, try to talk about something else, and get them to focus on a different thing. It’s okay for small issues, but not for big ones.
- The Repressor – You might have been told that crying is only for kids. This could make you want to stop your partner’s feelings in any way. As your family did, you’re trying to avoid discomfort at the same time.
- The Disappointed – Because these are the words you heard when you were younger, you may say things like “Be strong,” “Don’t feel like this,” or “I can’t handle this now!”
- The Emotional Surrogate – Especially if you’re very understanding and sensitive, you might take on their feelings. You’ll know if this is happening if they feel better after talking to you, but you feel tired.
Feel free to use any of these approaches if they help your partner. They can feel like your special power, not something you should give up.
The question is, “Do they help right now?”
Staying Connected and Loving During Their Difficult Time
Just like how you learned to deal with life situations before, you can also learn better ways to deal with things now. There are improved methods you can try. These methods can be really useful if your old ways are causing problems between you and your partner.
1: Introduce a New Character
Now, let’s talk about a new character. This character doesn’t react by fighting or running away. Let’s call this character the “Helper” or the “Support Friend.”
In a book by Leigh Sales called Any Ordinary Day, Fr. Steve Sinn talks about this helpful role as “The Companion.”
It’s your partner’s journey, but they don’t have to go through it by themselves. You can be there to support them.
2. The Accompanier
So, you’ve taken a moment to understand your own feelings about your partner facing a hard time. If you usually want to stay away from their problems, ignore their feelings, push their emotions aside, try to fix things for them, feel their emotions yourself, or become angry with them or the situation, just know that you’ve recognized this.
This is your own stuff. Keep it aside for now. Learning to understand emotions can happen at any age.
As the Supportive Friend, you believe that they will get through their tough time and might even learn from it. Think of them as strong enough to get better because of this experience. Remember, no one rescued you from your own tough times.
3. Magic Sentence
Sure, start! Now you can use the special sentence.
“Sweetheart, I can tell this is hard for you. What can I do to help you at this moment?”
It might surprise you, but you can ask your partner what they want. Don’t try to solve things or give advice unless they’ve asked for it.
If your partner tells you to just listen, be their Midwife. Arrange pillows, pass tissues, and hold their hand. It’s called “holding the space,” making room for their feelings. Maybe you can’t fix it, but you can be there. Accept without judging or interrupting.
Once emotions clear, they’ll see things differently. Ask if they want help brainstorming. Your clear thinking can shine, but their solutions are valuable too.
Getting therapy is normal if they’re stuck. Mental health is important, like physical health. Going together might help.