It’s very rare to hear that someone has the perfect life. Even if on the surface their life could look pretty great, you never know what is going on behind closed doors.
When this person is your other half, sometimes they need your comfort and support to help them through their tough times.
Whether your partner is having a hard time at work, or they may have an unwell relative that they’re looking after, whatever the reason, these issues could also have an effect on your relationship, and it is important to know how to deal with it.
Licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago, expresses the importance of remembering that as a couple you are in this together.
“When someone we love is hurting, it hurts us too,” he says. “Caring about someone means that we become invested in their well-being. When they are going through a tough time, we want to be there with them, and it can cause us to deal with similar issues of loss ourselves.”
Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D., shares a similar argument, saying it can be “very challenging” to help your significant other through tough times.
“Feelings of frustration around seeing a loved one struggle and feelings of helplessness are not uncommon,” he says. Jared DeFife, Ph.D., a psychologist and relationship counselor in Atlanta, states that by just ignoring the issues your partner is dealing with, won’t help anything.
Go-to’s like “everything will be fine!” is not the answer in these situations, and unfortunately won’t help matters. However, DeFife also highlights that it is OK to say you have no idea what to say or how you can make things better in the circumstance –
“In fact, it’s encouraged,” he says. He notes that sometimes all your partner needs is someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on, rather than someone who will fix the problem.
Cilona claims that just by being there is significant enough help – “One of the most challenging aspects of facing serious stressors, challenges, and problems can be feeling alone,” he says.
“The knowledge that there is support available if needed and someone that cares and understands the difficulties in and of itself can be extremely helpful.”
According to Klow, sharing similar stories of loss or suffering also help, if you have them, and if not, listening is enough.
Additionally, helping your other half find a good perspective, or providing reassurance also works well.
Cilona adds that everyone deals with stress in their own way, so it is important to ask your partner directly what you can do to help and keep doing it.
“One of the best ways to help is to be direct and ask specifically and frequently what helps and what doesn’t,” he says.