Standing by Your Mate in Tough Times

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Life doesn’t always go our way. In good relationships, when our mate is going through a rough patch, we try to be as understanding and comforting as possible. We love our mate so we try to accept their ups and downs and be there for them. We take the good with the bad. It’s a package deal.

How can you be a supportive partner when things go wrong? What if your sweetie becomes physically ill? Depressed? Anxious?  Or what if they’re stressed out over problems at work … maybe a job loss? Or maybe they lost someone close to them? Even a simple headache or a broken toe can set off challenges in a relationship. You may find yourself suddenly the comforter, the caregiver, the one who must step up to the plate for your mate when they need help.  


Physical and Emotional Comfort

Emotional problems can cause physical problems and vice versa. The challenge is being alert to them because our sweetie might not always fill us in on what’s going on. Naturally, we want to be reassuring, kind, and compassionate when we detect something’s wrong. With that said, here’s a little checklist of things to keep in mind:

·         Listen. Validate their feelings. Be affectionate and understanding. Show them you have faith in them. When trying to help your mate rebound from a difficult situation.

·         It’s not possible to wave a magic wand to make troubles go away. Both of you undoubtedly understand there’s no magic pill to dispel emotional pain.

·         Sometimes you have to tread a thin line when you try to help, try to solve your partner's problem. Encourage them but try not to exaggerate. Be realistic.

·         Don’t minimize or belittle their reactions and feelings.

·         You may be exposed to a range of emotions that pop up as a result of their stress.

·         Abide by their personal decisions. Some of us need more alone time to work out our emotional or physical upsets. Respect that.

·         Try to take away some of the burdens of everyday living while they’re working through a problem or recuperating. Accompany them to a health practitioner; to physical rehab sessions. Be a chauffeur if they can’t get around easily. Do little things to make them comfortable. A massage, de-clutter their environment.

·         Help them follow (adhere to) their treatment plan. Make suggestions. Help them with problem-solving.

·         Help and encourage them to continue doing activities they enjoy if they express interest … outings with friends, dinner parties, hanging out with you for some one-on-one time, give them as much opportunity to do what they enjoy and are able and want to do.


Do you Feel Drained Being the Comforter?

Being a supporter can be emotionally and physically draining. It takes effort and stamina to be the voice of reason, loyal supporter, caregiver …

It’s natural that your mate prefers to discuss her/his troubles with the one they love – sometimes ad nauseum – but there’s a limit to how much you can take. They feel good when they’re able to let out steam; But when it gets to be nonstop or your mate becomes obsessed with a problem, you’re not doing them or you any good by letting them vent on and on.

Other people you’ll need to consider – if you are parents – are your children. Keep an extra eye on them to see if and how they are reacting to their mother’s/father’s stress. Children pick up on discord more easily than you might want to admit. They can be extremely vulnerable when there is tension, anxiety, depression in the house.


When Things Get Unpleasant

Your role as supporter can become extremely unpleasant. Your mate may not be at his/her best behavior when things don’t go their way or something unexpected happens. They may use you like a proverbial punching bag. Use restraint and empathy before throwing back some choice words or you could spark a shouting match, make your mate feel worse than they already do, and add tension to the relationship.

Being supportive doesn’t mean you have to take everything they dish out, swallow your anger or hurt. It’s not unreasonable to react emotionally when something throws your mate off balance. It IS unreasonable for you to feel forced to put your feelings aside for a prolonged period with no end in sight while they work to get their act together.

Your needs can’t be ignored indefinitely. Your mate needs to take some responsibility for their bad behavior, the way they treat you, and express restraint and gratitude when they’re depending on you. Both of you need to understand that in a loving relationship, what affects your mate also affects you. When your sweetie hurts, you hurt too.

If your mate asks you to do something you feel uncomfortable doing, or they take some action that is upsetting and unacceptable to you, it’s time to discuss the situation and take a stand. If your mate is so distraught and can’t or refuses to understand your heartfelt concerns, it might be time to bring in a third party to help you mediate the situation. Counseling could be a way to iron out the conflict, unruffle some feathers, and see things from a different perspective and from an outside source.


Being Proactive

In an ongoing effort to keep the lines of communication open, head off some of the issues of comforting your mate in times of stress by having regular “meetings” to check-in on your mate’s emotional well-being. That way, when issues arise, you’ll have a frame of reference, perhaps a better understanding of your mate’s issues, their concerns, how they handle certain situations, and how best to help them.

Keep each other in the loop daily or weekly with what’s going on in each of your lives, what issues might be nagging or lurking in the background that might potentially explode, and what strategies you might use to minimize the fallout.

When each partner feels like they are not alone in the experience, that the misfortune of one is shared by both, and that you will continue to love and cherish your mate, you will minimize stress and come to a deeper understanding of one another – despite a turn of bad luck, an accident, tragedy or whatever life sometimes serves up.