Bringing comfort to partners when they are struggling

Kirstie Taylor

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I can be confident when I say that I’ll never know what it’s like to have one of my vital organs live outside of me, but watching someone I love struggle sure as hell feels close to it.

It’s not easy watching your loved one struggle. You may feel lost, confused, and exhausted. You may even feel hurt yourself and, therefore, guilt for being hurt by the whole situation.

That’s completely normal. You’re only human.

I’m going to come at this article a bit differently than you might expect. I’m going to talk about my experience of being the one who was helped.

There are things I told my partner and exes who supported me through my bouts of depression and tense anxiety. They were reminders that made it easier to understand what I was going through.

If someone you love is struggling, too, then I want you to remember these things. Because watching your partner hurt is hard enough, I hope to make it a bit easier for you.

It’s OK that they’re not OK.

If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s that it’s OK that your partner is struggling. I’m sure you’ve gone through hard times in the past, too. It’s all part of being human. Life inevitably throws obstacles in everyone’s way.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from struggling with depression and anxiety, ignoring those horrible feelings only makes things worse. People feel negative emotions for a reason. It tells us something.

Maybe your partner is grieving someone they love. That shows how much they deeply cared for someone. Or perhaps they’re stressed because of work, and this experience will help them realize that they’re taking too much onto their plate.

Instead of feeling like something is wrong, know that struggling is simply part of life. You’ll be better off learning how to handle these moments rather than trying to force them never to exist.

Offer support but don’t feel like you need to fix things.

You’re not a doctor or therapist, and that’s perfectly fine. Your partner isn’t expecting you to have the answers. In fact — and hopefully, this helps you relax a bit — trying to be the person who fixes someone who’s struggling can often come off as overwhelming or annoying.

So stick to offering support. Let your partner know you’re there to listen. Ask them how you can help or what kind of space they need. Say things like, “we’ll get through this together,” or “I’m here for you whenever you need me.”

It might feel like you’re not doing enough, but I promise you are. When someone is in pain, what they want most is for someone to listen and understand them. Being there for your partner is the best gift you can give them in those moments.

It’s going to take time, but it won’t be like this forever.

While it might feel like your world is crumbling, it’s not. Your partner will eventually move through this experience. They’ll process their emotions or do what they need to overcome this obstacle.

But that might take time. It could be days or maybe years. That’s not to discourage you, though, because life is still happening while they’re in pain. You might have sporadic moments of normalcy in between their struggles.

Hang in there. Keep doing what you’re doing. Ask for what you need along the way, and don’t ever feel like you’re a burden. When something takes time, you both have to learn to adjust to the new way you’re experiencing life.

Your way of coping isn’t the same as your partner’s.

My way of coping with my feelings is talking about them and then taking some time to myself, usually to watch The Holiday for the 46th time. My boyfriend, on the other hand, tends to be quiet and practice his guitar.

Neither of our ways of coping with pain is terrible, but they’re not the same. That’s because people process and make sense of hard times differently. And your partner is no exception to this rule.

So while you might be upset they’re not talking about what’s bothering them, maybe that’s not how they handle things. Instead of guessing or resenting them for handling things, ask what they need to do to feel better.

If that’s taking time to themselves, let them. If they want to vent to you, without advice offered, listen. There’s no wrong way, only their way.

You’re doing your best.

When your partner doesn’t talk to you, you might feel like you’re failing them. But I need you to know that, although it might not feel like it, you’re doing your best. The mere fact that you want to help your partner feel better says a lot about who you are.

If there’s one thing I always wanted my partner to know, while I felt shrouded in numbing pain, it’s that they were enough. What I was going through was much bigger than them. The last thing I wanted was for my partner to feel like they were failing me, especially when that was far from the truth.

Sometimes, the only thing to help someone who’s in pain is time. You can't make things go faster. But being a source of comfort and a pair of ears to listen still means the world to your partner.

When your partner is hurting, it feels like part of you is in pain. But the difference between when you’re hurting and what they’re going through is that you feel wildly out of control in making their pain go away.

The most that you can do is give them comfort, support, and remember that you’re doing your best. There’s no use in both of you feeling horrible. Hopefully, these reminders help you feel a bit better during these challenging times.

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Dating, relationship, and self-love writer. Helping the hopeless romantics of the world feel more hopeful.

Los Angeles, CA
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