You care deeply for your partner, we know. You want him or her to be successful, to make it out on top, to feel empowered and in control, secure and grounded. But when they’re experiencing chaos, which naturally brings deeply-imbedded stressors to the relationship, it can be challenging to push aside “I told you so” moments and just care for them. Because, let’s be honest, “just care” is vague. It establishes no structure or guidelines to follow. It places on you a seemingly heavy responsibility to give them space and provide them comfort while you’re also trying to continue fostering the relationship on top of all of your regular life responsibilities. It’s a lot.
Relationships will naturally go through tough and trying times as life produces tough and trying times. When these times hit, they aren’t a 50/50 split on who is struggling the most or who needs the most support. That means one partner will carry more emotional load than the other for a period of time.
How can you provide space and time for them while simultaneously tending to your own personal and professional agendas?
1. Remain focused on your goals in life.
What are you here on this earth to achieve right now? When you’re in a relationship, especially one experiencing heightened stress, you can accidentally allot too much energy to trying to calm the chaos and forget what you’re trying to accomplish in your life. Keep a journal, or write yourself sticky notes. Simple reminders to cut through the emotions you may be experiencing or the thoughts that may be hijacking your productivity to bring you back into focus.
2. Practice mindful communication.
There is a time when comforting your partner will work, and there is a time when your attempt at comforting will irritate. They may or may not be ready to hear you. You may or may not have thought your words through fully. Making space for their emotions and their reactions is tough. Try to be mindful of the emotional environment you’re venturing into. Are you prepared to carry the emotional load right now? Are they prepared? When your partner is experiencing turmoil, their ability to carry a heavy emotional load may be diminished. You don’t necessarily have to tread lightly — because your thoughts and feelings are valid and should be heard — but tread mindfully so you’re both set up for successful communication.
3. Remind yourself why you’re here in this relationship.
What makes your partner wonderful? What originally attracted you? In relationships, it takes falling in love over and over again as we change, as life changes and new challenges become concentratedly distracting. Write down all the reasons you originally fell in love. Talk with your partner about their strengths and your strengths. Remind each other why you started this journey and how wonderful it has been. In stressful times, it is easy for relationship debt to add up faster than positive moments.
We start keeping a record of the debt, but not removing the debt when a small positive moment happens. That leaves us feeling depleted and strapped down with no options. But just as you can chip away at debt, you can change the momentum of the stress by making the positive moments worth more.
4. Spend time together in neutral spaces.
Identify what is causing the stress: Is it a location? Is it a financial situation? Is it a family scenario?
Once you’ve identified the stress, try to find ways to spend time together, where the cause of stress isn’t playing the leading role. Having a spotlight on the stress frames the conversation and your experience, but moving to a space where the stress is not on the front row will allow you to feel more relaxed with your partner and help you reconnect.
5. Spend time alone to recharge and refocus.
To be a strong partner, you have to serve as solid ground in a spinning world. In order to take on that responsibility, you have to find your own solid ground. Meditate, breathe, assess your own life ambitions and treat yourself when you’re feeling low. Understand that being in your role is difficult but you’re doing a great job.
6. Stay personally inspired.
What inspires you? A good book? A music jam fest in your car with the windows down? Listening to a podcast? It’s important to maintain your personal inspiration. When you feel inspired, you are a stronger person, a better thinker, and you are more capable of creatively approaching solutions.
7. Seek support from friends.
When your partner is struggling, you may feel lonely because your best friend may feel “missing” or as if you don’t know them anymore. While they’re out there figuring it out, you feel isolation. Seek out comfort from your friends or family. Talking about your experiences with helping your partner through a difficult time can help you gain perspective.
8. Love your partner and love yourself.
You want to balance loving your partner with loving yourself. Give them the space and time and comfort they need, and keep yourself healthy and strong and vibrant. Together, a relationship can pull through a difficult time. Without it, a relationship will turn into a small child picking at the threads of already-loose seams.
Relationships can overcome difficult times. You can overcome difficult times. The human capacity to love is strong and flourishes even under stressful circumstances. Remember, you are stronger than the circumstances you find yourself or your relationship in. Remember, time passes, emotions change, perspectives change and people change their minds. Holding strong through a storm while holding onto yourself and your goals is possible, and it is within you. Go forward knowing who you are and who you will be. In the future, you will be an expanded version of your current self, because loving someone in distress takes an incredibly courageous heart. You’re doing a tremendous job.