How to Support Your Partner Through a Difficult Time

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It is frequently more difficult to witness our partner's difficulties than it is to go through them ourselves. Difficult times elicit powerful emotions. We may feel helpless in the face of these emotions, unsure of what to say or do to help.

You can utilize a "magic sentence" to gently enhance your connection while supporting your companion.

However, both you and your spouse can be provoked into a variety of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses. You may revert to childhood superhero or deflector roles as coping methods through challenging situations.

If you've tried to apply these tactics to your relationship, you may have already learned that they're not very effective. You can use a "magic sentence" to learn to halt, notice, and let go of old unconscious programming, as well as to encourage your spouse during a tough moment.

Are you interested in shedding outdated roles and learning a new support paradigm? Through it all, support that listens closely, is caring, sympathetic, and empowering can draw you both closer together.

Difficult times can be recognized as a normal part of life, and everyone goes through them. It has the potential to be one of our greatest chances for relationship-building and expansion.

1. Difficult Times in a Relationship

Difficult times may occur on an irregular or everyday basis for your partner or even yourself. They can range from a one-time squabble with the supermarket cashier to a persistent poisonous workplace environment to the all-consuming grief that follows the death of a loved one.

It could be an ongoing battle with physical or mental health, or it could be an existential crisis in which you question the meaning of existence.

Whatever the extent or size of the problem, keep in mind that it is still completely valid to your spouse.

2. A Perfect World

Consider your partner sitting down with you after dinner and saying something along the lines of,
"You've probably noticed that I've been having problems with my folks. I've been triggered in numerous ways, and it's become so bad that I've scheduled an appointment with a therapist to discuss the underlying concerns. I may need to take some time to process this, and I may need to discuss it with you. Are you interested in hearing how I would appreciate your support as I go through this?"

Easy. But it doesn’t often come out like that.


3. A Real World

Your companion may go into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode unknowingly. These are instinctive reflexes that perceive stressful or frightening events or acts.

Stress triggers our physiological and psychological emotions, forcing us to choose between fighting and escaping. We go into survival mode since it worked for us as early humans.

When your partner is having a difficult time, it may look like this:
– You may observe your partner becoming irritable, detached, or even lashing out for no apparent reason.
– She may have hinted at problems, but when you asked, she shut you off.
– He could have gotten crazy and terrified.
– They may appear bland, dejected, uninteresting, or withdrawn to others.

These were the only options accessible to someone who had not been taught how to accept, moderate, and regulate tough emotions that come with stressful or frightening situations.

The first step is to have compassion and awareness for this situation. However, this does not imply that you must tolerate their projected wrath or accept their fear or melancholy.

Reconnecting Through Difficult Times

Every partnership experiences ups and downs. Assume your partner has kept you up to date on some escalating concerns at work. Your partner comes home one night, collapses in the door, and swears they can't go on like this for another minute.

They are clearly disturbed, straining to cope, and at the end of their rope.

1. Pause and Assess Yourself

Your first instinct may be to inquire as to what is going on. You might ask the wrong question, so take your time and think about it.

Take your companion and walk him or her over to the couch. Instead of leaping into action right away, take a moment to slow things down and observe what is going on around you.

It's your partner's journey and learning, but first ask yourself, "Are you triggered?"

The goal is to avoid going into a fight or flight response unintentionally. This way, you can provide the most comfort and meet your partner's demands at the time. Consider the following questions.

– Did you become enraged with your partner or the situation?
– Do you have a sense of helplessness?
– Do you have a sudden desire to vanish into that other thing you have to do?
– Do you turn it off and go blank?
– Do you have a sense of overload as well?
– Are you flinching in any manner, especially if they're crying?


2. Notice Your Automatic Coping Mechanisms

Your typical attitude to their adversity reflects how you support yourself.

You may have been overwhelmed as a child by overpowering feelings that were too huge to feel and had no one to help you through them. These emotions may be triggered by significant or minor traumas caused by a toxic environment in the home. But don't worry, you'll have cleverly devised great protective behaviors that will allow you to continue avoiding these overpowering emotions while still giving you a sense of control over the situation.

They could be learned coping techniques from your family or creative ones you devised on your own. The list continues, but some of these coping techniques include:
– Anger
– Blaming Humour is being ignored.
– As though nothing happened
– An overactive thinking mind
– fading into obscurity
– Overpleasing

It's as if you, as a child, unconsciously created a suit of armor as your best attempt at protecting and supporting yourself. You became your own superhero, and even blanking out and disappearing are superpowers to the little child that are you. You will continue to use these clever strategies for yourself and others as long as they work. The question is, "Are they working now?"


3. Notice Your Superheroes

You're still not offering assistance, and you're still observing and evaluating yourself. The time will come for you to put your true skill to use, but not right now. Remember how you're working towards the magical sentence?

Check to see if any of these characters arrive with their dubious strategies. Remember to be kind to yourself here, as they were the young child's best attempts to shield himself from overwhelming feelings.

– The Rescuer - You want to get them out of the situation and fight their battles for them. A wonderful job for parents, but not so much for the adult partner you're supporting.
– The Fixer - You give them guidance and tell them what they should do right away. You step in and take command, aligning all the ducks in an attempt to smooth the path.
– The Ostrich - You don't want to be involved in the situation. You begin to feel numb and drift off. As you mentally and emotionally leave the room and disappear somewhere else, your facial expression will reflect this.
– The Deflector - You make jokes, change the subject, and try to persuade them to think of something else. It's probably fine to save this superpower for minor occurrences but not for major ones.
– The Suppressor - You may have been told or led to believe that crying is only for children. This may cause you to try anything to suppress your partner's emotions. You're attempting to transfer your discomfort at the same time that your ancestors did.
– The Disgruntled - You may say things like, "Man up.", "Don't feel this way." or "I can't deal with this right now!" since these are the words you heard when you were younger.
– The Emotional Surrogate - You may take on their emotions, especially if you are particularly empathic and sensitive. You'll know if this is happening if they feel fine after your talk but you feel depleted.

If they are assisting your partner, you may use any or all of them. After all, they will feel like your superpower, and you will not want to give them up.

"Are they helpful now?" asks the query.

Staying Connected and Loving Through Their Difficult Time

You may discover healthier ways to cope with life events now, just as you learned to cope with them in the past. There are better options available to you. These can be highly beneficial if your old habits are causing distance between you and your partner.

1. Introduce Your New Character

This is where we meet a new character who isn't part of the reactive fight or flight response. This character will be referred to as "The Midwife" or the "Pitstop Support Crew."

Fr. Steve Sinn, in Leigh Sales' book Any Ordinary Day, refers to this type of supportive function as "The Accompanier."

It is your partner's journey, but they are not alone. You have the ability to be there for them.

2. The Accompanier

So you've become more aware of yourself and your reactions to seeing your partner in distress. This has been noticed whether there was a tendency to ignore, deflect, dismiss, repress, save, take on, squash their emotions, or become angry at them or this issue.

This is your property. Set something aside for further consideration. Emotional intelligence can be developed at any age.

As the Accompanier, you have faith that they will overcome their difficulties and possibly grow as a result of them. Consider them to be strong enough to thrive in this situation. After all, no one protected you from your troubles.

3. Magic Sentence

Let's go! You can now pronounce the magical sentence.

"I can tell this is difficult for you, honey." "What do you require of me right now?"

Yes, it may come as a surprise to you, but you may genuinely ask your spouse what they require. No jumping in, fixing, or making suggestions unless they specifically request it.


If your spouse has stated that all they need is for you to listen, then you are the Midwife. You get to adjust the cushions, hand out tissues, grab the blankie, and hold their hand. It's commonly referred to as "holding the space."

Creating room around this uncomfortable emotion and being a container for it. You can't do contractions for them, but you can hang in there. Accepting without judgment, interruption, or trying to solve everything is a powerful thing.

They will have a new perspective on things once the emotion has passed. You can certainly ask if they'd like assistance brainstorming alternatives at this stage. As part of the dynamic collaborative partnership, your clear-thinking, sensible, step-by-step person can flourish.

However, your action plan is not the sole solution and will most likely be matched in elegance by your spouse.

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