Strong relationships are often built on a strong foundation of shared empathy, and that means a rough time for one of you means a rough time for both of you. It can be difficult to know what to do when somebody is suffering in front of you, especially when it’s somebody you love.

Those suffering often retreat inward to relieve others of what they feel is their burden, or to try and escape the pain of reality. That makes it difficult for them even to communicate what’s wrong and how you can help. This article will give you some emotional and practical guidance to help deal with a partner’s rough period.

Be Patient

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To the partner going through whatever trauma, the experience is made worse by the ambiguity that comes with emotional episodes. They struggle to think about moving forward and may not even know what ‘better’ looks like right now, which is going to cause some short sighted behaviours. This will inevitably cause conflicts that could have easily been avoided if you were both in the right state of mind, and it’s important to stay aware of that to minimize additional stress. They can sneak up while you’re distracted and preoccupied with the moment, and in that state, you’re both just going to talk past each other.

Try not to demand too much of them

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While relationships at their best may be roughly 50/50 in terms of give and take, there are times where one of you is going to take on a little bit more than your share. It can be tough, as it means more vigilance and attentiveness, which are mentally taxing to keep up. Be sure not to neglect your own emotion well-being, as the additional load you shoulder is sure to effect you. You being in a healthy, pro-active and stable mindset is going to give your partner something to work with, and improve the care you can provide.

Be ready to listen

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While therapists all agree that it’s inappropriate to treat a spouse like a therapist, they also understand that couples talk about their feelings an awful lot. The way in which they talk will obviously be different, but striking a similar dynamic can be helpful in crisis situations when your partner feels the need to vent.

You shouldn’t try to offer solutions to all their problems, just listen. Ask questions, dig into how they feel and be prepared to sit there for a while. Make them feel heard and understood if nothing else, at least until it’s time for their next session.

Don’t lose hope

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As harrowing as they can seem, the tough times don’t last forever. At some point, you will both be back to a state of relative normalcy and life will truck along as usual. It may not seem like a reward, going through hell for the status quo, but it will be for your partner. Don’t lost focus on this moment, as it can come at any time. Plan and prepare so that, when the mundane returns, you’re both ready to tackle it head on, and aren’t caught playing catch up with what happened while life stood in stasis for a while.