Has your significant other grown distant and depressed lately?
Has a recent loss shaken up your partner’s world and left you feeling helpless?
Are you unsure how to navigate the pain your spouse is walking through?
When making vows for better or worse, often there are seasons we don’t fully prepare ourselves for in life. However, hardship is unavoidable and universal. Challenging transitions, devastating loss, or debilitating mental illness can rock even the best of marriages. Watching your partner face the pains of grief, stress, anxiety, or depression may leave you feeling helpless. In the midst, relinquishing control may feel like betrayal or even strike your heart with fear of the unknown. However, demonstrating unwavering love as your significant other navigates the darkness is the greatest aid you can offer.
Below are 5 principles to keep in mind when your loved one is struggling:
1. Be an attentive listener.
Demonstrate your support by listening without judgment. Sometimes there is an internal shame associated with emotional pains and mental illness. Allowing your partner to speak openly without interjecting or correcting may relieve a weight from his/her shoulders.
2. Show grace.
It may seem that the same topics rise to the surface again and again. You may find yourself offering repeated encouragement and affirmation as your significant other wrestles with doubt. Rather than becoming exasperated, recognize how vital these reassurances are to your loved one.
3. Know your place.
It may be beneficial to encourage your significant other to seek professional assistance. However, YOU should not play the role of his/her savior, therapist, or life coach. All the solutions in your arsenal will not be enough and by trying to find a fix for your loved one’s mental anguish will only increase his/her feelings of isolation. Stay planted in your spouse’s corner, cheer your loved one on, but do not take responsibility for someone else’s mental health journey.
4. Watch out for your own wellness.
Caring for a hurting partner can be difficult and draining at times. You may find it helpful to speak to a counselor yourself or to seek out regular refreshment in other ways. You may not be able to fix the source of distress in your partner’s life but neglecting your own needs will only exasperate problems. Safeguard the relationship by protecting your own wellbeing.
5. Ask questions.
Every experience is individual to the person. Learn as much as you can about your partner’s struggles. Absorb the details (s)he is willing to share and make efforts to do additional research for further insight. By reading informational articles written by peer-reviewed sources or speaking to mental health professionals, you can gain greater understanding and empathy for the challenges at hand.
Demonstrating consistency and stability when your spouse is facing a crisis can serve as a significant milestone in your marriage. Your relationship’s foundation can grow stronger when you face painful difficulties as a team, demonstrate unconditional love throughout heartache, and encourage your partner toward emotional wholeness. While you may not be able to shield your loved one from distress, you certainly can serve as a beacon of hope, light, and security.