There is no denying that relationships are hard work on a daily basis. Add to the basic endeavor a crisis initiated by your partner and you got a headache of gigantic proportions. It’s easy to get mad and blame your partner for the mistakes made, but does it solve the problem? I’ll answer that question: No, it doesn’t. Blame causes hurt and resentment that will eat at your trust of each other. Being supportive is possible and necessary if you want to get through it together.
How to support your partner:
1. Be open-minded: Listen to your partner thoughts and feelings without judgement. That doesn’t mean to “let them off the hook”. It means to hear their side of the story and the reasoning for the poor decision-making. If you jump into conclusion and finger pointing you will lose their trust that they can rely on you for support.
2. Share your feelings with compassion: Once you allow them to share it’s your turn to let them know how the mistake has affected you. Whether is a bad financial decision or a DUI you have the right to express how that affects you. As much as possible own your feelings by expressing it with “I statements”, as for example: “I feel disappointed you didn’t consult me for this decision” rather than “you don’t trust me to make decisions”. You are basically communicating the same thing, but on the “I statement” you take ownership of your feeling of disappointment without saying they did on purpose.
3. Be reassuring: It can be hard to go from “I hate you for doing this” to “I still love you and will be by your side”. It does make a world of a difference for your partner though. He or she is feeling down enough that you don’t need to add assault to injury. If you can honestly say “I will be there for you”, then say it! The biggest fear when making a mistake is to lose the ones we love. Your partner will appreciate that you can see though the chaos and believe that you two can make it.
4. Offer perspective: When we make a big mistake – the kind that turns your world upside down – losing perspective of better days is a natural reaction. Help you partner a new perspective of what can be learned, gained or salvaged from the mistake.
5. Have a plan: This is where the partnership comes in handy. Two heads think better than one. Together come up with a plan for addressing and conquering the issue. Careful not to enable by trying to solve the problem alone. It is their responsibility to actively engage in fixing the problem. You might take a role as support system and behind the scenes help to their actions.
6. Set boundaries: Discuss what went wrong for the mistake to happen and set boundaries to avoid new “surprises”. Those boundaries could include consulting one another before making an important decision or asking for help when stuck in a difficult situation. Communicate what your expectations are for the future and your limits for what you can support.
I realize that what being expected of you is to be the “bigger person” and not only forgive, but help guide your partner back to a positive state of mind. It might take you a moment (or two) to gather yourself from the impact of the mistake and offer the support needed. When the two of you come out of this crisis stronger then before you will see that it was worth it.
About the Author
Patricia Cochran is a marriage counselor with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She is passionate about helping couples and families to feel connected again. In her spare time, she is busy with her toddler and enjoying friends and family time