When your partner’s having a hard time, it can really affect your relationship. This can be anything from losing a job to failing at something, overcoming trauma, battling a health issue or struggling with work-life balance.
Challenging times can bring on pressure and you may second guess yourself on how you can be helpful. Here’s a strategy you can use to show up for your partner so they feel supported and loved, and it’s all about connecting on a deeper level.
Tap Into Three Points of Connection
The advice that I give to couples in my therapy practice and in my book, STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man, is to utilize the “Three Points of Connection” exercise. It’s a quick system for checking in with their partner. The practice normalizes talking about the highs and lows of daily experience, plus it helps couples become more resilient in asking each other about their struggles rather than only asking about the positives.
1. Ask about a point of pride.
When they share it with you, validate them! It’s important to continue to validate the things that your partner is doing well, especially when they’re going through a hard time. If they can’t think of anything they are proud of, this is an opportunity for you to share all the things that you notice and appreciate about them. This is where you can be your partner’s private cheer squad! We all want to feel like our partner sees and respects us, even when we can’t see or feel good about ourselves.
2. Ask about a point of pain.
When they share it with you, express empathy and offer support or care. If your partner is going through a hard time, it’s important that you’re able to listen to their pain without judgment or any attempts to “fix.” Don’t only focus on the positives. Sometimes life is painful! Being able to sit with your partner’s pain and listen to what they're going through, without making it about you, dodging the issue or minimizing it is one of the best ways you can support a partner in a difficult time.
Ask about a point of pleasure.
If they’ve not had one that day, ask if there is anything you can do to bring a moment of joy into their life. Even in the hard times, it’s important to continue to bring in the things that make you laugh, smile and stay connected with each other. This is also an opportunity for you, as a partner, to be proactive in making sure every day has a highlight by taking note of the things that they enjoy, such as favorite snacks, movies and shows. Make a point to bring more of those into your lives right now.
These three points of connection can also improve your relationship when things are going pretty well, and they can build emotional intimacy.
Here are Other Ways to Show Up For a Partner Who's Struggling
Connecting is the most important thing, to keep your relationship strong, but beyond that, there are other things to keep in mind that will also show your support.
These strategies of engaging your partner, empathizing with their pain, trying to brighten their day, being available and taking care of yourself can ease the heaviness that you both are feeling. Lean into each other to make those challenges feel more manageable.