It's your pain, how can i help you carry it without collapsing myself?
February 21, 2014 12:20 PM   Subscribe

How can i help support my partner when he's going through a rough time, when i feel sad too?

my partner is wonderful and supportive. he also has probably just lost $7000 to a con artist, who now isn't paying him for work he did in the past. we can live without the money, but there are lots of sad and bad feelings flying around. i suck these feelings up like crazy - i'm practically feeling my partner's feelings these days. things between us are totally great, we get along very well but i want to be a stronger support to him and let him fall apart a little bit - he supports me through my tough times without needing me to "stay strong" for him. we're going to be in a relationship forever (we hope) and lots of crappy crap will happen throughout a lifetime. how can i not let this little glitch (and his understanding sadness and loss of trust in someone who he trusted) bring me down too? how have you and your partner gone through things in the past and had them build up a relationship instead of pulling it down? today was a bad day, with lots of stress and stomach pains from anxiety. can tomorrow please be more fun? thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say, "Gosh, this has been a real bummer all the way around. Thank God it was only money. It sucks, but we can always make more. We've learned a valuable lesson. Tell you what, it looks like it's going to be nice out this weekend. Let's pack a lunch and go somewhere and eat it out doors and watch the trees bud."

The key is not to dwell. Accept that a mistake was made and that money was lost, but emphasize that it is only money, and that there are plenty of other things to see and do together in this world.

Perhaps you can make up songs that wish diarrhea on this yutz.

The sooner you laugh, the sooner you get over it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:39 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is nothing. Sometimes, rather than make a nice meal or arrange for a massage or whatever, the thing to do is just let him be by himself, and not force him to process the issue out loud with you and especially not put him in a position of needing to seem grateful to you for your ministrations when really all he wants to do is go off in a corner and grump.

All in all, though, you would do well to keep reminding yourself that this is not about you. The worst thing of all is feeling bad about something and then having to comfort someone else because they feel bad that you feel bad.

He may or may not know what he needs from you. Let him advance, retreat, and change his mind, while you think of it as surfing -- you don't know what wave is coming next and it's a matter of balancing lightly in order to stay upright.
posted by janey47 at 12:40 PM on February 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

What can you both do that would be kind/strengthening for _both_ of you? Maybe just make some time to spend enjoying each other, talking about something you both love, focusing on bright things for the future.
posted by amtho at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2014

You don't need to be strong for your partner, you just need to be there for him.
posted by xingcat at 1:06 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would just say don't take it personally. He may cope badly (express anger, withdraw into his mancave, express frustration or self-flagellation) but just don't take it personally. It means nothing about you, it means nothing about 'us' it's just him expressing emotion.

You help someone out by being understanding & reasonable. Understanding "god that's so shitty, fuck that guy!" and reasonable "well it is only money and he was so slick, anyone would have been fooled."

Then you set the pace for happier times to come. Keep yourself happy and let it flow to him. Eventually he will bounce back.

You're in this together, but don't take on his emotions. You sound a bit the anxious type, so I cannot stress this enough: Do not take his reactions personally, do not take on his emotions.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

"We're going to be in a relationship forever"

That's the key right there, as in being comfortable enough and trusting enough to give a hug, then step back and play backup to whatever way the other needs to go about processing things.

It's hard sometimes to be strong enough to just simply trust the other to sort things out. It may not always be the perfect solution, but it allows you both to keep growing and finding out each other's surprising strengths.

You know the essence of your S.O. and are going to be far better at feeling this out than anyone else.

You're possibly feeling unsettled yourself right now and don't want to share that feeling but it's another part of trusting and sharing a life together to be comfortable enough to share (as long as you do it in a sensitive manner which it sounds like you already know.)
posted by mightshould at 3:17 PM on February 21, 2014

Well, at least you sound rational about the situation and know that it's not going to financially ruin you, so that's good.

He feels foolish and gullible, so just listen patiently to him if he needs to vent/express bad feelings, then naturally move on to something else or suggest something else to do. It's a fine balance between listening to him/engaging with his emotions versus spiraling with him down a tunnel of guilt.

As best you can, I'd say just make things back to normal. And perhaps, for now, stay away from mentioning money issues or anything that may exacerbate his guilt. Also, I wouldn't even bring this up anymore unless he does so. Sometimes someone vehemently consoling me about a problem makes me feel patronized and only serves to remind me of something I'm trying not to think about. I think taking an active disinterest in this spilled milk is the way to go.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

When me or someone close to me is upset about something bad that happened I focus on solving the problem or figuring out ways to keep it from happening again. In this case that would either be consulting with a lawyer to see what you can legally do to make this con artist hold up to his agreement, and/or learning what legal measures to take to make your partner less likely to be taken advantage of when doing work in the future.
posted by sam_harms at 11:17 PM on February 21, 2014

Do you have someone other than your partner with whom you can discuss your feelings about this? A trusted friend or relative, or a counselor of some sort (some workplaces have programs that are free to employees)? Because, besides acquiring your partner's feelings by osmosis, it's perfectly legitimate to have your own feelings about this upset to your household. If you feel like expressing them to your partner would add to his burden, talk them through with someone else.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 7:25 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

He is probably feeling very stupid. Show him that you continue to trust his judgement.

He may also feel he has let his parents down. You can probably remind him of some occasions where his parents' judgement hasn't been perfect.

"You win some, you lose some" is valuable philosophy. Continue to minimise the impact of this loss.

Can you get him involved in a project planning for the future -- new house, trip to Europe "one day" or something?
posted by Idcoytco at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2014

I have this problem, too, with people I love -- it's so hard to see them in pain/difficulty and only really to be able to help by showing up, not by, you know, doing the work, which of course they have to do for themselves.

I'm actually going through this right now with my sibling, who is having a slow-motion maybe nervous breakdown. Things that have helped me this week include:

* leaning on friends -- just having company was helpful. I spent some time talking and crying and some time letting them distract me.
* meditation -- I'm using a guided meditation app: headspace
* telling everyone I know what's going on -- blows off steam, helps me feel like I'm not fakey pretend putting a good face on a difficult time.

Also, knowing that sometimes great, loving relationships go through hard times, and it's okay that they're hard, that's just how it is sometimes.
posted by spindrifter at 7:45 PM on February 27, 2014

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