Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Be There for Your Spouse Without Sacrificing Yourself

Love

3 ways to support your partner during times of stress...

Natalie is torn up inside about what her husband Sam has been going through. Both of Sam's aging parents have had major health crises over the past year. 

Because his brothers live far away and Sam and Natalie live in the same town as his parents, he's been driving them both to and from doctors' visits and has been maintaining their house too.

While Natalie regularly helps Sam tend to his parents' many needs, she is feeling the strain. She wants more than anything to be there for Sam (and his parents too), but she has a demanding job and she doesn't want to  neglect their children's needs. 

Most of the time, Natalie feels exhausted and like she has nothing more to give anyone. 

It happens at one point or another in every marriage....stress.

  • Unexpected calamities like a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster
  • Unanticipated health crises for you, your spouse, your child or other family members.
  • Changes at work in terms of position, workload or employment status
  • Emotional rough spots because of traumatic events (past or present) or because of transitions in life

Stress happens and it's tough on a marriage.

When your spouse is stressed out and being stretched and stretched by difficulties, you probably feel compelled to help in some way. You want to be there for your partner.

This is wonderful and can make a huge positive difference for the one you love, but it's not always easy to effectively do.

During challenging times, what many people do is sacrifice their own needs in order to support their partner. They drive themselves just as hard (or harder) than their stressed out partner and end up depleted and sometimes resentful too.

Of course, you probably don't want to callously leave your partner to face the crisis on his or her own. You genuinely want to be there to offer loving support.

But, you also have your limits. There's only so much strain you can take too. 

This inner push-pull is something that so many people grapple with and are left feeling like they're not doing enough for their partner while, at the same time, they sacrifice themselves.

It's frustrating and exhausting!

If you want to be there for your partner, do so in wise ways.  Follow these 3 tips... 

#1:  Take care of yourself first.

As selfish and maybe even heartless as it sounds, this is absolutely essential if you want to be the kind of help for your partner that he or she truly needs.

You've got to take care of your own self first. 

There is a reason why flight attendants instruct passengers to secure their own oxygen masks in the event of an emergency before helping a child or anyone else. 

You have to be functioning at your best in order to really be there for the one you love. 

Remember this the next time you are starving or sleep-deprived and your partner is stressed out and you feel an impulse to help. In a situation like this, what most of us feel compelled to do is to ignore our own hunger pains or desperation for some sleep to do whatever is needed for the other person.

You'll be able to be the kind of supportive and loving presence your partner needs when you've addressed your main needs first. 

Taking care of yourself doesn't even have to take too long. So, grab a healthy and filling snack or set your alarm and take a 30 minute nap and THEN offer support to your partner.

#2:  Ask before jumping in to help.

Another tendency that many people have is when they see what seems like trouble or a crisis, they jump right in to “fix” things...without getting a full understanding of what's going on and what kind of help the people involved want and need.

Always ask first.

You've probably been in a situation where you've just about got a problem figured out and someone else swoops in “just trying to help” without you wanting to be helped.

It could be that what looks to you like your partner struggling is him or her on the brink of a powerful a-ha moment. It could also be that the kind of help that you think your partner needs is the complete opposite of what he or she would like or is ready for.

Use a question like, “I'd like to support you right now. What can I do to help?”

#3:  Be honest about what you will and won't do.

Really listen to your partner's words. You might not even have to ask, “How can I help?” Your partner may be very clear that he or she would like a hug, a sounding board for ideas, to be left alone or advice.

Listen to what your partner asks for from you and then go within yourself. Is this something you are willing and able to do?

Is this form of support something you are open to and that you could do without later feeling resentful?

Maybe you and your spouse keep your finances separate and he or she can't make a credit card payment and asks to borrow money. While you really want to help your partner, you are also annoyed because you've bailed him or her out too many times in the past. Conflicted is how you feel.

Whatever form of support your partner requests, give yourself permission to freely say “yes” or “no.”  Take the time to know what the right answer is for you.

Even if you say “no,” this doesn't mean you can't be there for him or her. After your “no,” suggest an alternative that you are open to and see if this sounds appealing to your spouse.

Offering support can literally be a life-saver for the one you love. It can also be a way you two learn how to hone your communication skills and move closer to one another.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No matter how much stress you and your spouse have going on in your lives, you CAN create the kind of close, connected, harmonious and passionate marriage you've been longing for. Learn the secrets to a Passionate Spark~Lasting Love in this free ebook. Visit www.relationshipgold.com to get your free ebook today.

From our Partners

Explore YourTango

MOST POPULAR