How to Support Your Partner through a Difficult Time

man consoling upset woman in an office


Sometimes it’s all sunny days and blue skies, filled with ease and happiness. Other times, it’s stormy days and dark clouds with gloom that can’t be shaken. These same kinds of days happen within relationships. And for those people in long-term relationships, knowing how to sail in the storms is an important part to knowing you will make it back to the sunny skies.

There are so many reasons one partner in a relationship hits a stormy skies period. Work, family, health, personal tragedy, loss – just about anything could have someone hit a difficult period. And when those difficult times hit and stick around for more than a day or two, it’s important as the partner to someone experiencing a difficult time for you to know some dos and don’ts for how best to support them through it.


Been there, done that. From personal experience and from the experiences of others, below is a list of ideas how to support your partner when they’re going through a difficult time.


The easiest thing to say to do, not always the easiest thing to do. Many times, one of the best ways to support someone going through a difficult time is to sit, give them your undivided attention, and LISTEN. Most of the time nothing you say or do will fix the problem, but by listening to them share their thoughts and feelings you can support them and help them feel heard. Good listeners pay attention, use eye contact (if applicable), and use affirming voice and body language. Even if you can’t relate to what they’re doing through, you can still serve by being a good listener.


Sympathizing with someone means you feel compassion, sorrow or pity for another person. When your partner is going through something that is tough for them, you may not understand why they’re taking something so hard or can’t move past a certain mental block. But sympathizing with them removes your feelings and opinions about what they’re going through and allow you to feel just for them. Understand that for whatever reason, they’re experiencing these low feelings and by having compassion for them you are making yourself more emotionally available to them.

Be calm

It’s hard to see our loved ones suffer, especially if someone normally level headed has been lashing out at you or if someone who doesn’t cry is now weeping on your shoulder. Although it may be hard, one of the best things you can do is remain calm and not let their emotions overwhelm you. By doing so, you allow them to share their pain while remaining a stable influence for them. When emotions run high for your partner, it’s important to be patient and loving.

Find small ways to cheer them up

Your role as a partner is not to create fake happiness in a time of difficulty. Rather it is to know your partner well enough to know when and how to create moments that bring them joy. That may mean something small like telling a joke to make them smile, or it may mean planning a date that completely takes their mind off their current state. As their partner, you are their biggest cheerleader so it’s important to remind them you have faith in them. Make time to be together and find the best ways for your particular partner to bring them cheer.

Help out

How can you make their load lighter? Recently when my partner was going through a particularly difficult time, I took over his usual household duties. Not because he wanted me to, but because I knew after work he was burdened with such stress that me doing it for him so he could just rest and unwind was the best way to help alleviate his stress levels. You can ask them how you can help, or you can do what you know is right.

Be flexible

A very important part of supporting someone through a hard time is knowing that they will need different things on different days. While they may not have needed anything to cheer them up one day, they might need that four days later. As a great mentor in my life taught me, flexibility is the best ability – being flexible with how to support your partner is a definite DO!


Take it from those of us who have mis-stepped before. There are some definite things to stay away from when your partner is going through a difficult time. Steer clear of these things below!

DON’T criticize

When we listen, it is easy to pass judgment and offer advice that comes off as highly critical. It is easy to criticize how your partner is handling/not handling the situation. Stick to the ‘do’ of listening and do so without responding in a way that criticizes. When you’re listening, ask open-ended questions in a loving, non-judgmental way.

DON’T tell them what to do

When someone we care about is in pain, it’s easy to want to fix their problems. If we can fix it, their pain will go away. Oftentimes when they experience something hard, we want to tell them what to do or offer solutions. There are a few downsides to that. First, they may not want a solution at that time – they may just be looking for a sympathetic ear to hear them out. Second, telling them what to do could come off as not having faith in them, making it about yourself, or you not understanding what they’re going through. Keep your solutions to yourself until they ask for them, or you ask them if they’d like your opinion on some options about what they could do to help the situation.

DON’T make it about yourself

You may have dealt with a similar issue in the past or you may have other experiences that mirror the problem. That doesn’t mean you should tell your partner about your experiences right at that moment. Make sure you know when it is appropriate to share and when it is appropriate to just listen and be there.

DON’T rush them through their pain

Let them feel their feels. As society we have a tendency blow through our emotions or tell ourselves they don’t matter. There’s a balance between feeling our feels and then wallowing – but don’t rush them through whatever they’re feeling. That can be hard amidst other life-ish but best way to be a partner is not to rush them through what they’re feeling.


In good times and bad times, you’re partners. The most important thing you can do is BE THERE for them when a difficult time hits. You’re in this together, and when you know how best to support your partner, you will make it through! Sunny skies will be up ahead soon.