Hello everybody, welcome to episode 37 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Happy to have you here today. Today we’ll be discussing a question that came in that sure is tough to handle. We’ll be looking into the depths required for sustaining a long and particularly trying relationship. It’s a great episode for those seeking to be the best partners they can be. Let’s have a look at the question…
QUESTION: “My partner of many years has struggled with deep depression — and associated anger and inertia — for a long time. I'm exhausted. How do I support this person AND myself?”
Support Your Partner — And Yourself
All right, excellent question. This is a very difficult situation to be in, no question. And I just want to start by saying how admirable it is that you’re reaching out and seeking ways to remedy this rather than just checking out and letting resentment build. Just asking this question shows effort, and that tells me you’re already on the right track to supporting both yourself and your partner.
As far as I can see, there are two ways you support your partner; both of which require decent explanation.
The first thing to do and to know is that you support him by first supporting yourself. This idea of helping yourself before you can help others is not new. It can be hard for those who feel a certain sense of martyrdom to agree with, but it’s true and rather than just telling you that it’s true, I want to explain why:
Consider the Sacrifices You've Made
Consider all the sacrifices you have to make for your partner. You can list them a hell of a lot better than I can, but I’d think, at the very least, some of these sacrifices include encouraging them to get out of the house, calming them down when they’re in a fit of rage, lifting them up when they’re in a state of depression, saying no to certain plans, apologizing for them, the list goes on.
When it comes to any of these sacrifices, and when it comes to all the unique sacrifices that you’re thinking right now, tell me how well any of these sacrifices can be made if you’re low on energy or unfulfilled. My guess is that none of them go over well if you’re feeling drained yourself. They’re exhausting and they’re repetitive.
Can you really give yourself over if you’re not running a full tank — which comes from taking care of your own needs first?
Partners in a Complementary Relationship
When you take care of your own needs, you’re able to fill in the gaps for yourself — gaps that your partner can’t fill in for HIS or HERself. If you’re looking after yourself first, you’re likely to become happier (the antithesis of your partner’s depression); you’re likely to become more agreeable (the antithesis of your partner’s anger) and you’re able to grow (the antithesis of your partner’s inertia).
Your partner is your partner for a reason. You feed off one another, you work in tandem. Your partner’s odds of gaining these good attributes skyrocket if you have the attributes.
The odds plummet if you’re experiencing the same feelings as they are. You are your partner’s environment, so do your best to lead by example and provide an environment that promotes the qualities both of you need your partner to have. Make time for yourself, decide what kind of self-care is best for you right now, and go from there.
Support Your Partner through Listening
The second way for you to successfully support both your partner and yourself is to make sure your partner is being heard. Good listening is a cooperative conversation and provides a positive experience for the person being listened to.
This might also go without saying, but don’t think for a second that your partner isn’t aware of their own struggles. They know what they’re going through, and unfortunately, the pain is almost certainly compounded because of thoughts like, “I’m such a burden,” “I can’t snap out of this,” “I’m wasting my life,” “I have nothing to be hopeful for,” and so on.
There is great risk here, because these thoughts of theirs exist only in their mind, but as soon as these thoughts are reinforced in their outside world – that would mean from you, most importantly – things start to spiral downward real fast. It does your partner no good if they’re made to feel like they’re a burden, like they can’t change, whatever.
If this has been going for years — as long as the relationship has — I don’t think anyone would blame you for feeling frustration in this relationship. It’s hard stuff. No one in your position should be made to feel they have to die on their horse before acknowledging — at least to themselves — how difficult it all is. So it’s understandable if you’ve not been as patient at times as you’d like to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start over again.
If you can make a point of hearing your partner and not being reactive to their bouts of anger or depression, things start to open up for both you. Mind you, this changes if their anger translates to physical violence towards you or others, but if it’s not reached that point, making a concerted effort to understand their pain reinforces communication between you two. It helps you both, because it starts to eliminate any detachment caused by your partner’s struggle.
This could lead to any number of progressive steps. Maybe couples therapy happens. Maybe you learn about ways you’ve unknowingly triggered your partner’s struggles. Maybe your partner is reminded that they can be hopeful of your relationship and your care if nothing else.
Support through Love, Connection, and Understanding
Your role with your partner is romance — it’s love. That means connection and understanding. You don’t need to do any more than that.
And being that you’re partners who stand by one another and thrive together, fulfilling that role will be beneficial to both of you, even if it’s hard for your partner to play their role as effectively right now.
These are the times that partnership is really all about. Picking up for the other when necessary. It’s your opportunity to be the best partner you can be and show your partner just how lucky they are to have you.
And that just about wraps us up, folks. All relationships have their challenges, and these kinds of challenges, combined with such a long history, make for a great example of how more relationships than we might think can still thrive if the right work is put in.
I hope anyone looking to optimize their relationships benefited from this episode and caught a glance at how we can always offer something both our partners and ourselves even when difficult feelings are afoot. As usual, we encourage you guys to all send your own questions in that you might like help with.
Feel free to email us questions about any of your struggles that you need help with at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We love hearing from you, so don’t be shy. Hope to see you in the next one! Bye for now, everybody.