Annabel Fitzsimmons, a health and wellness expert and co-author of Bittergirl: Getting Over Getting Dumped (Penguin Canada, 2005), weighs in on when and how to help a loved one over a hurdle, and if and when you should move on from the situation.
1. Create space
When a problem arises, one can feel pressured to try to fix it immediately, rather than allowing a solution to present itself organically over time. At times, attempts to fix your partner's problem can even feel forced. “Everyone needs support in different ways, so if your partner is the type of person who needs to figure things out before they talk about it, have the confidence to give him or her the space and time needed to figure things out,” says Fitzsimmons.
2. Be a good listener
One of the best ways to help someone over a hurdle is to listen. As tempting as it can be to jump in and give your opinion, resist the urge. Fitzsimmons shares where women often go wrong in this scenario: “We like to fix things. We often try to either facilitate the change or navigate the change when sometimes the best course of action is just to be silent and supportive and not inject our opinions.”
There’s something to be said for letting your loved one come to terms with what’s bothering him on his own time. “By nature we like to help people and solve problems, and sometimes we can overreach which can hinder the process,” says Fitzsimmons.
3. Make a plan as a group
Rather than telling your partner what you think he or she needs to change or work on, start a family initiative. If you frame a specific action as something for the whole family to work on, it takes the pressure off of your partner. Fitzsimmons suggests sitting down as a family and deciding all together what your family goals are.
Set personal, professional and health goals. Ask “What do we want our family life to look like five years from now?” and then break down how you’ll get there. “Framing things with questions is far more effective than telling someone what you think they should do,” says Fitzsimmons.
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4. Consult a third party
It’s often useful to involve a third party, perhaps a professional, to help make the necessary steps in overcoming a problem. Depending on the situation, you can source the right person to help your partner over the specific hurdle. Whether it’s a career counsellor or a therapist, a third party can be crucial to the process, and can offer an objective opinion. “Encourage your partner to go seek help in the area they need it,” says Fitzsimmons. “You can’t be everything to your partner.”
5. Know when to walk away
“When you feel you have exhausted all the possibilities and you can’t get beyond this impasse in your relationship, you might need to walk away,” says Fitzsimmons. And if your partner refuses to address the problem and it then spirals into other issues, like substance abuse, you need to take your own emotional and physical health into consideration.
Fitzsimmons emphasizes the importance of support in successful relationships, and room for growth. “I do believe if you are in a relationship where you are not supported in fully being yourself, then that is not a relationship that can grow long term,” says Fitzsimmons. Everyone’s boundaries are different and you need to determine where to draw the line. If leaving the relationship is a decision you decide to make, “recognize and have confidence in yourself, and know you are leaving for the right reasons,” says Fitzsimmons.
No matter what difficulty your partner is facing, there’s no doubt that love and support from an encouraging partner can help him persevere. Whether you give him a bit of space, or help him get professional advice, there are always ways to help your loved one through a difficult chapter in his life.
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