Relationship experts weigh in on the best ways to be there for your significant other when they need you most.
Unless you've been refraining from all news media for the past several days (lucky you!), you've probably heard that Kanye West was hospitalized for exhaustion last week after canceling the remainder of his Saint Pablo tour. While we don't know the exact details of what happened—even celebs deserve some privacy when it comes to their health—Us Weekly is reporting that West is still in the hospital with no confirmed release date.
Kanye's wife Kim Kardashian has been by his side the entire time, according to a source who spoke with the magazine. Whether you're a fan of the Kardashian clan or not, it's undeniable that Kim has done everything in her power to help Kanye get the rest and care he needs. "Kim wouldn't leave his side except to see the kids," a source said in an interview. "She's been at the hospital all the time. Kim has been keeping a very close watch on him and not letting people disturb him. All kinds of people have called and sent flowers, but she's being very careful about not letting him get wound up and making sure he rests and recovers." It definitely sounds like he is in good hands. (Here, Kim opens up about her own recent struggle with anxiety.)
So if your partner ever goes through something like this, whether they're broken down, exhausted, or just going through a tough time in general, how can you best support them? We had three experts weigh in on how you can be there for your S.O. in a way that's both compassionate and effective.
Be the right kind of listener.
Hearing what your partner has to say is important, but making sure you're listening reflectively is crucial, says Erika Martinez, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Miami. What's reflexive listening, you ask? Essentially, as you listen to what your partner is saying, you should respond by rephrasing what they've told you as you understand it, to show that you empathize with what they're feeling and going through. "Unfortunately, many people get defensive as they listen and consider things said as personal attacks," says Martinez. "For this to work, the listener has to check their ego at the door." Duly noted.
It's also helpful to ask your partner exactly what they need from you in the moment. "Ask how you can help alleviate the distress. Is there something you can do or say to make things better/easier/calmer for them?" suggests Martinez. It's also a good idea to ask permission before giving feedback or recommendations on what to do next, she says. "After listening, some people barge in with solutions. Instead try something like, "Can I make an observation?" or "Would you like my opinion or did you need to vent?'" Additionally, it's a good idea to avoid words and phrases like"'should," "just," and "ought to," because they carry an undertone of judgment—even if that's not your intention.
Don't assume they need space.
It's many people's instinct to take a step back when they know someone else is hurting in order to give them "space." But according to Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Relationship Reality 312, that's not always the best course of action. "If you give them space without them asking for it, you can risk them viewing you as abandoning them in their time of need." After all, you won't know what your S.O. really wants or needs until you talk about it. "Every couple is different and what matters is what works for both partners," she adds. "When a crisis hits, sometimes it's going to be trial-and-error trying to figure out what works for the couple. An important thing is to keep an open dialog so you can both be flexible." (FYI, these are the 8 Relationship Checks All Couples Should Have for a Healthy Love Life.)
Take care of yourself, too.
It's easy to forget about your own needs when you're worried about someone you love, but you shouldn't neglect your own self-care in these kinds of situations. "You need to take extra care of yourself when you're helping someone through a crisis," says Audrey Hope, celebrity relationship expert and addiction counselor. "The stronger you are, the better it is for both of you." No matter how bad things get, Hope recommends doing a few simple things to keep yourself feeling in control during a crisis: Take the time to shower and change your clothes, get some fresh air and sunlight every now and then, and take short breaks from your partner's side to eat and walk around. The little things can make a big difference.