When your other half is struggling with family issues, it can be tricky to find your place. You want to help without being intrusive, you want to console without making him uncomfortable — so what are the boundaries? Every relationship is different, of course, but here are a few tips on how to offer support without crossing a line:
- Open the lines of communication. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the quickest way to offer your support is to ask what he needs from you. Find out whether he wants to talk or ignore the issue, then respect his needs. If he says that he needs a bit of space, step back for a little while and wait until he comes to you.
- Know your boundaries. Even if your partner regularly complains about the same family member or the same messy relationship, it's simply not your place to echo those sentiments. Chances are he's already feeling extra sensitive, so he may not respond well to your unsolicited opinion.
- Choose your words wisely. A good rule of thumb: Offer your thoughts only if (and when) he seems open to them. This isn't to say that you need to walk on eggshells around your guy, but you should try to be kind and considerate when you share your perspective. Practice compassion and know that the people involved are people he cares about.
- Listen now, follow up later. Sometimes people vent and only need you to act as a soundboard — without trying to solve the problem. Avoid trying to fix any issues right away. Instead, sit and listen, then check in later to see if he needs anything else from you.
- Dream up distractions. Your partner may need to focus on something other than family issues, so get creative with your date ideas and try to keep things fresh. Do something new, be adventurous, and remember that not everyone likes to talk things through. Sometimes, diversions are the way to go.