One of my friend’s recently went through a rough time. Actually, her husband went through a rough time – like thinking of leaving the marriage rough time. They are doing better now. What helped was my friend understood – what her husband was going through – was not about her. It was about him. All she could do was support him and whatever decision he eventually was going to make. As much as that stressed her out – it was the right approach.
Her husband loves her and their child. He was just so stressed out he couldn’t cope anymore and it had nothing to do with their relationship or with her. The source of his stress was external to the marriage. He just wanted to flee away from his stress and had no idea how to. In reality, he had no ability to flee from his stress, he just needed to deal with it and he needed psychological safety to do that – and that meant – giving his space and not putting any additional pressure on him.
Obviously – that’s really hard to do when you are impacted by someone else’s stress. We want our stress relieved too. But adding stress to someone who is super stressed out – doesn’t get rid of the stress. It only makes it worse.
His stress wasn’t really about her – even though it impacted her. So she was patient and supportive. He’s in a much better place now and so is she.
I wanted to share this – because it’s an important lesson – for everyone. When people behave badly – it’s rarely about you and almost always – all about them. The best thing you can do is be compassionate. If you make it all about you – you are not helping yourself or them and you will end up hurting more than you need to and probably make the stressed out poorly behaving person – behave even worse.
By being compassionate, you understand – they are going through something. But … it’s not about you. So give them space. Perhaps – a LOT of space. Encourage them to be compassionate with themselves and encourage self care. Support them unconditionally – if the relationship has earned that sort of trust. Perhaps encourage mental health care – as a compassionate thing to do – not as an insult (mental health shaming is a form of bullying and it makes things worse, not better). Most of all – don’t make it about you if it isn’t.