Portland Marriage Counselor: Supporting Your Partner Through a Family Crisis

January 29, 2014 by

It’s not always specifically relationship problems that lead a couple to see a Portland marriage counselor; sometimes the couples I counsel are struggling because one has just experienced a serious family emergency and the other doesn’t know what they can do to help.

A crisis such as your in-laws divorcing or a member of your partner’s family being hospitalized for a serious condition can seriously blindside both of you. This kind of event can cause grief, which you and your partner might experience differently. If you know your partner’s family well, you may feel the crisis acutely, but if you don’t know them well and are watching your partner struggle, you might feel confused and unsure how to support your loved one.

Advice for Helping Your Partner, from the Portland Marriage Counselor

Be there. This is the most basic but also the most important piece of advice I can offer you. When your partner is going through a hard time, the best thing you can do for them is to simply be present, sitting by their side and listening if they want to talk. Sometimes it’s just this comforting presence that people need when they’re grieving or reeling from a recent change.

Be selfless. Now is not the time to bring up any relationship problems or to pick a fight with your partner. They might lash out at you or become somewhat withdrawn while coping with a family emergency, but just remember that this behavior is not really about you. It’s about your partner grappling with some confusing emotions and trying to find an outlet.

Be patient. As the Portland marriage counselor, I’ve dealt with this kind of thing so many times that I can definitively tell you there’s no set amount of time that people grieve for; it depends on the person and the weight of the tragedy they’re facing. If it’s an event like their parents getting divorced, your partner might come to terms with that relatively quickly, but if they’re dealing with something like a death in the family, they might be grieving for longer. Just know that your partner’s grieving will end, but you can’t rush them through it. Just try to be supportive and lend a helping hand when your partner needs you.

You married your partner for better or worse, and sometimes when the worse comes along, that can be the true test of a relationship. Helping your partner through a tragedy can ultimately bring you closer, and it will be possible to return to your regular lives after working through a family crisis. If you feel like the weight of a tragedy is too much for you and your partner to handle alone, however, consider seeing a Portland marriage counselor or family therapist.