“I’ve been with my girlfriend for two years now, and whilst I adore her, things are becoming a little strained. She’s started a new job, hates her manager and is having a rough time, whilst I’m super stressed over finishing my Masters degree. I want to be as supportive as possible for her, but I’m having a hard time too. Help!”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Okay. I’ve totally got this one… because I’ve TOTALLY been exactly where you are slash kind of ARE where you are and I had a revelation yesterday while I was on a dock by the ocean thinking thoughts. Here we go. When we get into long-term relationships with people, we tend to feel incredibly comfortable being open, honest, vulnerable, and vocal about the things that are going on in our lives. That’s an amazing thing on most levels, because it means being connected and allowing for someone else to comfort us in our weak moments.
HOWEVER. We also tend to get so comfortable in that space that we forget that our emotions and moods (and expression of those things) has a big impact on our loved ones. Your girlfriend is struggling and you are stressed and you need each other to lean on, yes… but you’ve crossed a threshold where those struggles/stressors are actually making you LESS able to be a good partner. (Mayday! Mayday! *pulls alarms*) You now need to do two things:
1. Most importantly, you need to talk to your lovely girl (let’s call her Pasta bc I’m hungry) and explain where you’re coming from, gently and with lots of love. When she is having a good, calm moment, pull her close and say, “Pasta, I want you to know that I love you and I am so glad that we have each other to talk to when things are hard. I know you’re struggling right now and I am here to help in any way I can. Lately I’ve been feeling a little frazzled with my own stuff, and I thought it would be great if we could find times to vent, but also make sure that we have time to have fun and enjoy the good.” If you want you can then play that Tegan and Sara song about where did the good go, but only if you think she’ll laugh as hard as I would if we were having this conversation.
Essentially, you need to communicate that you both need to be operating at full capacity to take care of each other, and that you need some time to navigate the world and your own stressors without being under the constant strain of hearing/worrying about hers. Gently. Calmly. Lovingly. Cool?
2. Here’s my small revelation: our partners cannot take care of all that ails us. Maybe you already knew that, but I don’t think I did until very recently… and maybe your gf doesn’t realize that yet either. I tend to think I AM HURTING GOOD THING I HAVE A WIFE TO TELL WHO WILL LISTEN AND HELP… all the time. And all of the time is too much of the time! I am a strong person who has friends and family and myself and a cat and a journal and sidewalks to stroll on and a million other outlets for what ails me.
As people with loved ones we need to make sure that we use all that is available to us instead of defaulting, always, to the person who is often closest to us (in both proximity and emotional-feels). Maybe you can also talk to your girl about this, bc I wish I had had that realization about forty years ago. You know?!
Last thing before I leave you to your journey: it sounds like y’all love each other very much and this is a hard time. That’s okay. We have ups and downs and you’ll learn things from this down that will help you tackle the next one even more readily. Good luck to you and darling Pasta <3
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