Okay, so you’re not exactly making marriage vows here. Most likely if you are in a committed relationship (like myself), you’ve hit some rough patches. And if you haven’t? Oh, my darling, they’re out there, and they’ll find you. *Begin terrifying Jaws soundtrack.*
There will be times in your relationship (hopefully very few times) where one party is going through something tough. Be it a family member passing away, a favorite pet running off, or a disease/diagnosis/crazy disaster. Watching all the coverage of the events in Boston (and Texas) a few weeks ago made me realize ... what would I do if my significant other had been there? What if he had lost someone? What if he had been hurt?
First things first: in tragedies (and at all times really), communication is key. My boyfriend and I have a sort-of-rule: It’s okay if you sent really short, vague text messages (or even none at all) during an emergency as long as you promise to follow up as soon as you can with the entire story. Honestly, whatever freaks him out freaks me out as well, so it’s a double dose of torture when I have no idea what’s going on. But especially if it’s with a family member, lay low. Family is first and that’s how it should be. Don’t be the crazy girlfriend calling every five minutes while your boyfriend is dealing with an emergency. You should make each other stronger, not drive each other up the wall. Trust in the fact that you’ll know eventually and until then, distract yourself with something else. The short version: sending 8,000 “Are you okay?” texts is not an option. Just don’t do it.
Second, clarify. Ask questions and try not to read too much into what he says. If there’s a funeral, ask gently if he wants you there or not. And please, DO NOT be offended if he says no. I have a particular story involving a boyfriend of at least nine months that showed up at my grandfather’s funeral when I specifically told him not to come. Why? Apparently he assumed that my “no” was just a stubborn, proud way of saying “please be there, I’ll need you.” When, in reality, it wasn’t. Gentlemen, in all situations, “no” does actually mean no. I was super angry with him about it because, in my case, I didn’t want him to meet my extended family for the first time in that setting. It wasn’t appropriate. End of story. (I’m still mad. You can’t tell, right?)
Just don’t assume they want you to do something if they haven’t specifically asked it. Tragedy and rough times can be hard, and I’ve learned that everyone deals with them in their own unique way. Don’t criticize or throw out "should have's." My best friend said something really introspective the other day when we were talking about this. She said that when someone you love is going through a hard time, you’re supposed to be their rock. It doesn’t matter if you were whining about your not-so-hard-knock life a few seconds before. Try to flip a switch and be empathetic. Be their rock. Take comfort in the fact that they take comfort in you, whether you’re at the hospital or the funeral home, or a million miles away.
It’s okay if you don’t know what to say. It’s okay if you don’t know what to do. One of the hardest things in this world, I believe, is watching someone you care deeply about go through something with which you can’t help.
So if you’re going through a tragedy, remember to keep your significant other in the loop. Let them know what’s up, and try to be as specific as possible when talking to them about plans that include them.
And if you’re helping someone through a bad time? Be comforting and don’t push. Just feel it out. If you think they need a little cheering up, try that. If you think they just need to sit and cry, be there. It’s okay to take things down a few notches. Pay attention to the person you care about and you’ll instinctively know what to do.
My go-to phrase? “It’s going to be okay,” or “I’m here for you.”
Because even if it isn’t, and you’re not *actually* there, there’s nothing quite like hearing someone else say it.
By: Alise Murawski | Image: Source