How To Be Comforting When Your Partner Is Stressed

Some want their partners to roll up their sleeves and dive right into problem-solving mode when they're stressed; others want their partners to be quiet and listen; and still others just want their partners to talk them down from the ledge. No matter what your partner's preferred method of comfort, though, there are lots of techniques to be helpful to them in times of stress. Six relationship experts gave me tips on how to be comforting when your partner is stressed, and though they varied in technique, they were all similar in tenor: Be kind. Stay calm. Do not allow yourself to become dragged into the drama.

My favorite tip is simple: Don't assume anything. "I honestly think that each couple should have a talk before things have ever come to this point," psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. That way, in moments of extreme stress, you "know how to best help," says Martinez, because you have already asked, and you "know what works" for your partner. This is incredibly smart. Don't worry, though: If you haven't had this conversation, it's not too late to ask in the moment. "It is still OK to ask them what they need from you right now, and what would help them the most in this moment" of deep stress, says Martinez.

Indeed, agrees Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife: "To be of comfort to a stressed-out partner, you need to know in what way they handle stress," he tells Bustle. "Do they need to be alone, do they need to be cuddled, or do they need some release such as in sexual activity? We all react to stress differently and understanding how your partner needs to handle it is key," says Alex, AKA the Guru of Getting It On. Here are six other things to do when your partner is overly stressed.

1. Encourage Calm

Since you probably can't do anything about the situation at hand in the moment, you can help them relax, relationship trainer Daniel Amis tells Bustle. It doesn't have to be complicated: "Give them a massage, make some comfort food, do whatever you need to do to help them relax," he says. Like Martinez, he stresses the importance of being in tune with your partner's preferences. "The key is to know your partner," he says. What would they ideally want in the moment? "A foot rub, alone time in front of the TV, a relaxing bubble bath, sex, or perhaps something else?" asks the author of Unbreakable Love: Proven Methods For Developing a Stronger, More Satisfying Relationship In Just 30 Days. "Whatever it is, provide them a way to become less stressed."

2. Be Present

The best thing you can do when your partner is crawling the wall is to just be calm with them, clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte tells Bustle. "Hold space," says Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York. "When our partners are sad or upset, it's a common desire to alleviate that suffering." Instead of trying to change the way they feel, just be there with them. "Especially in the initial stages of freak out mode — usually when your partner is expressing how he or she feels — just listen," she says. "Create a safe place for your beloved to vent. Chances are it's temporary, and sometimes just by virtue of being heard, your partner will feel better."

3. Love Them

It may sound simple, but three little words can go a long way: "My husband has a wonderful way of comforting me when I start losing it," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships, tells Bustle. "He looks at me, smiles, and says, 'I love you,' and then asks, 'What can I do to help you?'" Even if your partner doesn't have an answer, they will feel comforted by your love — and your willingness to help. "Whether he can do anything to help the situation or not, his loving, supportive, kind response just makes me feel a hell of a lot better," she says.

4. Let Them Vent

This is important: Encourage your partner to let it all out. "Listen to them vent," relationship coach Melinda Carver tells Bustle. Some partners won't want "advice or platitudes — they just want to vent," she says. "Allow them to do so." After a while, you might find that this alone has worked wonders. "This calms them down," she says. "Let them know you are on their side, that you support them." Amis agrees wholeheartedly: Sometimes, in the moment, the last thing your partner wants is for you to swing into problem-solving mode. "Provide a listening ear," says Amis. "Comforting words are great, and needed in most cases," he says. "But sometimes your partner just wants to vent. Provide a listening ear to help them calm down."

5. Distract Them

Once the heat of the moment has passed, pulling your boo's "mind away from the stress is one of the keys that I have found," says Alex. "While we can't make the stress go away, we can occupy their mind with other things to help them clear that mind." It doesn't have to be a grand gesture: "Think of the small things you can do to make them feel special and to take their mind off the stress," he says. "You could cook their favorite meal or order from their favorite restaurant, you could put in their favorite movie, or you could treat them to an amazing sexual experience." It doesn't really matter what you choose: "The best thing you can do is just to be there for them," he says.

6. Give Them Space

"Some partners need space to breathe when they are stressed," says Carver. "Do not add to a list of 'to do,'" she suggests, "by constantly calling, texting or trying to ram your need to 'be involved.'" Let them have a little space. "If your partner wants space to breathe, give it to them. It is nothing against you, they just need that time alone to think things through or to get out from anger or stress."

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