If you’ve been in a relationship long enough, we’re guessing you’ve developed a bunch of go-to tactics to bust out when your partner is feeling stressed or burnt out. Maybe you take the kids on a neighborhood adventure so your spouse can have a few hours of alone time. Maybe you plan a romantic date night. Maybe you massage their neck as they stare at that reality TV show about super yachts.
All good ideas. Another obvious but worthwhile one to add to your quiver: A simple text message. While the idea of firing off a text may seem lazy, a well-crafted message of love, support, and appreciation can do quite a bit of good in the moment — and cut through a lot of noise that can might make communication difficult.
“The best advice I give to a partner trying to help is not to take anything personally,” says Dr. Michael Tobin, a clinical psychologist with nearly 50 years of experience in marriage and family therapy. “This is why texting works well to offer help. If you say something in person, your partner might be defensive because he or she is so on edge. A loving text message, showing patience, creativity, or common sense, can help keep a relationship pointing toward true north.”
Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with overwhelmed moms, agrees — and emphasizes that in times of stress the supportive partner must remember to be kind to themselves as well.
“It can be incredibly distressing to watch your partner go through a challenging period of their life,” Trueblood says. “The balance between self-care and supporting your spouse is delicate and highly dependent on how much emotional energy you have to give at the time.”
Finding support strategies that work for your partner, while protecting your own mental and emotional health, she says, is an important key to a healthy relationship during difficult times.
Supportive messages can be a smart part of that strategy. Here, then, are a dozen texts to send your wife or husband when they’re dealing with a lot of pressure.
1. “You are crushing it in the most important ways.”
Your partner’s stress may come from misconceptions about their importance and the stuff they may be nervous about may overshadow their actual accomplishments. “When we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed in one area of our life, it’s easy to overlook or discount all the other areas where we’re thriving,” notes Trueblood. “Send your partner a simple message of verbal encouragement and acknowledgment to remind them how well they’re doing in other — perhaps more important — areas of their life.” Ignore the losses in favor of the wins, no matter how big or small.
2. “How does take-out and a movie sound tonight?”
Whatever your partner’s pleasure, a simple gesture combining a relaxing activity and a good meal can remind them they’re worth it. “When your partner is stressed, don’t ask questions that need more than a two-word answer or questions that require a decision,” advises Trueblood. Decision fatigue, she notes, is a real thing and most people become mentally drained making choices all day. Instead, make the choices for them and suggest something specific that requires only a simple response like ‘sounds great’ or ‘I’m too tired.’ “This text message works particularly well if you have a partner who appreciates acts of service and support,” says Trueblood. So send the message and cross your fingers your partner says “Panda Express and Predator.”
3. “I appreciate you and all that you do.”
It’s always important to express appreciation for your partner and all that they do. When they’re stressed? It’s all the more so. “When feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s often because we feel unacknowledged or unappreciated,” says Trueblood. “Sending a text message with specific and genuine words of appreciation to your partner can help remind them that the most important person in their life values and acknowledges all of their hard work.” The key is to be specific, letting your partner know how much you appreciate the spontaneous dishwasher emptying, the trash being taken out, or any other chore that keeps your household thriving.
4. “This weekend, let’s…”
It’s simple: having something to look forward to can often be energizing and empowering. So, think about something that refuels your spouse and makes them excited. The anticipation can help them destress. “Many people truly appreciate having something to look forward to, especially when feeling overwhelmed,” she says. “Suggesting a specific experience or activity that you already know your partner enjoys is a fabulous way to both give them something to look forward to and show them you care about their mental health.” Do your best to plan and arrange the entire outing so they can just sit back, relax, and enjoy.
5. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”
Stress clouds the mind and makes you feel alone. It’s important to remind your partner that you’ve got their back by giving them license to scream, shout and let it all out, says Dr. Tobin. “Right now your partner needs a friend, and you’re stepping up to fill that need,” he explains. “You’re telling your partner that he/she can express anything freely and uninterrupted while all you do is listen.” Through the acceptance, support, and kindness of the gesture, your partner will understand and appreciate how committed you are to the relationship.
6. “I like you more than I care about any of the other ‘stuff’.”
When you have a partner who pushes themselves to their limits — something that causes more stress — it’s often helpful, per Trueblood, to remind them it’s them you value most. “Often, these partners have a difficult time truly accepting this is the case, so reminding them of their value regularly with your words and actions can be quite powerful.” Send a text that lets them know you’re not only proud of their accomplishments, but, more importantly, you’re interested in loving them no matter the situation.
7. “I’m sorry you’re under so much pressure right now.”
Whether it’s work, parenting, family troubles, or some other source of stress you don’t even understand, a tiny text of empathy can go a long way. “Genuine and compassionate words of support can be powerfully supportive,” adds Trueblood. “When you have a stressed partner who’s verbally-oriented, they will truly appreciate reading your words of compassion, appreciation and understanding.” It’ll be right there in black and white for them to read and reread when they feel alone under pressure.
8. “Let me be there for you.”
You know that your partner is going through a rough time, so offering yourself in the form of advice, a friendly ear, or providing the personal space they need, tells your partner that he or she is not alone, and that you understand stress. “Many of us stressed out and overwhelmed humans can curl into our caves when what we really need is a human hand to help us through our difficulties,” says Dr. Tobin. “Tell your partner that you’re there for them, and with them and help them avoid exacerbating their stress through added feelings of helplessness.”
9. “You’re capable of dealing with this.”
Reaffirming your partner’s capability can be a wake-up call from mounting stress, helping remind them that you’re on their team and rooting from the sidelines. “Show and tell your partner that you love them more and more with encouragement,” says Dr. Tobin. “Let them know you exist to support each other, and that the beauty of a healthy, loving relationship is that you have a fellow traveller who shares the journey of life with you.”
10. “This f*^&ing sucks.”
“When your partner suffers, you suffer,” says Dr. Tobin. Not in the sense of your partner bumming you out all the time, but in the sense of your heart and soul being exclusively bonded with theirs. “It’s a storm, and your partner may be going through hell. Let them know that you empathize with their struggle.” Even if it’s only in spirit, remind your partner that you’re on this journey together, and that you’re in a position to understand and commiserate whenever you’re needed.
11. “Ask me for help.”
Dr. Tobin urges sending straightforward reminder your partner that asking for help is truly a superpower. “The biggest problem with problem solving is believing that only you can solve your dilemma,” he says. Instead, acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers shows humility, and makes both partners feel needed and cared for. So type out a message that tells them that, if they need it, you’re here to help.
12. “Let’s burn your problems. Seriously.”
“To get unstuck, we often need a healthy distraction,” says Dr. Tobin. “We need a break from the unproductive obsessions that accompany being overwhelmed and stuck.” That said, he suggests that you burning your partner’s problems is a positively jarring proposal they’ll never expect. Ask your partner to write down what’s stressing them out and then physically burn the piece of paper. Because we need to help each other stay healthy, we have to be ready to try anything and everything that might do the trick.
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