How do you remain hopeful when your survivor-partner is struggling?
What a question! One with which I am well acquainted.
Here’s the thing. I am not always hopeful.
A recent challenge brought this front and center for me and for us as a couple.
My partner has struggled with work. It is not the learned skills of employment. It is the navigating of interpersonal relationships. In the workplace, these things are hard for everybody, but for those who experienced childhood or developmental trauma, interpersonal dynamics can be overwhelming (and it is common).
Sometimes he cannot work. When it happens, it is hard to maintain hope.
What does this kind of ongoing scenario mean for me or perhaps for you as a partner? What does this say about hope?
Here are a few things I have realized:
1. Accept that you cannot and will not always feel hopeful.
It is okay to say: “I don’t feel hopeful. I am not sure this is going to get better. I don’t know what to do.”
It is compassionate and kind to be honest with yourself. Maybe you can talk about your feelings with your partner or a friend. Maybe you can journal or draw or create something to honor your feelings.
2. Your emotions may mirror your partner.
As a partner, you are the primary attachment figure with your loved one. As a result, your nervous system will pick up on their emotional states – this is normal.
It might be helpful to ask yourself if you are mirroring your partner. An acknowledgment of this possibility might restore some hope.
3. Maybe you need a medical checkup.
Chronic stress takes a toll. After my partner went into the hospital last spring, I developed shingles. I was worn down and it was a reminder of my vulnerability. Check with your doctor if you think your mental or physical health is being affected.
4. Maybe you need to talk to someone.
I offer support sessions for partners. As a partner, I offer a unique perspective on the challenges of this role.
You may also need a therapist (especially if you have not done any type of personal work). Or maybe another type of healer. Sometimes it is about finding one person who can support you and offer a needed perspective.
5. Remind yourself of the common human experience of hopelessness.
Hopelessness and hopefulness are part of being a human. We do not need to deny or judge these feelings as right or wrong or too much or too little. As humans, we suffer and our emotions will reflect that. It is okay.
Finally, I want you to know if you as a partner are struggling with hopeless, I understand. It is hard. I want you to know I experience it too.