“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” – William James
When your partner is upset, you may feel the immediate need to try and say something to make it better. Or, if they’re upset with you, you may feel the need to defend yourself. That’s natural! We all have the same human instinct to both defend ourselves and make our loved ones feel better.
Unfortunately, things don’t always come out the way that we planned. In fact, sometimes we say things that can be taken the wrong way, or say things that we don’t mean at all. This can lead to even more upset between ourselves and our partners. Thankfully, relationship experts are here to tell us exactly what not to do when our partner is upset.
Here Are 3 Things You Should Avoid Saying To Your Partner When They’re Upset
1. “Come on, tell me what’s wrong.”
When your partner is upset, it may be hard for them to talk about what’s on their minds or what they’re feeling. Talking about emotions doesn’t come easily to everyone, and sometimes people may feel better keeping things to themselves until they calm down rather than talking about what’s upsetting them in the heat of the moment.
Psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina says, “Ask if you can help, then give your partner space to figure himself or herself out. Later, when it’s all OK again, ask what your partner would like you to do in those situations. Some people like to be left alone to work it out, some like to talk, some just want silent company.”
Therefore, trying to force your partner to talk to you by nagging them to tell you what’s wrong is one of the major things that you never want to do when your partner is upset. Not only will it make them feel like they can’t refuse or else risk upsetting you in the process, but it will definitely make them feel upset that you’re not respecting their boundaries of communication. So, when your partner is upset, the best thing to do for them is to wait it out until they feel ready to tell you what’s wrong.
2. “I just want to help.”
This may be a true statement, and you may genuinely want to help … but, in the end, they’re the ones who are feeling upset. It’s their emotions that need validation right now. When you try and get your partner to talk to you and tell you what’s wrong, pulling out “I just want to help” shifts the focus off of your partner’s genuine distress and onto your own feelings.
Psychologist Nicole Martinez says, “It all depends on how your partner handles their moods and what they need during these times… Some people need time and space, and if they do, let them have it, no matter how badly you want to help. This way, they can openly talk about their feelings, and you can either be there to support them, or the two of you can come to resolutions together…”
Wanting to help is a great thing, and so is feeling poorly when you’re unable to – it means that you have a great deal of empathy and that you genuinely love your partner. Unfortunately, trying to get them to tell you what’s bothering them before they’re ready by guilting them into letting you help isn’t the right way to do it. Instead, let them know that you want to help them, and that you’re here for them when when they’re ready to talk about it. Extend your help as an offer rather than a demand.
3. “You’re overreacting.”
When we feel emotions, we are often in the thickest part of our feelings. Everything is hypersensitive and every emotion feels too large to contain. When your partner is upset about something, it may not seem like a big deal to you – but you’re not in your partner’s head, and you’re not feeling what they’re feeling. If you tell them that they’re overreacting, you may be setting the stage for your partner to no longer feel safe expressing certain emotions around you. At worst, you’re making them feel invalidated and unable to trust their own perception.
Dating expert Stacey Laura Lloyd says, “If your intent is to make him less upset and agitated, you’ll have the exact opposite outcome. These phrases are perceived as demeaning directives that belittle and degrade your partner. Rather than telling him how to feel and react to the matter at hand, you’ll be better able to resolve things by letting him vent and listening carefully to what he’s saying.”
Even if they are overreacting, it’s likely that they’ll come to the conclusion themselves when they’ve calmed down. But in the meantime, it’s important to validate how they’re feeling and talk it through with them. Offer your support and an ear to listen to, rather than trying to force them out of what they’re feeling.
Dealing with someone who is upset and emotional isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In fact, it can be quite complicated, because you never know if what you’re going to say is going to make them feel better or worse. What works for you may not work for your partner, and sometimes trying to be helpful can cause a lot more damage than good. But, as long as you avoid saying things that will definitely go wrong, you can work with your partner to find out what you can do when they’re upset to make them feel better without invalidating them or making them feel worse.