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When Your Partner is Not There for You

You know that your partner loves and cares about you, but then something happens and your trust is deeply shaken.  You're facing a challenge, a medical emergency, or a family member in crisis and you want your partner beside you.  You are shocked and shaken when they aren't there in a time of need.  You start to wonder what the purpose of your relationship is if you don't have each other's backs in hard times.


While you are still feeling the hurt and grief of what you perceive to be an abandonment, you know you don't want to make any decisions.  But when you are feeling better, you want to be able to discern about the relationship and if it's right for you.  Some understanding about how these perceived abandonments happen might be helpful.


First, it may be helpful to consider that what seems like an obvious time of need to you, may not be so obvious to your partner.  Your partner may have grown up in an environment in which people were not there for each other.  Especially if your partner had a parent that used the children to meet their needs.  Your partner may have difficulty tending to your needs without fear of becoming engulfed by you and losing themselves.  If something like this is true, and you understand it, it's likely not so hard for you to find compassion for your partner.


However, when you begin a dialogue about the event in which you wanted your partner to be there for you, you expect that this can be owned.  Ideally your partner can name the obstacle to caring and have compassion and empathy for how it impacted you.  When you are instead met with defensiveness, the perception of abandonment is greater and you begin to despair about this relationship ever working.


As your partner defends their reason for not being there, perhaps criticizes you, and refuses to hear your pain about the event, they are likely fending off shame.  They have, somewhere in the depths of their consciousness, decided that making a mistake in relationship means they are worthless or somehow bad or broken; and that admitting to a mistake is equivalent to revealing this.  Often this kind of shame is hidden behind layers of defenses. Consistent healing work and mindfulness is needed to uproot this pernicious view.


If all this is true of your partner, where does it leave you?  You can stand in the simplicity of knowing that you do want a partner who can offer support for certain things.  You are happy to let them know what these things are and happy to repair when there are misses on either side.  You know you trust that your partner is good and has good intentions.  You certainly don't believe they are somehow bad for having not been there when you wanted.  You have the energy and willingness to learn how to love your partner and teach them how to love you.


A few questions remain.  Does your partner want to know how to be there for you and if so, do they say yes to the things that are most important for you?  If there is a willingness, is there also a capacity?  That is, has your partner done or are they in the process of doing the inner work that enables them to offer empathy, engage in effective repair, and learn new ways of relating.


Often questions like this can only be answered through experiences together.  Each you have new experiences that deepen your understanding of the process the two of you are in.  Each day you can check in with your own inner resources and ask yourself, "Am I thriving in this relationship?  If not, how much energy and willingness do I have to continue?"


In all of this, it's helpful to stay anchored in the validity of your own needs regardless of whether your partner is able to offer support around them or not.  It's also helpful to remember that your partner, like all of us, is doing the best they can and sometimes healing work can happen within a relationship and sometimes relationships need to end so that you can both pursue what's most supportive



Take a moment now to name three things that are essential for you to have support around in your relationship.


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