"While we can't ever make our partner feel any one way or another, we can certainly support them if we notice they are feeling unhappy," says relationship coach Tara Caffelle, "as it most surely will be impacting our lives, as well."
Here are 7 things you can do and say to keep your partner and their happiness (and by extension, yours) in check.
1. Notice it and ask about it
If you're connected and intimate with your partner, you're going to notice when something is off-track. There is always a caring way to address this: Without being defensive or combative, say, "I've noticed you seem a little off. What's happening for you?" Showing concern and stating what you see happening may be just the thing to get whatever is causing the unhappiness out into the open. You're basically creating a safe environment for your partner to share.
2. Acknowledge them
This is just a good standard practice in a relationship, and it's great for nudging a loved one out of a slump. It involves really seeing them, the contributions they make, and highlighting them. If your partner works long hours and then takes on a lot of the work at home in the evenings so that you can pursue your passions, acknowledge them for that. If they're giving of their time and patience with your family, let them know you notice that.
3. Honor yourself
Sometimes, we are powerless to shift the energy around our partner, and that's ok. Keep doing what makes you happy, stay rested, and take care of your own happiness. It will probably rub off eventually. The point here is to not join your partner in whatever shadowy place they may be visiting with defensiveness or anger.
4. Suggest some help
We can support our partners forever, but there does come a time when some professional help might be the best course of action. Make sure your partner knows there is no shame in seeking help, and stress that you have their happiness and well-being in mind when you suggest it. Offer to go along for moral support.
5. Take on the load, when appropriate
Further to suggesting some help, we may be called on, in some cases, to shoulder a little more of the load while our beloved gets themselves in order. If this is you, then realize that it's for a short amount of time (hopefully) and that it's all in service of the relationship's long-term happiness. And remember: They would do it for you, if the shoe were on the other foot.
6. Be supportive in a meaningful way
Sometimes, we offer help in a way we think would feel helpful for us, when really, our partner might need something completely different. For example, offering to give your partner space to process their unhappiness might be the opposite of what they'd like; they may want company. The point here is to ask how they would like to be supported and to do that.
7. Help them to redefine what "happy" is
As our lives shift through different beginnings and endings, our perception of what happy looks like can shift, too. Talk about this. Maybe the circumstances of what made things seem happy have changed, and you need to create a new version of this, together. Communicate and be open as you both explore this.
We all go through valleys in life, times that help us appreciate the peaks when they come, and with the right support and the right communication, you and your partner can keep returning to happy.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.