We tend to think that a sign of closeness with our partner is being able to talk to each other about everything, good and bad. But sometimes, the one thing you shouldn’t do when your S.O. is going through something tough is try to force them to talk about it—especially if they've expressed that they'd rather not.
For some, talking about feelings or problems just isn’t how they cope with them. They may view dishing about troubles as a sign of weakness or vulnerability, especially in front of their partner, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. They might also feel insecure or inadequate if they haven’t found a way to solve whatever their problem is.
Or even if appearing vulnerable isn't an issue, your partner still might prefer to stay mum. We all have different ways of working through stress or sadness—think exercising, going for a walk, journaling, or just spending some time alone. So when we say things like “come on, tell me, I really want to know,” or “maybe I can help,” the intention is kind, but it takes the focus off your partner’s problem and makes it more about you and your need for your them to open up, says Greer. And to your S.O., it shows that you’re disrespecting their need to solo-soothe on this one. (It’s okay to ask if your partner wants to talk, but if the answer is no, don't push.)
As long as they're finding a healthy way to deal with it, don’t be offended or worried about why you're not getting the feelings play-by-play. Instead, channel your effort to be supportive in other ways. If you can see your partner is visibly upset in the moment but doesn’t want to get into it, put your arm around your S.O., hold hands, and show some love.
You can also offer your support in subtler ways. Pick up some extra chores around the house (that’s one less thing for your partner to worry about), shoot over some sweet texts to show you’re thinking of your boo. There are so many ways we can be a supportive girlfriend without having to utter a single word of it.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.