• Don’t insist they talk
If your partner clams up, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ignoring the problem. ‘Some people need to withdraw in order to process what’s happening,’ says Annie Lionnet, author of Brilliant Relationships (Prentice Hall Life, £10.99). ‘It may not look like it, but he/she could be giving it a lot of thought, so urging them to “face up” to something can be unhelpful.’
• Accept their triggers
‘Your partner’s stress triggers may be different from yours, but they’re no less real,’ says Lionnet. ‘Saying your partner is worrying needlessly will isolate them further. Empathise with the strain they feel, if you can’t identify with the cause.’
• Look after yourself
Watching someone you love go through a hard time can take its toll on your own mood. ‘Jumping into the pit with your partner won’t help them,’ says Lionnet.‘Don’t feel guilty about feeling happy when they’re low. Staying positive is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.’
• Let expectations go
Free your partner from the need to fulfill certain roles within your relationship. For example, if they’re usually your rock, let them know they don’t have to be strong for you now. Showing your roles can be flexible takes some pressure off.