There are times in every relationship where one partner is going through a rough period. In those periods, we have to learn how to be there for them. But what does “being there” for your girlfriend really mean?

The first thing you need to realise is that being there for your girlfriend does not mean fixing the situation or rescuing her from whatever is going on.

For a lot of guys, that’s the first thing they think of. Or it’s the conclusion they jump to. Obviously we want to help our loved ones, and we also have the primal urge to protect those close to us.

However, we all need to realise not every situation can be fixed. We are often caught up in situations we can’t solve. In fact, it’s by trying to fix and unfixable problem that we can in fact make it worse.

So realise now that “being there” for your girlfriend does not mean saving her from whatever horrible situation she is in. If you focus on this, you’ll end up missing the signs that show you what she really needs.

Start with the literal

The easiest part of “being there” for anyone is in the literal sense. That is, to be physical present of contactable. It sounds simple right? You don’t even really have to do anything, other than exist in a very speific place.

It turns out that one simple trick goes a really long way. Sometimes, in fact, it’s the only thing you need to do. Don’t underestimate how big a difference you can make to someone, even when you’re not doing anything.

The key to being literally there for someone is to let them know that you are there if they need you. You need to confident that you’re going to be able to be a steady presence and that they can trust and depend on you.

That means being contactable first. Whether that’s just being ready to reply to their text, take a call, or drive with them to McDonald’s at 3am to cry into a double cheeseburger.

But you can’t come across as pushy. You don’t need to make your presence constantly known. Only that it’s available. Sending the occasional text such as “thinking of you” can let your girlfriend know you’re not only there but you also care.

The art of listening

Possibly one of the hardest skills anyone can ever learn. Listening is just not as easy as we all think it is.

To really, truly listen to someone, you have to let open yourself up to them. You have to let them speak, without interruption, and take in exactly what it is they’re saying.

It’s a hard skill because a lot of the times, we’re just unable to truly listen without inputting our own opinions. We try to empathise with others by relating things they’re saying to our own experiences, but if you voice this you can come across as selfish.

Because if you’re busy thinking about how you can relate to them, you end up thinking about yourself. But this isn’t about thinking about yourself, rather it’s about being there for the other person.

When listening to someone, you’re not required to understand everything they are saying. Don’t feel pressured to know what they feel like, or have a solution to it.

It’s ok to simply sit, listen and tell them that they’ve been heard. You can explain there are parts you don’t quite understand. You can ask them to clarify or go into more detail in certain areas.

The point is to take a genuine interest in what it is they have to say, and not to make this about you. We often don’t realise when we bring topics back to ourselves, but these subconscious actions can really hurt our partners.

Stay grounded

When someone is going through rocky times, it can be a lifesaver for them to have a rock to hang onto. Being a steady presence in their life does that.

But for you to be strong, to be someone they can trust and depend on, you need to stay grounded. Be the calm in their ocean of crazy.

Stay honest with the other person. It’s ok to share your feelings with them as well. You don’t need to put on a happy face for them, or to pretend the situation doesn’t upset you.

However, just make sure that whatever emotions or feelings you’re feeling because of the situation, it won’t change the fact that your girlfriend can still depend on you.

Reading body language and noticing signs

Not everyone wants to talk. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to give the other person space to sort out their own feelings.

Wanting to jump right in and sort things out as fast possible sounds like the most efficient path, but it’s hardly ever the most effective.

Giving someone space doesn’t mean cutting all contact with them. It means not crowding them, not pushing them to tell you stuff or explain themselves.

You can still be physically there for someone even with giving them space. The occasional text to remind them you’re thinking about them can remind them you’re there. Sending flowers to their house to cheer them up can be a nice gesture that doesn’t require you to actually meet you.

The number one thing about giving space is to recognise when the other person wants to be left alone, and when they want to be comforted. There’s no black and white answer for body language, as each situation is unique to the individual. We simply have to learn how our own partners work.

But just remember to always be there for them if they need you, without pushing them into telling you anything, and not to try and fix the situation or make it about yourself.