Congratulations on the relationship and good job taking a step towards better communication!
The advice below applies to cases where it is not your fault and she does not perceive it as your fault - though it can be mostly applied in that case too.
These conversations end badly because I cannot get what the real problem is from her texts so I answer with something that makes her angrier for not understanding her.
Well, there are two options.
- Either she is looking for emotional support from you.
- Or she is looking for practical support from you.
The way to deal with them is entirely different. Let me start with practical support which is easier:
This is when she's calling you with a problem and wants you to fix it. This is clearly indicated by asking for help ("can you help me with this?"). If she does not explicitly asks for help but you still suspect practical help might be appreciated you can ask
Is this something you want me to try and fix for you or do you want me to just be here for you?
If the issue is about practical support I recommend you ask clarifying questions until you understand the issue rather than answer. If answers make her angrier then don't answer - instead ask as many questions as you need in order to understand the issue and only then comment about it.
Hey, I really want to get to the bottom of this and make sure I understand you. Can you please explain why X?
Try to be kind and non-judgmental. If she is getting defensive it's because she does not feel safe.
Then, after she has given you all the information - suggest concrete actions, let her pick from the alternatives, clarify it until it is clear to all sites and work on it together.
A lot of time in relationships people just need other people to be there for them. If this is the case (and this is common) you do not need to actually answer anything at all.
Instead, you need to:
1. Make her feel safe
Hey, I'd love to hear about all of this. I am here for you and I want to hear you out. You are welcome to tell me as much or as little as you want and I promise not to judge or criticise your feelings.
Then actually hear her out, try to be empathic and see where she is coming from and be non-judgmental. You do not need to fix anything here - just to hear her out.
2. Acknowledge her feelings
When she says she feel a certain way - simply acknowledge that. So if she say something along the line of:
X was really mean to me today and I'm frustrated!
Rather than say something about X, you can respond with:
Wow yeah, that does sound really frustrating. It gets really frustrating when people are mean to you sometimes.
Similarly, if she says something like:
I am really sad because Y happened.
You can say:
That makes sense, Y is something that can make people sad. I'm sorry you're sad and I'm here for you - thanks for telling me.
You do not need to solve X or Y for her - only to be there and listen.
3. De-Escalate and empathize
If she is frustrated, sad or angry about something. You can:
De-escalate the situation when it is emotionally unstable. This can be done constructively (after acknowledging it) in several ways. Here are some (but certainly not all) examples:
- You can do somatic breathing (meditation)
- You can re-frame the situation in a way that does not paint it is pervasive or personal (but does not invalidate it!)
- You can ask for a 5 minute pause to eat/go to the toilet/drink.
- You can affirm your affection for her ("I love you and care about you").
Then empathise with her. If you had a previous situation (especially with a favorable outcome) you can bring it up and emphasise the struggle and how you dealt with negative feelings during it. This helps reduce stigma and intensity.
In particular experiences of overcoming help.
The most important thing is to be there in both cases listen and be compassionate to her issues.