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My girlfriend said:

"Sometimes it is good to just be on the side of your loved one"

and I have no idea how to do that.

We've been together for a bit less than a year and it's my first serious relationship. A similar issue already happened and it was just ignored in the end, and I'd like to know what to do when it happens next time. And if it's still possible, what to do now.

This time the situation was about her job as a teacher. She received a complaint from a parent about how she handled a situation with a child that got into a fight. She told me about the incident and we joked about it a bit, everything seemed fine, but then today she got the complaint and showed it to me.

As she previously told me she doesn't want me to tell her she's not doing a good job when I agreed with one of the parents, I just sent a shrug emoji. Right after that, she told me she doesn't want to talk about it and I replied "ok", ready to drop it. That got her angry at me and sad that I don't support her.

I don't know how to reply in that situation that would show my support while I don't actually think she did the completely right thing, but I don't know all the details either. If I ask for more details to actually make an opinion she gets upset because I'm questioning her and not supporting her. And if I avoid the topic she gets upset because I'm not very clearly supporting her so I must be against her.

How to show my support without outright lying and saying that I think the other side is completely wrong?

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  • She's told you what you shouldn't be telling her when you agree with the parents and not her... did she also tell you what your support should look like? Is anything stopping you from bringing this up with her, and asking her personally what she expects of this rule then?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Nov 25 at 13:26
  • @Tinkeringbell She didn't tell me that. Last time we had a problem she avoided that question and this time I told her that I don't know how to do what she asked, but she left the conversation before I typed that and later just "seen" it Nov 25 at 13:49
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There are many many ways to be by your partner's side in that specific situation. Sure, one is:

That parent is completely wrong, you did nothing to merit a complaint, I'll help you write a note to the principal right now!

But others are:

Oh boy, that would make me really upset/angry/frustrated

Really? That's what she wrote?

Oh wow! What are you going to do next?

That doesn't seem like a fair description of what happened.

and so on.

Not trying to solve the problem. Not interviewing her to see if you should be on her side or not. Not announcing what the facts are. Caring. Asking about her reaction to this. Assuming she is right as a starting point.

These sorts of replies (which I have given to a variety of friends and family who are upset about something I don't know fully) give the other person a chance to elaborate, and to provide details you need or else just work through their own options and feelings. They encourage a response that continues to discuss the situation.

A shrug literally says "Whatever, this doesn't matter to me." It cannot be supportive. Supportive doesn't mean "I am sure that in any situation you handle it perfectly." That person doesn't need support. It means "I think you're a good person and I am here for you even if you make a mistake or get grumpy or forget something. You matter to me and I want you to be happy."

Also, "I don't want to talk about it" usually means "you are not talking about this in a way that would work for me." Replying "ok" to that means "sure, fine, I didn't want to help anyway." Not great.

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My GF has a leading role in a "multiple teams" organization. Each of these teams have a specific job to do, and they are all linked in one way or another. Each one has an impact on the others. More than often, se needs to (must!) have it both ways. And it far from being easy. How do I know that? Because we talk a lot. As she's a great professional, and a very smart person, she has to navigate between rocks and pitfalls. A path must be found between the dangers. That's how I improved my skills: listening to her. Listening to what happened, how she reacted, how she feels, has helped me in my professional, but also personal, life. You listen, and bring solutions, and you're careful to not make bigger problems arise. I'm the supporting ear of her job problems, and it helps both of us to better understand each other.

If you want to show support to your partner, first and foremost: listen when she talks, and even (above all!) if she complains. Listen. A lot of people need to (kind of) "rant" in order to vent their frustration or anger. They know they were right, but coulnd't do more than help and say nothing. But also, sometimes, you can't correct people who are wrong, they have to realize that they are by themselves. They can do that with the help of a friendly ear.

My best advice would be to not try to solve the problem for her. Ask questions. Ask for clarification. Show interest, but don't be judgemental. You're not the court, nor the judge, and this isn't a trial. There's no need to find someone guilty or not at the end :)

You said that once you were on the parents' side. She may have felt betrayed, or at least not being supported by her SO. She may now be careful and playing defensive anytime she shares a problem at work. But, in my opinion, you can't just answer with an emoji or a short "ok", you need to listen to her feelings, to her guts. Let her explain with details what happened, what was expected (from her or the kids or parents). Dig deeper if you think you didn't properly understand the situation.

You don't need to say too much as long as you listen to what she has to say. I do that all the time, as my GF has taught me, and it works really good :)

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