As the Houston marriage counselor, it’s not often that I turn to sitcoms for relationship advice, but I loved a quote I heard a while back on Modern Family: “I need to have my reaction!”

In the scene that births this line, Cameron has just learned something very upsetting, and is having a typically overblown reaction. When Mitchell tries to calm him, Cameron shuts him down with the above line. If only people were this clear about how they wanted to be treated in real life!

One of the hardest things to handle is when your spouse is going through something extremely stressful. Depending on what the stressful event is, you might feel empathetic, sad, uncomfortable, amused, or even annoyed but – and this is important – it doesn’t matter how you feel.

Houston Marriage Counselor: In Times of Stress, Support the Stressed

That may seem way too obvious, but think about how easy it is to get caught up in your emotions – especially if you say something to your stressed spouse and he or she snaps at you. What the heck? You didn’t deserve that! But it doesn’t matter. Your job is to be there for them.

Here’s the tricky part. Some people think that this means they have to try to make their spouse feel better. Others believe in agreeing that the situation is stressful so as not to minimize the feelings of their partner. Who’s right?

Well, unfortunately, that depends on your spouse and the mood that he or she is in at the time. Does your partner respond well to being comforted, or prefer you to mirror their reactions?

If you don’t know, this is a good thing to start paying attention to in less stressful times. For now, the best relationship help I can offer is to show that you care by listening and asking what you can do. If you get a negative reaction, try not to take it personally. Instead, simply apologize and be there if they need you.

For couples that can’t deal with stressful situations without getting into fights, you may want to consider talking to the Houston marriage counselor.