Your significant other failed the bar exam. There might not be a more helpless feeling in the world. What do you do for someone who has to put up with such disappointment? Here are some steps forward!
My Significant Other Failed the Bar Exam! What Should I Do?
1. Give unconditional support.
Failing the bar exam is disappointing, depressing, embarrassing, frustrating, and a million other emotions all at once. Your significant other is going to be at a low ebb. As worried and anxious as you might be, give them unconditional support. Let them feel angry and/or sad as long as they need to. Take any lashing out, even about unrelated things, in stride. They are feeling extremely vulnerable, and need space to vent. They are most likely taking the news personally, and have less self-confidence than normal. Make sure you do not add to any feelings of inadequacy.
Also help your significant other remember he or she is not only person to fail the bar exam. Plenty of very successful people failed the bar exam. It is not an indicator of how smart they are, or of how well they will practice law in the future. Rather, it is simply a reflection of one bad test experience.
Note that it is important not to point out everything they did wrong during their studies. Don’t dole out advice from when you passed the CPA exam, or boards, or any other exam (even if you passed the bar exam!). In the beginning, your significant other does not need to hear any advice! So unless they ask, keep quiet!
2. Let him or her set the terms for talking about it.
Although you will obviously want to comfort them right away, it is best to let your significant other set the parameters of the subject. They may not want to talk about it at all for a few days. They may want to talk about nothing else for a while. That’s OK and normal! Regardless of their approach, just go with it. Forcing a conversation will not help the situation. They will open up when they are ready. Be patient and understanding.
3. When they are ready, offer to help them plan moving forward
Eventually, once the mourning period is over, you may need to help your significant other move forward. The best way to do this is to help them figure out what they will do differently next time. So this is the time to give your input and let them know you are on their side! If they want advice, be an active participant in the conversation.
In the end, the most constructive way to help someone who failed the bar is to figure out a path moving forward. Help them keep the focus not on their failure, but on what they are going to change moving forward. Here’s a list of questions we developed that can help them identify what went wrong, and what they are going to do about it moving forward.
If they do not want your help, you can simply point them to the resource and let them take care of it from there. Or if they prefer to do it all on their own, that is okay too. The important thing is that you are supporting them in the way they want to be supported.
In conclusion, the best thing you can do is be there for them! Love and support are the best medicine for a bar exam failure.
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