The aim of this study was to describe partners' experiences when their spouses received care in an intensive care unit (ICU). Seven partners were interviewed using a narrative approach. The interview texts were subjected to qualitative thematic content analysis. The analysis resulted in three themes; being present, putting oneself in second place and living in uncertainty. It was a shocking experience for the partners to see their critically ill spouse in the ICU. It was important to be able to be present; nothing else mattered. Showing respect, confirming the integrity and dignity of their critically ill spouse were also essential for partners. Receiving support from family and friends was important, as were understanding and accepting what had happened, obtaining information and the way in which this was given. The state of uncertainty concerning the outcome for the critically ill person was difficult to cope with. The partners wanted to hope, even though the prognosis was poor.