You want to ‘be there’ for your partner. You want to give the best love and support you can in a relationship. You also hope that our partner will want to do the same for you.
That’s what relationships are all about.
Everyone has slightly different ways of feeling loved and supported – you are a unique individual with a unique history and needs after all!
It’s natural that we give to those around us in the ways that make sense to us (and it’s usually what we want others to do for us), whether that be offer words of kindness, do something practical for them, be physically intimate or spend time just being with them.
But this is where problems can begin – how you give and receive love and support may be very different to how your partner understands love and support.
Your efforts to be loving and supportive toward your partner can go unappreciated or unnoticed – causing pain for both of you.
Perhaps on hearing you describe your ‘problem’, your partner will immediately begin trying to ‘fix it’ and start offering advice.
Perhaps your partner is going through a challenging time so you work extra hard to bring in more money – or you make an effort to fix things around the house, but still feel like your partner doesn’t see what an effort you’re making.
Maybe when your partner’s angry, you leave them alone because this is how you learned to deal with anger in your household, but then your partner tells you you’re not there for them?
Maybe you just don’t know what to do for your partner when they’re upset, so you end up doing nothing at all?
Often by the time couples make it to me for therapy, their attempts to ‘give’ to each other have been lost in translation for years – some have even given up trying. They both feel resentful and unsupported.
Support is crucial to a loving, lasting relationship.
What can you do to make sure your partner understands how much you care for them?
How can you make sure you give them the best support they need?
This one question will make you a better partner, a better friend, a better parent: “How can I support you?”
This question brings you into deeper connection with your partner. It helps you communicate better and understand each other better.
Your partner may not know the answer, but even just asking it will let them know that you care.
It will also encourage them to look inside to find out what it is they might need. Many of us have lost our ability to recognise what support we might need because we fear it makes us vulnerable and needy or we fear that we’ll feel hurt and alone if we ask for what we need and don’t get it.
Giving voice to what we want is a valuable skill.
Your answers may be:
“I need you to hold me right now.”
“I just want you to listen to me.”
“I would really like you to talk this over with me and help me find solutions.”
“I would actually benefit from some space – would you mind going out for a short walk?”
This question isn’t to be asked just once.
In different situations and on different days, we need different support.
This can be particularly confusing and frustrating for both partners, because it can feel that you can never get it right when you’re trying to help your partner!
Use this question over and over again: “How can I support you in this?” “How can I support you right now?”
Reaching out, asking and giving will help you create a strong and more loving relationship.