Whether you're still in the early stages of being in love with your partner or you've been together for years, your partner's support of your goals and emotions is probably invaluable to you. If they love you, they should be showing that support in a variety of different ways, according to experts.
"Mutual support is essential in a relationship," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. "With that being said, there are times when one partner needs more help than the other," she says. So if a few weeks go by when you feel like you're putting more energy into supporting your partner than they are into supporting you, that's probably totally healthy. "What becomes problematic is when partners resent one another for needing extra support," Cook says. "When mutual love and respect is present, that support is given without limits and there is never a sense of indebtedness."
If you feel that you aren't being supported the way you'd like to by your partner, try bringing this up with them. But another helpful strategy is to offer your own support on a regular basis. "There is nothing like some healthy modeling of the behavior you’re seeking in return," Cook says. "When you demonstrate to your partner how you are offering support, your partner will be that much more inclined to offer it."
Here are some ways your partner should support you, according to experts.
1. They Empathize With You
When you're venting to your partner about a stressful situation that's happening at work or telling them about the strain in a friendship, you want them to be sympathetic about what's going on. If your partner empathizes with you, they're showing you support. Some people might automatically want to tell you what you should do about the issue you're experiencing, but a partner who truly loves you may let you express your emotions first. "I often hear couples get frustrated with one another when their partner goes into 'advice mode,'" Cook says. "What we’re really looking for is someone to validate our feelings and support our emotional experience."
2. They Are Patient
While you're pursuing your passion, whether that's opening up your own restaurant or becoming a full-time writer, you're bound to experience some bumps along the way. But a partner who truly loves you will be there supporting you patiently while you work toward what you want. "We come into each other’s lives at different points in our journey," Cook says. "When a couple is really in love, they are willing to stay together through distance, career changes, and any other unexpected bumps." In other words, they'll fight alongside you to make even a tricky situation work.
3. They Don't Keep Score
If your partner is someone who loves giving you little gifts just because or is always there to lend a helping hand, it can be easy for them to get upset if those favors aren't returned. But a partner who truly loves you can support you by not keeping score, Cook says. "When a partner really loves you, it’s not tit-for-tat," she says. "You don’t hear, 'Well, remember when I did this for you?' There is no keeping tally; love is freely given and freely received without debt or an expectation of repayment." If you do feel like they're guilting you for not doing the same things for them that they do for you, reflect on whether you are showing them enough love.
4. They Check In Regularly
When life gets busy, it can be hard to remember to go grocery shopping, much less remember to ask your partner what they're thinking and feeling on a regular basis. But a partner who loves you will show you emotional support by checking in regularly. "When our partner cares, they reach out often — especially when it’s been stressful time," Cook says. "Whether it’s a sweet text, call, or picking up dinner, they take the extra few minutes to show that they care."
If you feel like you need a little more attention from your partner, try setting aside a chunk of time each week to intentionally connect. While this might seem weird at first, it might be just the thing you need to get into a routine of touching base on a deeper level.
5. They Help You De-Stress
When your partner loves you, they'll help you deal with your stressors in a concrete way, Dr. Catalina Lawsin, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist with specialization in couples counseling and founder of Psychotherapy Without Borders, LLC, tells Bustle. For example, if you’re stressed out about a project at work, maybe they'll help you with research you need to do, give you pointers while you practice a presentation, or even take on a little extra housework while you get through the busy time. If they aren't really sure how to help you, make it easier for them. "Identify concrete ways your partner can help and give them the opportunity to try offering that support," Lawsin says.
6. They Are Your Biggest Fan
Growing up, a parent or grandparent might have been your biggest fan, but once you become an adult in a long-term relationship, your partner will probably be your biggest supporter. If they truly love you, they'll provide you unconditional positive regard, Lawsin says. "Your partner should be your biggest fan," she says. "Their words of encouragement, highlighting of your strengths, and being your cheerleader are all ways they can show their support." If you feel discouraged about something, make sure that you give them the opportunity to cheer you on by opening up to them about how you're feeling. Because if they don't know that you need a pep talk, they might not have the chance to give you one.
7. They Help You Process Fears
A fear can have enormous power over your mental health, whether it's something as seemingly insignificant as worrying about missing your flight or something as big as worrying about losing your loved ones. Your partner is the perfect person (in addition to a mental health professional, if you need one) to help guide you through situations you're scared of, and someone who loves you will listen to you as you process fears, Lawsin says. "Your partner has seen all your different sides and when they listen — truly listen —this is a great way to show their love," she says.
If your partner loves you, they probably already show you most of these forms of support. But if they don't, ask for what you need. They might not even realize that they could be supporting you more.