How Your Partner Should Support You & How They Shouldn't, According To Experts
Is your partner your biggest cheerleader? Your partner should support you in a number of ways, but there are actually some ways that they shouldn't support you as well. According to experts, it can sometimes be tricky to figure how to provide love and encouragement to the other person in the relationship.
Knowing how to support someone else in a healthy and balanced way is such a common issue, and it's difficult for some people to know exactly what it means to offer emotional support to someone you love, clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly tells Bustle. Instead of blindly guessing what the other person wants and needs, be sure that you and your partner feel free to talk to each other about how you're feeling. "It’s important for the partner who is craving support to be specific about the issue at hand and exactly what would feel supportive," she says. "For example, a partner might say, 'I’m really stressed about work right now. I would love your support; It would feel so good if you went on a quiet walk with me (cuddled me, watched a movie with me, etc.).'"
If you're feeling unsupported, do your best to be as specific as possible about what you'd like your partner to do or say, so that you don't find yourself resenting them for not anticipating your needs.
Here are some ways a partner should and shouldn't support you, according to experts.
1. Should: Help You Feel Secure
When you're in a healthy relationship with a partner, they should do what they can to make sure that you feel cared for and to remind you that you're an important part of their life. "If your love interest makes you feel totally secure in the relationship, they’re a keeper," Penelope Lynne Gordon, a women’s empowerment coach and hypnotherapist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. "Red flag number one is if the person is super aloof or busy, slow to get back to you, and inconsistent," she says. "Your partner should always go out of their way to reassure you of your importance in their life."
2. Should: Support Your Dreams
Whether you've always dreamed of opening up your own gourmet cupcake bakery or want to become the best possible puppy foster parent, your partner should be there to encourage you and help you however they can. "A partner should always support you in following your dreams —in reaching for whatever goals in life feel important to you," Manly says. "This is so important because we often look to our partners to have a little bit of faith in us, particularly when our own faith has hit a low spot." If your partner isn't being as supportive of your dreams as you'd like, ask them what their hesitations are. They might actually have some very good advice to share.
3. Should: Ask How They Can Help
In a long-term committed relationship, it can be easy to assume that your partner will intuitively know what you're thinking and feeling, but this really isn't the case. "One way for a partner to support you is to ask for what you need," Ania Scanlan, MA, a licensed associate marriage and family therapist at Empowered Relationships, tells Bustle. "Asking removes assumptions which often lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications," she says. Be sure to be clear about what you need from your partner when they do ask, though. If you downplay the support that you want them to give you, they probably won't give you the support you want.
4. Should: Support Your Feelings
"Your partner needs to support your feelings," Scanlan says. "Some people are uncomfortable with feelings, and it’s easier for them to say 'don’t cry,' 'don’t be angry,' 'that’s a silly way to feel.'" Responses like these might seem harmless, but they can suggest that you should stop expressing your negative emotions to your partner. When you're in a healthy partnership, they should validate your feelings, even if they don't understand them. If your partner tends to tell you not to express strong emotions, tell them that it would mean a lot to you if they would just listen to you for a while, instead of trying to immediately make you change your mood.
5. Shouldn't: Support Destructive Behaviors
While supporting your plans and dreams should be important to your partner, they shouldn't go along with just anything you want to do, especially if you're doing something destructive. "Part of being in a healthy relationship is having hard conversations where we share our true thoughts, especially when our partner is doing something destructive," Dr. Marisa Franco, a former professor with a PhD in counseling psychology, tells Bustle. "We may realize in the long run that even if we don't like our partner's intervention, they were looking out for us all along." If you recognize that your partner is being evasive about what they really think about something you're doing, take the time to remind them that they are free to be honest with you.
6. Shouldn't: Sacrifice Their Own Needs
Partners have to make little sacrifices for each other every once in a while. Maybe one person is highly allergic to peanut butter, so the other gives up the spread. Or maybe one partner agrees to get up early and take the dog out so that the other person can sleep in a bit. Sacrificing all of your needs for the good of a relationship, though, isn't healthy. "A relationship is about compromise to ensure that each party is getting their needs met to the extent that they can," Franco says. Instead of having a relationship in which one person gets all of their needs met at the expense of the other, who is constantly sacrificing, work to find a more balanced relationship.
7. Shouldn't: Be Responsible For Making You Happy
"Happiness comes from within," Gordon says. "If you’re expecting your partner to fill a void or hole you have inside you, your relationship won’t thrive or be healthy for either of you." Yes, your partner should definitely be someone who makes you happy, but your mood shouldn't be dependent on them. If you find that you're looking to your partner as your only source of joy in your life, begin to be intentional about identifying other people or activities that bring some light to your life. If you're still having trouble, speaking with a mental health professional might be helpful for identifying happiness within yourself.
If you and your partner have found a good system of mutual support, that's amazing. If there are some areas where you could improve a bit, work to make the relationship a bit more balanced.