How can I ask my partner to be more emotionally supportive?

Often couples come to counselling because one person feels the other is not supporting them in the way that they need. We may say things like:-

  • I need you to acknowledge how I'm feeling, not just try to cheer me up or fix it!
  • It's like you're not OK that I'm upset; you'd just rather I acted iike I was happy all the time and kept my other feelings to myself.
  • You're always busy, we con't seem to really connect anymore about how we're both feeling about what's going on in our lives.
  • I know that you're stressed out about ... but can't we sometimes have a space together where we can be happy and share good feelings?

There are many reasons we might start feeling that our partner isn't there for us in the way we need - stresses with work, having young children, a change in circumstances where what we used to do to support each other is either no longer enough, or we are not able to do it in the way we used to.

 

Of course, it will be important to understand why things have changed - what's led to one or both of us feeling the other is no longer tuned into me and what I need.

 

But it's also possible, no matter how much we have going on, to be there for each other, even if the situation is far from ideal, and we are not able to make the bigger changes straight away that will mean our lives are less stressful. For example, we may have to ride out our children's early years before we are really able to take a holiday away as a couple; we might have to accept that for now, my partner's job means he is not going to be home for very long hours, 6 days a week.

 

There are some small things we can do to 'fill the tank' for each other emotionally - this can go a very long way towards feeling like, no matter how hard things are now, we're going to be OK.

 

You might try to:-

  • make sure when your partner is telling you about her/his day, you acknowledge how s/he is feeling about it. For example - "it sounds like you're really frustrated about how you're being treated at work". Or "You're really overwhelmed from lack of sleep, because the baby is still waking several times a night". Remember that acknowledgement is NOT agreeing or disagreeing, and that you don't have to find a solution or fix it!
  • make sure you have time to connect as a couple every day - no matter how short the time. It may be as simple as a hug and a kiss before you go to sleep. Try to have a longer, more meaningful connecting time at least once a week - this may involve some uninterrupted time to talk about what's going on for each of you or simply to do something enjoyable together. If you're really exhausted, this could even be watching TV together while cuddling, rather than doing separate 'down time' activities in different parts of the house!
  • check in with your partner - it may be saying something that shows you are thinking about what is happening in their world that is important to them, and asking how it went - for example: how did you go with that important meeting at work today? Or "You saw your friend who's sick today - how was it?"

These are small things that don't require investments of more time where this is scarce, but can pay huge dividends for your relationship when you're able to implement them.

 

Till next post, Vivienne

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