Everyone needs support. At times, we have a need to tell our story, to be heard, and to share our feelings. Support is something that we all like – yet we don’t always know the healthiest ways to ask for it, give it, or even receive it.
How do you try to support a partner? Do you attempt to make them feel better? Do you try to reason with them, fix something for them, or solve their problem? Do you ever tell them they shouldn’t feel the way they do?
Ironically, such efforts to help can make matters worse. While problem solving, you may forget to listen. Despite your good intentions, you may unwittingly interrupt your partner as you get involved in the attempt to solve things, upsetting them further.
It is far better just to listen!
The most supportive thing you can do is to really hear what a partner is saying. This helps them more than anything else. Simply accept where they are. Accept them, whatever they feel. Just show up, be emotionally available, and listen. Find out what your partner really feels, then offer them space to feel it – in your presence.
Partners sometimes have trouble just listening. The card SUPPORT encourages you to become more comfortable letting your partner say whatever they need to say and feel whatever they feel. To help yourself do this, remember to breathe – and keep breathing as you listen to them. Realize there is nothing to solve or fix. Don’t take anything they say personally. Since feelings are not rational, don’t try to correct what they say. You need only be present, witnessing them as they feel whatever they feel. Your availability and your acceptance are among the greatest gifts you can give to a partner.
This is not to say that support cannot sometimes confront. Support does not allow a partner to become abusive. Support can challenge a partner to be and do their best. It doesn’t go along with a “poor me” story line. Accept that someone may feel bad, but don’t reinforce their story about being a victim; there is little growth to be found in blaming others. It’s more supportive to assist people in moving beyond their story of why something happened to them. Encourage them to simply experience their feelings.
Only after a person has passed through their feelings can they move forward. Only then will it be possible to consider logical choices and courses of action. Support goes from the emotional to the rational – in that order.
A word of caution: If you feel drained or get upset in the process of giving support, check your boundaries. You may need to take time out to deal with an issue of your own that is coming up in order to regain your resourcefulness. If so, say something like, “I have to take some time out now to center myself, so I can hear you better. I really care about what you are saying – and I will return in a little while.”
In supporting your partner, realize that it is a choice, not an obligation. Support will be clear and powerful when you truly want to support your partner – and when you can center yourself in a quiet heart and accept them fully, no matter what they feel, without trying to fix or change anything.