SupportHave you ever attempted to be helpful to a partner only to have your input rejected?

Some of the time the rejection we experience is overt and direct. At other times it is more covert and subtle. Our partner may smile and say “what a great idea!” but their body language or tone of voice may be indicating that they are rejecting us on the inside. Sometimes we were even accused of trying to “attack” our partner or being “too bossy” when we were not at all intending to do so.

If this has ever happened to you then you know how confusing and upsetting this can feel. After all, we were only trying to help!

This poses a romantic challenge. While feeling the rawness of rejection we may decide that we never want to risk getting hurt that way again. We do not want to get hurt by a defensive spouse and we may say to ourselves that there is no use trying. However, we did not sign up to be “married singles” either. “Isn’t a healthy romance about give and take?” we have asked.

Indeed it is. How then can we accept the responsibility to help each other in a kind and supportive way without feeling too afraid of the rejection that may follow?

With some insight into common pitfalls, we have compiled these three important tips that you should examine that may benefit you in becoming more effective and helpful in your relationship:

  1. First, do not give your mate input without their informed consent. The input that you have to offer is only valuable if it is desired.  You can not help someone against their will, so make sure that your partner understands what the input that they are consenting to is all about.  Do not begin with, “Can I tell you something?” because they may not be ready for the subject.  Tell them what it is you want to talk about.
  2. Second, be prepared to expose yourself at great depths. It is your experience, strength, and hope that will most benefit your mate.  You can only help another person with material that you can identify with, so it can be dangerous to a relationship to move beyond your own experience, strength, and hope. The effort you make to keeping your input focused on your own experiences will allow you to stay emotionally connected because you have a strong feeling knowledge of the material that you are suggesting. This will allow your input to be presented with empathy and caring and will have a much higher probability of your input being helpful and purposeful.
  3. Lastly, you must be willing to let go of the outcome of the support that you offer. The help that you are offering needs to come without hitches.  If your partner gets uncomfortable and starts shutting down, you need to assume that you no longer have permission to share.  Likewise, if your partner accepts that input and chooses not to act on it, then you must leave the outcome to a Higher Power. You can learn to become vulnerable and take this loving action towards your partner without the expectations for controlling your own desired outcomes. Letting go of the outcome will enable you to express yourself in a loving and nonjudgmental fashion.

None of these are guarantees, but we have found these basic guidelines very helpful in our own romance. Many of our clients as well have been able to implements these with great success. Obviously, there are situations where relationship crises may have caused significant deterioration to the coupleship and partners may need the help of a therapist, clergy, or another third party to assist them through healing and rebuilding trust. In a public forum such as Psychcentral we cannot speak for everyone’s individual circumstance.

Please click HERE to share with our readers your own experiences using some of these tools – or perhaps you have other tips that have worked for you. You can also share your struggle or your questions so we can attempt to address your concerns in our future Psychcentral articles.

 

This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples.”

 


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    Last reviewed: 14 May 2014

APA Reference
Leadem, J. (2014). Three Steps to Emotionally Supporting Your Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/couples/2014/05/emotionally-supporting-your-partner/

 

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Elaine Leadem, MSW, LCSW & John Leadem, MSW, LCSW are authors of many books, including One in Spirit & An Ounce of Prevention.
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