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Supporting Your Partner


Lets start with a husband or wife who is toying with the idea of leaving their full time paying job to follow a dream – their own business, writing a book, or marketing an invention.  Instinct aside, your reaction should be to listen to the whole presentation without interruptions or giving disapproving looks.  Your body language is EVERYTHING.  Uncross those arms, lose that scowl or frown, and be genuinely open to the new concept.  Fight the urge to shut down mentally and to prepare your negative response or criticism.  Really hear what they have to say.  Once you have given them your undivided attention and they’ve had the opportunity to completely present the idea, you should respond with something “supportive” such as “That sounds really good,” or “I’m really impressed with how you’ve come up with such an innovative idea.”  This may not be how you really feel, but who knows… if you actually listened to him or her with an open mind, this may actually be how you truly feel.  Unfortunately, many people don’t listen to a whole presentation without shutting down immediately or shortly after the person starts to talk.  Either that or they are spending much of the time thinking about what they will respond with. This prevents them from not only having an open mind, but from hearing the full story.

So, what happens next as a supportive partner?  Well, you have to follow through.  You’ve heard the idea, you’ve complimented the person for being so innovative, and maybe you’ve even added ideas of your own to help advance your partner’s goal.  Now, you need to let them proceed without putting obstacles in their path.  Only you know what those obstacles are, and you have to continue the process of listening, hold back on negativity, and not place obstacles or “sabotaging” their efforts. That is a truly supportive partner.

What about the day to day support system of a husband or wife?  That is more complex to discuss because different types of couples have different types of needs. There is the couple who has children; the couple with one working spouse; the couple with two working spouses; or the couple which has a disabled partner, aging parent, or disabled child to care for.  All of these types of couples have different problems and the way to be supportive can be very specialized.  So, lets be generic as to what a supportive spouse should be. 

We all enter a relationship with our own individual ideas of what a partner “should” be.  We develop our ideas based on our parents and how they were, or maybe even television shows that we have watched and thought, “That is how a relationship should be.” No matter how our ideas were formed, just remember that our husband or wife has done the same thing. They have developed their own ideas of what a relationship should be and now you two are coming together to make your own little family.  Needless to say, there is a good chance that the two of you may have very different formulas for the perfect relationship.  The problems begin when neither of you are doing what your partner believes you SHOULD be doing.  Well, of course not… you’re doing what YOU believe is the correct thing to do. So, how do you come together and be supportive to each other on a day to day basis?

First of all, communication is the key factor. Have a discussion BEFORE you join together permanently, so that each of you knows how your partner or potential partner feels about the daily aspects of life. Discuss if/when you want children, if/when you will have pets, how you feel about drug/alcohol use or gambling (you’d be surprised how many people fight over this), which of you will work or stay home with kids, how the household chores are divided between a husband and wife, how you feel about traveling, whether religion is a deal breaker, and maybe even politics could be a potential issue. You don’t need to agree on everything, but at least you’ll know whether any of these topics will be so drastically different from your partner that there is no way to resolve the difference. This would be a good time to keep looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. 

If you decide to ignore the potential disaster, then you need to accept the fact that you will probably not have a supportive relationship with your partner, or you will need to alter your perception of what a supportive relationship really is. 

A supportive relationship is one that does not judge or criticize when your partner does something different than you. He/she is their own person – an adult – who gets to be themselves whether you agree with it or not. And you get to be your own person – an adult – who gets to be who you are whether he/she agrees with it or not. He likes beer, you like wine. He likes computers, you like television. He likes to stay at home, you like to travel. He likes to go to happy hour for an hour after work, you like to go directly home. None of these things are deal breakers.  Let him be him, and he should let you be you. After all, isn’t it all about being supportive and both of you being happy?

What about the “really important” event that either he or she wants to attend?  Your partner doesn’t really want to go, but this is also where the compromise and support comes in. Make a pact early on in the relationship – when one of you has something that is very important to you but doesn’t really matter either way to the other, then the couple will go the event together, as a supportive gesture. That doesn’t mean holding this over their head or keeping tabs on who has more “wins.” This means doing it out of love and support, and you’ll find that your partner will gladly reciprocate when the tables are turned.














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