10 Ways You Can Be More Supportive Through Good and Bad Times
In any healthy, romantic relationship, supporting each other is critical. One-sided relationships rarely work out, so you both need to be committed to prioritizing each other’s needs along with your own. In fact, research shows that having a supportive partner can lead to more relationship satisfaction.
So, how can you show more support in your relationship? Whether it’s during bad or good times, there are 10 ways you can be more supportive of your partner:
1. Practice Active Listening
How often do you zone out or think about what you’re going to say while your partner is talking? We’ve all done it at some point or another, so one way to be more supportive is to practice active listening. This means you’re completely engaged and focused on what your partner is saying. Here are some tips for active listening:
- Pay attention by making eye contact and putting aside any distracting thoughts
- Don’t prepare your response while they are talking
- Nod, smile, and use other non-verbal cues to show you are listening
- Pay attention to your own body language (keep your posture open and inviting)
- Respond and ask questions to show you are truly listening (“What I am hearing is…” or “Is this what you mean?”)
- Summarize what they are saying if you aren’t sure (“I may not be understanding you correctly, are you saying XYZ?”)
- Don’t interrupt and let them finish before you reply or ask questions
- Determine the best way to respond: Do they want advice? Or do they just need your support while they vent?
- Be open, honest, and respectful in your replies or opinions
- Don’t judge them for what they have to say
It’s not always easy to be fully engaged in listening, but continuing to practice will show your partner that you are interested in what they’re saying and that you truly want to help.
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2. Be More Aware of Your Overreactions
When something is wrong with your partner, your first instinct might be to jump in and help without thinking. It’s important to be more conscious of your reactions and how they might impact your partner. Most times, when you jump to conclusions and assume you know how to help, it can add more stress and leave your partner feeling overwhelmed.
If you feel the need to control the situation or “save” your partner, pull back. While you may have good intentions, you’re basically telling your partner that they are unable to handle the situation themselves and that you’re better equipped to do so. When you truly support your partner, you will empower them to take charge of their own life. It’s not your job to tell them how to do it, but rather be by their side and encourage them every step of the way.
3. Love Them For Who They Are
When things get tough (which is normal for any romantic relationship), remember the reasons you fell in love. You shouldn’t be with someone in hopes that you can change them. You should never feel like you want to hurt, put down, or punish your partner. You love them for who they are, so remember to show it! Tell them what you appreciate, their best qualities, and all of the reasons you care for them. Unconditional love means loving them at their highest highs and lowest lows.
That said, signs of toxic behavior (stonewalling, abuse, etc.) are never okay. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean you should let them treat you poorly! You need to love yourself just as much, and if someone is creating a toxic relationship, you need to support yourself and your own needs first.
4. Work On Yourself
You can’t support your partner without first ensuring you’re able to do so. If you have your own problems to solve, make sure to do that before trying to help your partner with theirs. It’s not that you can’t show support or compassion until then — you just need to be able to fully commit to helping their situation, and you can’t do that if you’re too focused on your own. Working on the best version of you helps you be the best partner possible.
5. Be More Empathetic
If your partner comes home stressed and venting after a long day of work, try to be more empathetic instead of immediately getting annoyed. Maybe they had a conflict with a coworker or received a negative email from their boss. Whatever it is, put yourself in their shoes.
It’s easy to get frustrated if you don’t understand where your partner is coming from, so make a concerted effort to cut them some slack and imagine yourself in their situation. Practicing more empathy shows respect for your partner, helps you feel more connected and increases trust.
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6. Remember That You’re a Team
During tough times, remind your partner that you’re in it together. You’re a team! You have each other’s backs no matter what. Sometimes you can forget to remind your partner of that, especially if the relationship has lasted a while. Don’t just let your partner assume that you’re going to be there for them — verbalize it and show them you mean it.
7. Give Your Partner Some Space
It is incredibly healthy to encourage time apart in any romantic relationship. Research shows that the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true! You don’t need to spend time apart on a daily basis, but you do need to find the right balance.
If you’re trying to think of how to be more supportive to your partner, giving them time to practice self-care is a great way to do it. It’s not healthy to be overly dependent on each other, so having your partner take some time to see friends, grab a cup of coffee, or get some exercise shows that you support their personal needs and well-being.
Along with giving them space, make sure to frequently check in and make sure you’re on the same page in the relationship. Check-ins are great for addressing any current issues, talking about what improvements you’ve made as a couple, and what you can work on moving forward. A healthy amount of personal space can help you both reflect on your needs and your expectations are for the relationship.
8. Apologize When You’re Wrong
It’s not always easy to admit when you’re wrong, but it’s important when you’re trying to be more supportive. Whether you broke a promise or didn’t do something you said you would, you need to show your partner that you’re capable of owning your mistakes.
The same goes for wrongfully accusing your partner. If you find yourself blaming them for something, take a moment to reflect and determine whether you are actually the one at blame. When you make a point to apologize for things (without having to be asked), your partner will appreciate it and, ultimately, they’ll trust you more.
9. Put the Phone Down
Although this is tied into active listening, it deserves its own category! We are so consumed by phones, social media, and other forms of technology that we sometimes forget to set it aside when someone else is talking. To be more supportive of your partner, show them that what they have to say is much more important than whatever is on your phone screen.
Relationship experts have actually created a term for snubbing your partner with your phone — phubbing. It can actually damage your relationship! When you’re constantly on the phone, it can lead your partner to believe they are not appreciated or valued in the relationship. They often feel like they have to “compete” with your phone. Not to mention, constant texting or scrolling can cause your partner to feel insecure about whether you’re being trustworthy and honest.
The solution? Make it a “rule” to put down the phones during dinner or when you’re hanging out in the evenings. Find what works best for you and stick to it!
10. Help Out When You Can
Is there a chore your partner absolutely hates doing? Could their car use an oil change but they haven’t gotten around to doing it? Help them out! You can be more supportive in so many different ways, but one of the simplest is to offer help when they don’t necessarily expect it.
You can also provide small, meaningful gestures. Pick up their favorite wine on the way home or surprise them with their favorite homemade dinner. The little things can have the biggest impact, and they show your partner that you’re willing to support them, even in the smallest ways.
Learning how to be more supportive might not happen overnight, but as long as you’re committed to trying, your partner will notice. Support is critical for a healthy romantic relationship, and the more you show it, the happier you both will be.
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