A romantic relationship takes work. One of the central elements to cultivate is the ability to be supportive and offer your partner a safe haven, a person who will have their back and who will put an effort into making the relationship work.
Here are a few ideas for how you can be a truly supportive partner and help your connection grow and thrive.
Understand before opposing
The first step is to truly take the time to understand your partner and to listen to what they are saying before reacting and especially before saying no. Often, we just go along with the assumptions we have and react accordingly, so it’s important to first truly open ourselves to what the other person is saying without judging and only then reacting.
A skill like active listening when we pay full attention to what they are saying and taking the time to understand what they mean.
Be willing to make small adjustments
You need to be willing to make compromises, and the best way to start is with small things that matter to your partner. You don’t have to change every aspect of your behavior, of course, but if you can get rid of small annoyances, it can make a huge difference for your partner.
Focus on the things that cause most problems and that don’t mean that much to you. While it might take a bit of an effort, it is something your partner is sure to appreciate and recognize.
Speak up whenever something is bothering you
It can seem reasonable to keep whatever bothers you hidden. After all, it might feel like the way to maintain harmony. However, when these things remain unaddressed, they tend to build up resentment that eventually results in bigger conflicts.
A big part of being supportive is being honest and open, able to communicate in a respectful way when something is bothering you and being open to your partner doing the same thing. This helps you address issues before they get too big and also build a comfortable two-way communication process that allows you to tackle big and small problems as they occur.
Avoid public confrontation
It’s very uncomfortable to be privy to a couple’s fight or criticisms of each other. It can also be humiliating for the partner to have their mistakes or problems addressed in front of other people. If you are speaking up, it’s best to do it when it’s just the two of you and you are both ready for the conversation.
Doing it in public can feel uncomfortable for all involved and make the person more defensive, as it feels like more of an attack on them. It’s important to point out any problems, as we discussed above, but doing it in front of other people is unlikely to be productive and puts you more in conflict with your partner. Wait until you are alone.
Take the initiative
A relationship is based on give and take, but if you are mostly OK with this balance, it’s not worth paying too much attention to how you give and how you take. Don’t think that you are always the one doing something, as that can build up resentment for your partner.
If you start, the other person is sure to follow, but if you choose to wait until they do something, you could be waiting for a long time. You have the power to make effective, positive changes in your relationship – take advantage of it, and your partner can follow your lead when you set the example.
Ask what kind of support your partner needs
Some people give great advice, others are good at solving problems. But sometimes, we need other things from our partner. Ask them what they want and how you can best support them in the situation, and then stick with what they said. This can help you be more supportive in a way that actually helps the person and gives them what they need.
Communicate openly about your own needs as well and be responsive to what your partner asks, which helps create reciprocity. Different types of support are required at different times: encouraging words, help with tasks, solutions, advice, and so on.
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