The Signs You’re Not a Supportive Partner

Offering your support is a big part of being a good partner. Without mutual support, you’re not giving your relationship a fighting chance. But before you start playing the blame game, taking a look at your own behavior is the first step in trying to better your relationship with your partner. From not-so-obvious signs to red flags that are staring you right in the face, your skills as a supportive partner may need some work. Here are five things to look out for, and ways you can do better in the future.

1. You dismiss their feelings

sad man sits on the end of the bed while his partner looks stern

Are you able to see your partner’s point of view, even when you don’t agree? | iStock.com

You and your partner aren’t going to see eye to eye 100% of the time, and that’s OK. You are in a relationship, after all, and those typically require a great deal of compromise — even agreeing to disagree in some cases. But in all cases, your partner shouldn’t feel as though you don’t care about their feelings. Sure, you may somewhat disagree — or strongly disagree — but that’s no reason to totally dismiss them in the moment.

How you can be more supportive

scene from Knocked Up

Your partner will appreciate the effort you put in to being more supportive. | Source: Universal Pictures

Just because you don’t know exactly how someone else is feeling, doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge what they’re going through is real. In fact, telling your partner you know exactly how they feel may not be the best idea, seeing as there’s no way to actually know what’s going on inside their mind. What you can do, though, is let them know you understand they’re feeling a certain way, reassuring them you do actually care.

2. You don’t believe your partner will succeed

beautiful, young woman with her boyfriend in car

Having no faith in your partner only sets them up for failure. | iStock.com/AleksandarPetrovic

A big part of being supportive is believing your partner can accomplish what they set out to do. Regardless of whether you actually say the words out loud, your partner will sense your negativity and disapproval. If you think your significant other is destined fail, not only are you discouraging them from completing the task at hand, but you’re also not providing them with a safe space to go after their dreams in the future.

How you can be more supportive

Couple Looking at Laptop, travel

If your partner has a goal, let him or her know you’re there to support them. | iStock.com

Whether a person wears their heart on their sleeve or is seemingly void of all human emotion, most of us need support in order to be successful. Give your partner heaps of support, and they’ll likely be all that more motivated to achieve their goals.

3. You discredit their disease or condition

Lying down and sad

When your partner’s in pain, they may need you more than you think. | iStock.com/Marjan_Apostolovic

We get it, some people can be a little dramatic. At the first sight of a runny nose, suddenly they’re doomed and out of commission for the rest of the week. Whether your partner is one of these types or not isn’t really the point here. The point is you need to support your partner in their time of need. We’re not suggesting you give into bogus claims or outrageous self-diagnoses, but remember to be gentle when your partner is going through a tough time.

How you can be more supportive

lesbian couple laughing together

Simply being there for your partner will go a long way. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

While you can’t actually take on their pain, you can supply a little TLC. And one way to do that is to relate to your partner on their level. You may not know exactly what they’re going through, but you can likely empathize on some level. Just take a look at Brené Brown’s famous explanation of sympathy versus empathy.

“Empathy is feeling with people,” Brown explains, whereas sympathy is putting the silver lining around it. For instance, when someone says they had a miscarriage, is responding with “At least you can get pregnant” really being supportive? Not really. Furthermore, Brown says, “What makes something better is a connection.” So, instead of trying to negate your partner’s tough time, or skate right over it, you, your partner, and the relationship will benefit from doing just the opposite.

4. You’re your partner’s biggest critic

Couple fighting hard

Too much harsh criticism can do more harm than good. | iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Giving your partner your honest opinion is helpful, but being too critical time and time again is hardly beneficial. As Alicia H. Clark, a Washington D.C.-based psychologist, told The Huffington Post, moral support should be abundant. Additionally, nitpicking and constant criticism in your relationship are troubling signs. If you really can’t find a way around being super critical, there may be a much deeper issue you need to address.

How you can be more supportive

young couple in the morning

Supporting your partner means being there emotionally, as well. | iStock.com/Ivanko_Brnjakovic

As partners, you should be each other’s biggest supporters, no matter what. There’s a big difference between constructive criticism and brutal honesty, and it’s important to know just what that difference is. Find out which ways your partner best responds to your reactions. Do they shut down when you’re being too harsh? Maybe it’s time to consider being more sensitive in your delivery. In doing so, you’ll show them you’re supportive, even when you don’t necessarily agree on something.

5. You make all the decisions for them

Young couple having playing videogames

Refuse to relinquish control, and your plan will backfire. | iStock.com/nazarovsergey

While this may sound like you’re offering support for your partner, controlling every decision on their behalf is far from helpful. It’s actually quite the opposite. You’re only stripping your partner of the ability, and confidence, to make decisions on their own. You’re their partner, not their parent, so try to resist the urge to act like one.

How you can be more supportive

Couple shopping online at laptop computer

If you really support your partner, you’ll give them the space to make their own decisions. | iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Your partner doesn’t need you to make their decisions for them, rather they need your encouragement. A little guidance when asked is totally fine, but just be sure you’re not overstepping or putting yourself in the driver’s seat. It’s important for any person to feel empowered that they can handle any situation or challenge that comes their way, but babying them will only make them feel the opposite.

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