Support is one of the most important aspects of successful relationships. Knowing that our partner will comfort us and be there for us through difficult times enhances the feeling of connection and value of our relationship. However, for different people support can mean different things, and that is where big trouble in paradise may arise.
“I wish he could be more supportive”.
“She complains and then when I try to help her she doesn’t appreciate it”.
Very often, too much of the wrong kind of support and too little of the kind of support we need can lead to misinterpretation, frustration, anger, resentment, and damage of intimate connection.
The most common example is when one partner is reaching out for emotional support while the other is trying to fix the problem without validating their partner’s emotions. Soon they both become frustrated – one for not feeling understood and listened to, and the other because their advice is dismissed and their efforts unappreciated.
But how to break this cycle?
Let’s clarify a couple of things first.
What people who complain actually want?
For some this will come as a surprise, but what people most often seek when talking about their problems is not the solution. It is understanding.
People want to feel like they are not alone in this problem, that someone gets where they’re coming from and what they’re experiencing. It’s not only understanding but also validation of their emotions that they’re looking for. As counterintuitive as it may sound, a person complaining wants to hear how her situation really is hard and how things do suck and how she is right for feeling frustrated, angry, or sad.
Having someone who carefully listens and understands what we’re going through feels cathartic. It takes off the burden of having to deal with the situation alone and tells us that it’s okay to feel the way we feel. Emotional support lessens the pressure, which gives some clarity and, finally, makes space for taking an action toward resolving the problem.
However, what many don’t realize is that, by giving advice, they are rushing a person to this final step, which is counterproductive.
Why offering advice is not the best strategy?
People who offer advice usually have the best intentions. They are moved by the desire to be helpful and want the other person to feel better. And while it can be nice to hear someone else’s perspective, what usually happens with advice without emotional support is exactly the opposite – a person with a problem feels worse.
Part of why receiving advice feels so unfulfilling is that the person didn’t ask for it in the first place. They received something they don’t need and haven’t got what they actually wanted. Some may even understand unsolicited advice as a sign of disrespect to their ability to deal with their own problems.
An additional reason is that the person who receives advice instead of emotional support feels rushed to “stop complaining”. They want to feel understood and heard, but instead, the underlying message they receive is: “I feel uncomfortable listening to your negative emotions and want to make this stop as quickly as possible”. It can feel like the person who gave advice put their needs and wants first – to feel helpful and to end the uncomfortable situation.
The frustration that results from a mismatch in the way partners understand emotional support is mainly a communication problem. Thus, to get on the same page with your partner, you need to talk to each other openly and without judgment, get clear about your needs, and discuss how to overcome differences and give each other the right kind of support.
“This is how I feel, and this is how you can help me”
Often, when we come to our partner with an issue, their automatic reaction is to try to help us fix the issue practically. It makes sense – if we remove a problem, our negative emotions will also stop. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need – a fresh perspective and possible options that will help us solve the problem. But more often than not, we need a much different kind of support, an emotional one.
So, how to get emotional support instead of advice? Ask for it.
Expecting support from your partner is okay. It’s the foundation of a good relationship. But assuming your partner knows what kind of support you need (and even worse, refuses to provide it to you) is the way of thinking guaranteed to lead to bitterness, disappointment, and unhappiness. No partner should be a mind reader. If you feel your partner is not in tune with your need for support, stating clearly how they can help you instead of waiting for them to figure it out could save you both from dissatisfaction and resentment down the road.
Sometimes we don’t even know what we’d like to get from our partner but only that we’re not getting it. Funny enough, it doesn’t prevent us from becoming irritated with our partners. It may be a good idea to ask yourself beforehand what kind of support you need and what your partner could do. This will help you be much more clear and direct in communication.
Learn the right way to ask for support
Stating clearly what kind of support you need is great, but asking for it in the right way is even more important. When our partner keeps offering advice without acknowledging our emotions, it’s easy to follow the same resentful pattern where we think, or even say things like: “You always do this”, “You never listen to me”, “Why can’t you, just for once, understand my feelings?!”.
Criticism most probably won’t lead to a satisfying solution. Instead, a criticized person feels the need to defend themselves and their point of view, which likely won’t end up in changing their behaviour. In their need to protect themselves they may start finding flaws in your behaviour (“I’m trying to help you, can’t you appreciate it?”, “You don’t understand”, “Nothing I do is good enough for you!”), and before you know it, you might end up in an argument. Not the most constructive thing, right?
So, it may be a good idea to ditch the criticism and use I statements. Instead of: “You always do this and never do that”, saying something like: “I feel like this and I would like you to do that. It is what I need and it would really help me to feel better. Would you please?” could be much more productive. It gives your partner a clear idea of how they can ease your pain, which is what they want to do in the first place. Also, it decreases the possibility of them feeling attacked and becoming defensive.
Talk openly and come up with a mutually acceptable solution
As mentioned before, problems that arise from a discrepancy between partners on how they like to give and receive support stems mainly from poor communication on the issue. Your partner and you may be different, and that’s okay. Talk with each other about how you like to give and receive support and in what ways the right kind of support helps you feel better. Find out the differences and commit to finding a mutually acceptable solution. Teach your partner what feels best for you, and learn what kind of support they want.
If you both come from the place of mutuality where you truly care about each other, you can be open to learning ways of supporting your partner the way they need you to. Keep anger or defensiveness aside and stay connected to caring feelings you have for your partner.
Additionally, whenever you notice your partner does something that emotionally supportive, tell them and show your appreciation. Telling your partner what they are doing well will encourage them to keep that behaviour in the future, but also will grow intimacy in your relationship.
Again, open communication and mutual understanding is the key. But if, after all your efforts of asking for emotional support clearly and in a loving way, your partner still doesn’t provide it, then that’s the issue that probably goes beyond this topic.
If you find this post helpful, please leave the comment below and share it on social media – maybe others will find it helpful too!
“Successful relationships master the art of apology”
– The Gottman Institute
There is no such thing as a perfect partnership. However strong and stable your relationship may be, it inevitably stumbles from time to time. Disagreements happen, careless words might be said, anger might be expressed inappropriately, insensitivity manifested, or trust broken. Whatever it is, harm has been done and feelings got hurt.
Making mistakes is what makes us humans. But when you’ve hurt your partner, knowing the right way to apologize makes all the difference. True apologizes strengthen, not diminish your relationship.
Obviously, some mistakes are bigger than others, and sometimes saying sorry is not enough. Knowing you’ve hurt the one you love feels awful. You might become frustrated when it seems like whatever you do makes things worse. It is easy to feel hopeless when you simply don’t know what to do to fix things.
Apologizing to your partner and healing your relationship involves more than just saying “I’m sorry”. Let’s see what you can do to effectively start reconnecting again after you’ve hurt your partner.
Offer Sincere Apology
Okay, this sounds like an obvious one, but it’s important to highlight what an honest apology really is.
Genuine apology is directed toward your partner’s hurt and possibly healing the damage your actions have caused, not necessarily on getting forgiveness. If your main reason for saying sorry is to get things back to normal as soon as possible and enjoy the beauty of your relationship again, your apology is not sincere and might even make things worse. Chances are high that your partner will recognize your apology as manipulative, you will get frustrated pretty quickly and things will escalate again, damaging your relationship even further.
So, before you apologize, get honest with yourself about why you want to apologize. What are you genuinely sorry for? Try to see things from your partner’s perspective.
Acknowledge Their Hurt And Don’t Get Defensive
When you finally decide to go to your partner and apologize, prepare to get uncomfortable. Your partner might interrupt your apology by describing how much you’ve hurt them and what they are going through after your actions. In this case, it’s crucial to let them speak and not interrupt them with your view of the situation.
“Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand”
Apologizing can seem scary for some people because it puts them in a vulnerable position. Naturally, following the need to protect themselves from guilt, they get defensive. However, for the offended party, defending your behavior and giving explanations is seen as trying to get excused from the situation and avoiding to take responsibility for your actions.
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”
When someone is hurt, the most important thing for them is to feel understood. You need to show your partner that you are aware of the pain that you have caused and address it in your apology. Take responsibility for hurtful things that you said or did. This means that you won’t blame your partner for how you behaved and that you will resist the temptation to get defensive. Don’t minimize their feelings or question their logic. Remember, your job here is not to be right, but to help your partner feel listened and cared for.
Express Willingness To Do Whatever It Takes
Tell your partner what have you learned from the incident and list the things that you will do or change to avoid repeating the same mistake again. It’s important, however, to really believe in this and to make it realistic. False promises will only damage your relationship even more.
We are all different people with a unique set of traits and different needs. Thus, what you think is helpful might not be what your partner actually wants so to feel better. Instead, find out what your partner needs from you in order to find a resolution. It shows to your partner that you respect them and that their feelings are important to you.
Sometimes, even the one that is hurt doesn’t know what exactly would make things better. That’s okay. As long as you show them that you are there for them, that you might don’t know how to make things better but you are willing to learn, it’s already healing.
Be Patient And Don’t Push For Forgiveness
It’s understandable that you want your relationship to get back on track as soon as possible. But, remember that your main objective was not to get forgiveness and be comfortable again quickly, but to make things easier for your partner and start building trust and connection again. Therefore, give your partner some space and time to process all those unpleasant emotions of anger, frustration, hurt, disappointment etc. Don’t rush them through this process or blame them for taking “too long” to forgive you.
After the apology, it’s important not to act like everything is back to normal and nothing happened. Forgiveness is a process, not an event. Even if things in your relationship seem ok shortly after the apology, wounds are probably still fresh and you need to be patient and gentle with your partner. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your commitment. Actively show through your actions that you are willing to invest your time and energy to make things better for your partner.
Knowing how to apologize properly and meaningfully is one of the keys to successful relationships. However, it’s important to know that apologizing is not about accepting the blame for something. It’s about acknowledging and responding to your partner’s emotional pain that your actions provoked. You can, and should be accountable, but everyone is responsible for their emotional reactions too. It is not acceptable for an upset partner to be abusive, physically or verbally.
It takes an active part from both partners to repair a situation.
“I’m done with dating. No, really! I don’t see the point of it anymore”
Is this something you have thought of or said aloud recently? You’re not the only one. Dating isn’t always as fun as it’s made to sound. It’s a lot of time and effort put together. You spend hours of your precious time and energy on finding someone you’re interested in. It is followed by working hard on making yourself presentable and then taking the time to get to know that person. Most of the time, if not all, it turns out to be a dead-end and with that emerges dating burnout. We sometimes get to a point in our dating lives where our mentality is all over the place and we no longer know what to do. When this happens, we might need top level advice to help us get through our slump. Rick Reynolds, founder of Reignite The Fire, aims to help people change their dating mindset and improve their luck in the dating scene. It might be a good idea to take a look at Rick’s website if you feel that you’re suffering from dating burnout.
Signs of dating burnout
1) It isn’t fun anymore. What started off as fun initially is not so anymore. The dressing up, the conversation to get to know the other or the texting that comes after the date has lost its appeal for you.
2) You have had one bad date after another in a series. Your date was obsessed with his/ her phone, had weird habits, was drunk or could not get the conversation going, whatever the reason; it just hasn’t worked out in the last few dates.
3) You have been complaining about it for a long time. Your friends, family and even your dog are tired of listening to you complain about the horrible dates you have been on. You’ve gone overboard and maybe a friend has not-so-politely cut you off letting you know you’ve been talking about hating the dating scene for a tad too long now.
4) You get sarcastic and even rude on dates. Some people love sarcasm, I get that. But do you think you are getting more defensive, sarcastic and even hostile on your dates lately?
5) Dating = exhaustion. The mere mention of dating puts you off and you feel terribly exhausted thinking about going down that road again.
If you fit the bill and are experiencing dating burnout, what should you do to get yourself back on track?
1) Take a break
This is the first thing you need to do once you realize you are experiencing dating burnout. You need to leave the scene and mix things up a bit before bouncing back. Taking a break would ensure you take the pressure off yourself. Take the time to be around people you like and enroll in that hobby class you have been thinking about. Getting off the dating cycle leaves you with plenty of time to indulge in yourself. Take advantage and have a life again. Dating comes with a lot of pressure. It’s often when the pressure is off and you’re going about your life that you find someone you’ve been looking for. Once you’ve had your break then it’s best to come back into the dating scene by trying something new. This gives new excitement to it so try something like speed dating ( get more info here) or get yourself set up on a blind date.
2) Assess what’s going wrong
Once you have taken a break from dating and are feeling good about yourself, revisit the past. Look at where you’re coming from and how it’s affecting your present. Do you harbour unresolved issues from your past relationships? Are you really ready to move on? Are you trying to find your ex in all your dates? If you think your ex may be holding you back, it’s important to close that chapter of your life before moving on.
How do your expectations from your date look like? Are you going overboard in wanting someone who’s good-looking, rich, sensitive, charming and funny all in one? Well, that might be a bit unrealistic, don’t you think? Chart it out. List down your priorities in order. Think of the bigger picture and what is it that you want at the end of the day? Too many expectations and running after an elusive perfection may spell doom for your dating life.
Do you find yourself in difficult relationships which have a common theme? Are your partners all unavailable, committed, need to be taken care of, or take undue advantage of you? If you seem to be choosing a wrong partner all the time, you need to assess what is going wrong in the dating phase itself and set it right.
How do you feel about yourself? Do you take hours getting ready for a date? Do you feel you don’t look good enough? How you feel about yourself reflects in how you present yourself and that may be a reason for dating being unsatisfying for you. You need to be confident and feel secure about yourself. When you are content being who you are, you will start attracting the right people.
3) Laugh it off
Humor helps in almost all situations. Do you think these bad dates would matter a year from now? Five years from now? I bet you’ll be sitting with the love of your life telling him/her about these misfortunate dates from your past and having a good laugh over it. Tuck it in for a funny memory down the line. Laugh it off.
4) Don’t take it out on yourself
Your last four dates didn’t work out. Big deal! Don’t fall into the trap and feel like the biggest loser on earth. You aren’t. There is nothing wrong with you and no, you aren’t doomed to be single for the rest of your life. Haven’t you heard that slow and steady wins the race? Or how about, patience is the best virtue? You’ll get there. Don’t put yourself down.
5) Don’t lose hope
Dating burnout leads to the feeling that there’s no one out there for you. Believe me, when I say, nothing could be further from the truth. Set your sights right. Get back from the dating break. The love of your life is out there and you will find him/her. Are you just looking for a bit of fun or are you looking for love?
Who knows, maybe your perfect match is just a click away?
Do you find yourself sleeping earlier than your partner to put off having sex with him/ her? Are situations where you fake a headache or fatigue when he/she brings up sex often? Do you use kids as a medium to tell him/her you can’t have sex tonight because your child is sick/ needs you? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, no matter what excuse you tell yourself, you are experiencing loss of interest in sex in a relationship. Yes, that’s right. I am not blaming or accusing you, just saying it for what it is.
Sexual appetite or libido is variable. There are times when it is shadowed by other important events in life, while at other times; it takes on an overriding importance. Hence, losing interest in sex might just be a temporary phase rather than a permanent problem. However, regardless, if your partner is up for sex when you aren’t, it could spell trouble in paradise.
What happens with your partner when you lose interest in sex?
Your partner wonders if…
- he/she did something to bring this on
- you are experiencing a sexual dysfunction
- there is something wrong with his/her sexual performance
What leads to a loss of desire for sex?
Let’s get this thing out of the way first. Lack of sexual desire with your partner does not always indicate a sexual dysfunction. Men and women differ in how they respond to cues. Men are more easily aroused by visual stimulus while women require emotional or environmental stimulation.
There could be a myriad number of reasons for loss of interest in sex. Here are just a few of them-
- Stress – With the stressful lives we lead, it is not uncommon to lose interest in sex. When we are worried or tired, it’s difficult to find interest in sex.
- Physical illness – Running a temperature or battling a common cold also puts one off the mood for sex. Being in pain or feeling tired reduces the enthusiasm for sex. Thyroid problems are one of the most common physical illnesses known to dull sexual desire.
- Depression – Libido or sex drive plummets with depression as a result of an imbalance in brain neurochemistry. Not only that, but certain antidepressant drugs also reduce sexual drive.
- Relationship issues – Lack of communication and individual differences might lead to a reduction in interest for sex.
- Having an infant – Reduces sexual drive in women. This results from a lack of energy and time as well as hormonal changes and breastfeeding related body changes.
- Pain during intercourse – This is another reason for shying away from sex.
- Performance anxiety – Often makes men nervous and unwilling to have sex for fear of being unable to perform.
- Drinking alcohol – heavily also reduces sex drive.
- Hormonal imbalances – Can lead to reduced libido.
- Low-life satisfaction – The boredom of real life sometimes puts people off from sex.
How to renew interest in sex as a partner?
The first step requires you to figure out the reason behind the loss of desire.
Determine if it’s a physical or an emotional issue.
Further, see if your partner is undergoing depression, on any new medications, or drinking too much. Is there any physical reason for the same? Is he/she disturbed about other aspects of the relationship?
The second step involves:
- Talk to him/ her. Stay away from the bed while approaching the topic as it might make your partner uncomfortable and pressured. Ask a few basic questions to make your partner at ease. It’s important he/she doesn’t feel targeted or overwhelmed.
- Dig out the concerns. Ask him/her if there are any stressors that might be preventing him/her from experiencing pleasure in bed. Is there a problem with the emotional connection between you two? Are there any stressful issues?
- Give your all. Are you focusing more on your needs than your partners’? Does your partner feel heard? Is the way you are having sex enjoyable for your partner? Encourage your partner to tell you what feels good to him/her. Does he/she want to try out something and is embarrassed to say it out loud? Is a particular sexual act making him/ her uncomfortable? Be open and accepting of his/ her reactions and feedback. It might also be a good idea to do some research together into what you both like, this could rekindle some passion in your sex dynamic.
- Relaxation is the key. Sometimes sex is painful for a partner or they are too tensed to enjoy it. In such situations, it’s important to help them calm down. Prepare a warm bath for him/ her. Use lubricants or try different positions to reduce pain. Use candles and fragrances to make your partner use all of his/her senses.
- Give a compliment. For a partner who might be sensitive about his/her body, a compliment will go a long way. Tell him/ her how desirable you find him/ her. Praising him/her even outside the bedroom is helpful.
- Help your partner. If your partner seems under pressure or is doing too much, extend a helping hand. Wash those dishes, be patient enough to listen and support, walk the dog etc.
How to renew interest in sex as a couple?
- Connect on an emotional level. Sit down with each other, hold hands, and talk your heart out. Touch each other often.
- Let romance lead the way. Call each other from work, go for a weekend vacation, surprise each other with gifts, and compliment more often. Go for date nights!
- Foreplay. Women need this more than men. Touch her sensually, look at her, and admire her. She will be in the mood for more once you have started it on the right note.
- Follow your orgasmic journey. It takes more for women to orgasm than men do. Explore each other’s orgasmic potentials.
- Make it fun. After a while of routine, boredom sets in. Be more playful and adventurous. Try different positions, places, and set the mood going.
- Role-play it out. Change the routine sex into something playful.
Ling, J., & Kasket, E. (2016). Let’s talk about sex: a critical narrative analysis of heterosexual couples’ accounts of low sexual desire. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 1-19.
Wincze, J. P., & Weisberg, R. B. (2015). Sexual dysfunction: A guide for assessment and treatment. New York: Guilford Publications.
Research on what makes a marriage work shows that people in a good marriage have completed these psychological “tasks”:
1. Emotional Independence from Primary Family
Separated emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.
2. “Together” Space and “Me” Space
Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.
Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship. Work together to protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.
4. Staying a Happy Couple With Children
For couples with children, embrace your roles as parents and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.
5. Together Through the Good and Through the Bad
Confront and master the inevitable crises of life together. Learn to cooperate when times are hard instead of blaming each other.
6. Your Marriage is Your Safe Place
Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. Marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger, and conflict.
Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
9. Keep the Spark
Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.
I’m eager to share a link by Brendon Burchard, who is one of the leading speakers and experts in personal development and motivation. In his video, titled “How To Improve Your Relationship”, he discusses a few great points, which I’ll outline below.
One of the first key points he makes is that it’s easy for people to fall in love, but very quickly, they lose the intention of working together in the same pure way which drove the couple together in the first place.
To help us, he identifies 3 intentions we can make on a regular basis:
We are social creatures! Life is so full of distractions. We have conditioned ourselves to habitually disregard those around us. We are engaged with our phones, iPads, and everything else around us that so few of us have real connections.
One of the most heartfelt ways of giving attention is to be fully present. Give that person you’re with your full attention. Lock your phone away and Make eye contact.
As he says, take a few hours and learn to be human again!
“You have to have the intention to give extraordinary amounts of attention.”
2) Give more appreciation
Learn to make your partner feel appreciated. Giving compliments and practicing gratitude are great habits for relationships. Appreciating the things they do, as well as the things they don’t do. Unconditionally appreciating the person you’re with rather than showing appreciation with gifts.
“The magical part of a relationship is having someone you can pitch and catch with.”
Show more attention and appreciation to that person you’re with. It’s a give-and-take. As you both start to turn towards each other (phrased from Dr. Gottman), you’ll work together as a team, and feel more magic in your relationship.
As a bonus, here is an awesome video about how to improve your relationship: