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In my work, I often teach couples how to offer better emotional support. Most of us long for that deep support and appreciation from our partners (and from friends and family!).
There’s a Hallmark commercial I saw once that has various people asking their loved ones for things they’d love to hear in a card…”Tell me I’m a good husband.” “Tell me how much you appreciate me.” “Tell me you’ll always be there for me.” I love the message behind it: that we human beings long to hear how much we mean to those we love.
In your relationships, providing emotional support, expressing appreciation, gratitude and loving words is essential to creating a culture of love and commitment. This kind of love has the power to heal and bond you deeply. Here are examples of how to offer emotional support in the things you say and do.
1. Be a great listener and ask for details
Take time to listen to your partner daily or as often as you can with careful, focused attention, much like a very good friend. Ask things like, “What about this situation upset you so much?” or “What was that like for you?” or “What did you feel like doing?" Even if you are not a "big talker" it can feel good to feel like your partner cares enough to ask those kinds of questions. Sharing more details often increases the felt sense of intimacy between two people.
2. Express support and sympathy
When your partner shares about his or her day or an upsetting event, be supportive. Don’t play devil’s advocate; don’t judge why they feel a certain way. Just be there. Say things like: “I’m sorry this is so hard.” or “I don’t like it when people treat you that way.” “I’m on your side” or “I’ll help if you want me to.”
3. Be affectionate
I have often heard from people that they “just aren’t all that touchy feely” and so therefore rarely seek out physical contact with their partners unless it’s sexual. But touch is so very important for most human beings. When done in loving ways, it lowers our heart rates, increases our “happy” neurotransmitters and just generally makes us feel good. Rub shoulders and feet. Snuggle on the couch. Pinch a butt. Hold hands in the car. Make out in the kitchen. Find simple ways to increase touch and physical contact on a daily basis.
4. Express Appreciation and Gratitude
Even if you think your partner already knows how you feel about him or her, it’s important to both note in your mind the things for which you are grateful but to also say it out loud (or on a post it note or text message or a billboard). Say things like, “You look great” or “Thanks for making such a fantastic dinner” or “I can’t imagine my life without you”; “You work so hard for us.”; “I notice more than you might think all the little things you do.”
5. Don't Let Your Partner Down When S/He is Hurting, Scared or Really Excited
There are certain times that if you're not there for your partner, you'll sometimes do irreversible damage. Show up (both physically and emotionally) when s/he needs you for those big life events (funerals, births, performances, graduations, surgeries) as well as when s/he is asking you to go somewhere that's really important to him or her (even if it's not your bag, baby). In other words, when your partner is exposing the deep part of their heart to you, treat it with your loving care and attention.