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To get some insight into how couples can prop each other up in the good times and bad, we spoke with Linda Chapman, a psychotherapist in Toronto. She shared five tips for improving the way you support each other.
1. Tell each other what you need
If you haven't been vocal about what you need when times are tough, it's important to let your spouse know. And if your spouse isn't providing the kind of emotional support you would like, then you might have to spell it out.
"When you are in a less-stressed moment, try to talk to each other about the kinds of things that help you," says Chapman. "Only you can say what helps you when stress arises." It could be just bringing home a bottle of wine after a rough week or offering a shoulder to cry on.
But it's also important to look at the situation in reverse, she advises. If your spouse is falling short in supporting you, it may be useful to think of the ways you are not supporting him.
2. Jump in and help out
When your spouse is overwhelmed with housework, financial strain or a tough project at work, Chapman says the best option is simply to ask what you can do to make things easier. Could you take some housework off your spouse's plate? Or are there some things you could give up to help out with the finances? The key is to be genuine.
"Attitude is very important. If you do this with a bitter or difficult attitude, you'll just add stress," she warns. "You should do it freely and generously in a heartfelt way."
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great ways to be a more emotionally supportive partner on page 2.
3. Realize support doesn't always have to be verbal
Although comforting words are important, a simple hug or other nonverbal gesture can be equally beneficial. "That person who just brings home a bottle of wine? They've got it. That person who, as their partner is lying there, exhausted, just starts to give them a foot rub or massage? They've got it," explains Chapman.
"They either intuited it in the moment, or they've had a conversation before and they know that this will be well received. But they don't necessarily have to be verbal at that moment," she says.
4. Don't assume you know what's best for your spouse's problem
When trying to help a spouse in need, it can be easy to get lost in your efforts and unknowingly add to your partner's stress level, says Chapman. Although you may have the best of intentions, you can't help unless you're aware of what your spouse really needs at that moment.
"You are assuming that you know what's needed and swooping in to do what you think is right instead of listening to your partner or trying to really understand what they need or want at that time," she explains.
5. Don't put too much pressure on your spouse
Chapman reminds us that we are all human, and some spouses may fall short when it comes to being there for each other. It's important, however, for them to make a genuine effort when it comes to doing what you need -- and vice versa.
"On some things, you may find that your spouse can't support you in the way you'd hoped. And they may not be able to support you perfectly on everything," says Chapman. "For some problems, you may end up feeling like there is a dear friend who understands this particular issue more." Understand who may be more relevant to your problem when you need emotional support; that person may not always be your spouse.
The beauty of marriage is that it offers a built-in support system, but it's important to remember to do your part in supporting your spouse's emotional needs in return for him supporting yours. Learn what you need, as well as what your spouse needs, by communicating with him.
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