What To Do When Your Partner Isn’t Being Supportive, According To Experts
My partner is my biggest cheerleader — and I am theirs. I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, what's the point of being in a relationship if you can't count on them to have your back against the world and lift you up when you need it? But while we've got the whole supportive thing on lock now, it hasn't always been that way. There have been failures and successes over the years, but we always knew what to do when your partner isn’t being supportive: Speak up about it.
Here's the thing: While more communication is a great solution to this problem, knowing that you have to talk to your partner about needing them to be more supportive and knowing exactly what to say are two totally different things. It can be nerve-wracking, especially if you feel particularly uncomfortable being vulnerable, or if you think they may get defensive before they've even heard you out. It can definitely be a tricky one. So, to help navigate the conversation, I reached out to the experts to ask for their advice on how to broach the subject of being more supportive with your partner. Here's what they had to say.
Is it fair to expect your partner to be supportive?
Before you sit down to have a talk with your SO, you first want to make sure you've thought everything through and that your exceptions are realistic. So, first thing's first: Is it fair to expect your partner to be supportive? “It is very healthy to expect a partner to be supportive! That is what partnership is all about,” Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, tells Elite Daily. “The thing is defining what being supportive actually means. If it's to support your dreams and if you are having a rough day, that's one thing. If you want them to fulfill all your emotional needs without supporting yourself in trying to get those met, that is unrealistic and can be seen as codependency,” she explains.
If it is the former, then Chris Armstrong, founder of the relationship coaching company Maze of Love, not only agrees, but says it’s essential for partners to be supportive of one another. “We are in partnerships because we want someone who will complement us physically, intellectually, and emotionally,” he tells Elite Daily. “If our partner is not supportive, not only are they not complementing us, but we are picking up their slack while carrying our own. What's more, we are carrying the weight of knowing that we are picking them up without reciprocation. This is what I refer to as the uneven seesaw. We know how it feels when we're on the wrong end of the seesaw just dangling in the air.”
Being supportive doesn't just mean being there through the hard times. Mutual support also helps us grow in positive ways, explains NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter. “Partner support can fuel our dreams and keep us hopeful when times get rough. We all want our partner to believe in us and be proud of our advancements. Whether emotional or financial, career or athletic, our mate's positive reinforcement serves as a bond of closeness,” she tells Elite Daily. So, if you partner doesn't have your back through the good times and the bad, then it's totally appropriate for you to speak up about it.
How to talk to them about it.
When you’re ready to talk to your SO about how you are feeling, it’s important to know how best to broach the subject. Dorell says it’s essential to come from a place of positivity. “Approach it from a place of what you are excited to see versus what they are doing wrong. Otherwise, it's easy for them to go on the defensive,” she advises. Armstrong adds that it helps if you can give them concrete information. “We must do this with examples and not just a feeling,” he says. “What's more, we must do this while presuming good intent that they are just unaware of this challenge and will be willing to discuss and address it.”
Most importantly, just say what is in your heart, because you can't expect anyone to read your mind. They may have no clue how you’re feeling, says Winter. “Explain to your partner why it's important that they support your dreams and goals. Not supporting you could be an oversight or a simple lack of awareness. Either way, you'll need to inform your mate that their participation in your goals is valued and appreciated,” she concludes.
What to do If nothing changes.
This kind of heart-to-heart usually leads to some positive changes — that is, if your partner is a good fit for you and is invested your happiness and wellbeing. However, sometimes nothing changes and, in that case, the experts agree it’s time to take a closer look at the relationship. “Open communication and a desire to make your partner feel supported is important,” says Dorell.
Winter adds that it’s also important to do some self-evaluation about whether or not this is the relationship you want to be in at all. “If your words fall on deaf ears, consider how much this will impact your ability to remain close to your partner,” she says. “If your partner can't or won't support you, can you really foresee living your life with that lack of reinforcement? Will your future be a happy one? Or will you become increasingly resentful and unfulfilled? The answer to these questions will guide your next steps.”
Armstrong takes a more clear-cut approach. “If we tell our partner that we do not feel supported by them and it yields no change, we must leave,” he says. “We teach people how to treat us by virtue of what we expect (support, loyalty, communication, etc.) and what we accept (lack of support). Why would they ever change if we accept their lack of support? We deserve more and we should expect more than that. Otherwise, we're settling.”
While hopefully it won't get to the point where need to reevaluate the relationship, the reality is that being in a relationship is the ultimate team sport, and it won't work if you're not both in it to win it. Never settle for less than you deserve, and what you deserve is to have a cheerleader in your corner who you can always count on.