The single most desirable quality in a partner today is perhaps that they be a supportive one. But who actually has such a gem? Are they a myth? After 18 years with the same partner and so many ups and downs with her and our now 6 children, I believe that having a supportive partner has been key to us staying in a happy relationship together. Actually, it has taken two supportive partners. In an age when men can be breadwinners and nurturers and women can be nurturers and breadwinners, each couple needs to determine their respective roles together and figure out how to best support one another. Here are a few pointers that have helped us be the most supportive partners we could be for each other:
- support each other out of love, which means that they want the best for the other person.
- take the time to get familiar with all the facets of their partner’s life: their roles, responsibilities, interests, and dreams and then choose to respect and value them, even when they wouldn’t naturally appeal to them. If they have value to your partner, then they should have value to you, because your partner wouldn’t value something for no reason.
- make sacrifices of time, money, and more, to support their partner.
- support without conditions; there should be no expectation of recognition, or bargaining to earn their support, or other forms of payment for services rendered (this means no thank you diamonds or sexual services earned), or equal amounts of support expected in return.
- support willingly, without the right to whine or act like a martyr.
- recognize, and are grateful for the support they receive from their partner.
- take turns performing the tasks that neither partner wants to do.
- look out for each other’s needs: need for help or encouragement, need for space, to be romanced, or simply to take a shower.
- function according to individual strengths, skills, talents, and interests rather than predetermined societal roles. If one is a better cook and enjoys it but that doesn’t fit a traditional gender assignment, who cares? Living based on individual strengths supports your partner and family way better than culturally assigned roles does, not to mention how personally fulfilling it is.
- follow through on their commitments; they show up.
- communicate what they need from their partner instead of demanding it.
- adjust their support according to the changes that inevitably affect their life as a couple.
What no one seems to acknowledge is that being supportive is sometimes hard work, as if we expect supportive partners to have been born that way! Allowing your partner to tend to your needs while supporting theirs is a selfless act of trust. It demonstrates the measure of your commitment to their life, regardless of how much time you are actually able to spend together. Taking on your partner’s interests and pursuits as your own also bonds you so much more closely together, effectively modeling to the world how two can intentionally become one, while each still remaining very much their own person. It is well worth the effort!