10 Ways to Support Your Partner

10 Ways to Support Your Partner

“I feel worn out and wish my husband would give me more support. He says he wants to and that I should just give him a list. Any ideas?”

Out of our marriage and experience with many couples with children, here’s a Top Ten list (in no particular order) addressed to parents; hopefully some of these suggestions will fit your relationship:

Take initiative with the kids – When a child has a need or a problem, dive in. For example, you be the one to tend to your child in a restaurant. If your partner offers a suggestion, take on board what’s useful in his or her comment, and keep diving in.

Take on a regular chore – Pick an everyday childrearing or housework task and start doing it routinely with little fanfare.

Arrange date nights – Set up the babysitting, take the lead in telling your kids that you’re going out, and be the last one out the door.

Start by joining – Try to have your opening move be one of interest, support, empathy, and what you agree with – rather than withdrawal, detached analysis, or disagreement. Imagine how you’d feel if you were your partner, if you had his or her tasks, day, life. Try to explore any negative feelings in them rather than stepping back from them or trying to fix them quickly so they go away.

Ask three questions in a row – Every day, try to ask three questions in a row about your partner’s inner experience, such as:
How did you feel when _______ ?
Deep down, what did you really want in that situation?
Can you say more about that?

Give your partner a night off each week – From start to finish, handle one night a week. It’s fine to have take-out and to do things your way (as long as the effects don’t spill over onto your partner). If they want to stay home and take a long bath, you’re still in charge of the kids and the housework.

Reach out to your partner first – A relationship is like a series of volleys in tennis, and it’s typically one person in the partnership who puts the ball in play. If it’s not you, then be the one to call to see how the other’s day is going. Give them a card or small present out of the blue. Be the one to say, “Hey, let’s talk.”

Stick up for your partner with your family and friends – Put your partner in a good light. Imagine that the conversation is being recorded and your partner will listen to it; what would their reaction be?

Communicate a vulnerable feeling or wish – Share some part of your inner experience that is soft, vulnerable, and open. If it makes you squirm a bit to imagine saying it – that’s what you ought to say!

Be affectionate without it being about sex – Besides the obvious (hugs, etc.), try little massages or back scratches, rubbing your partner’s feet, or fluffing their hair. Ask them what they like. With words, tell them things that you like about them, why you’re fond of them. Tell them you love them. A lot.

This is an article adapted from the book Mother Nurture (2002) by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Jan Hanson, M.S. and Ricki Pollycove, M.D.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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