What Type of Support Do You Need From Your Partner?
Have you ever found yourself sharing with your partner after a long day of work and looking for a listening ear, but instead your partner gives advice about how to handle the situation? Or have you ever been asking your partner for a suggestion about how to handle something, but instead they step in and handle it for you without you asking them to? This happens often in relationships. Partners often don't tell each other what kind of support they are looking for or need in the moment, leaving them feeling like their need was not fulfilled when their partner provides a different type of support.
We all have different ways that we like to receive support from others, and it is not uncommon for these ways to be different for partners. But often each partner shows their support to the other in the way they themselves would like to receive it, which may not be what their partner needs in the moment. It is important for couples to talk about how they each need to receive support , as well as how they can best ask for the type of support they need in different situations, so that the expectations are clear.
According to Cutrona and Russell (1990), there are various different types of support. Below are some of these types with examples of each:
-Emotional (listening, expressing empathy, giving a hug or holding your partner's hand)
-Tangible (Doing something for the other person, taking on tasks, providing help)
-Informational (Giving advice, providing information)
-Esteem (Encouraging words, expressing belief in your partner's abilities to accomplish something, providing a compliment)
If you and your partner would like guidance in learning how to ask for the type of support you each need from the other, couples counseling can be a safe and supportive environment to do this. A couples therapist can help you explore what types of support you need in which situations, as well as how you can ask for and provide these to each other in a way that works for both of you.
Cutrona, C.E., & Russell, D. W. (1990). Type of social support and specific stress: Toward a theory of optimal matching. In B. R. Sarason, I. G. Sarason, & G. R. Pierce (Eds.), Social support: An interactional view (pp. 319–366). Wiley.