Does Your Help Do More Harm Than Good?
I just got back from the gym.
Today’s workout was TOUGH.
My legs are wobbly. My lungs are burning. I have sweat dripping down my back.
And I’m THIRSTY!
Sometimes I forget my water bottle when I go to they gym. I leave feeling like my mouth is a desert and my tongue is sandpaper.
Have you ever felt that way? It’s like the only thing you can think of is how and where you’ll get the next drink of water.
It’s a normal problem to have.
Now, let’s suppose you came home and you told your partner, “Holy smokes, I’m so thirsty!”
Then your partner responds by turning on the garden hose full blast and spraying you in the face while saying, “You need more water! Open your mouth, dang it! I’m trying to help you!”
As your partner borderline water boards you, you get angry. You resist the water and think, “This is so not helping!”
Or let’s suppose you walk in the door, completely dehydrated and your partner rolls their eyes, pours themselves a glass of ice cold water and drinks it in front of you. “If you drank more water like me, you wouldn’t be so thirsty. You always do this to yourself. You’re never drinking enough water. It’s no wonder you’re always so thirsty. Drinking water is easy if you just put your mind to it… see?
Once again, not helpful. Not encouraging. This approach doesn’t help you feel less thirsty. It just makes you feel guilty… or that your partner is a jerk.
Or what if you walk in the door 99.9% parched, and your partner has a tall pitcher of water in their hand, and an extra glass. You say, “Oh my gosh, that water looks amazing. I’m so thirsty.”
And they respond, “You should be more prepared. You know after a workout you’ll be thirsty. Go find your own water. I’m sick of sharing mine with you.”
They take a long draught while you lick your chapped lips.
Ugh. These scenarios are making me even more thirsty!
Here’s my point. Sometimes our partners suffer and struggle. They walk in the door and they hope for some relief.
The way you offer your support or help them alleviate their suffering has a HUGE impact on the quality of your marriage.
Sometimes rather than helping them get what they need, we turn on the firehose and overwhelm them with solutions. Before they even get a chance to express what they need, we’re slamming answers down their throats and emotionally suffocating them.
(This is something I struggle with... I'm a fixer.)
Other times we punish our partner for struggling in the first place.
We guilt them for allowing things to get to this point. We chastise them for not being smarter, or for not thinking ahead. We berate them for being thoughtless.
And sometimes we become resentful. We abandon our partner to fend for themselves. We shut down. We create a barrier between us and our partner and leave them feeling lonely and overwhelmed in addition to “thirsty.”
Do you identify with one of these situations? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Want to learn a great alternative so you can help your partner without making things worse?
Here’s a great recipe for being a supportive partner:
Step 1 - Be Empathetic
Before you can help your partner solve a problem you must understand what the problem is and how they’re perceiving it. So, before you offer solutions ask questions like:
- This sounds really tough. How is this affecting you?
- What is your desired outcome?
- What have you tried?
Then, listen for the answers. Repeat back what you hear so your partner knows you understand.
Step 2 - Make an Offer
Before just taking action, see if you can get your partner to ask for what would be the most helpful to them. Try some of these questions:
- Would you like some help?
- What can I do that would be the most helpful?
- Will you ask me if you need anything? I’m here for you.
Step 3 - Show Up
The last step is the most important step for building a trusting, committed relationship.
Show up the way you commit to show up.
DO THE THING!
This proves you’re a dependable, reliable partner. It creates a bond of safety and security between partners to be able to count on each other when things are hard.
Whenever you commit to do something for your partner, do everything you can to follow through.
Next time your partner is struggling with something, make sure you’re not fire-hosing them, ignoring them, or hanging them out to dry.
Be empathetic, supportive, and reliable.
In what ways have you been less-than-helpful when trying to help your partner? What’s your go-go bad habit? How can you be better about supporting your partner?
Leave your thoughts in the comments. I read every single one!
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