Connie couldn't wait to get home and tell her husband Pete that she had gotten a raise. To set the scene, she picked up some steaks, greens for salad, baking potatoes, French bread, a bottle of wine, strawberries for dessert, and a bouquet of tulips for the table.
When Pete walked in, she handed him a glass of wine. Then she said, "Tonight we are having a celebration. I got a raise, a big raise."
When Pete heard the numbers, he sighed dejectedly and said, "Now you'll be making more than me."
At first Connie felt a twinge of pain for Pete, but when she realized a few minutes later that Pete was telling her about a meeting that he had that day, she became angry. She confronted Pete: "You never support me emotionally."
Another wife told her husband that she was really worried about their money situation. Instead of letting her talk about her worries, the husband immediately assumed that she was accusing him of not making enough money. His assumption switched the focus from his wife and her worries, to him and how much money he made. As a consequence, the wife was not supported emotionally.
I saw a young man in therapy who said his girlfriend is always accusing him of not giving her emotional support.
Just what is this elusive thing that women keep telling men that they want?
Men, here it is:
Emotional support means focusing on her and being empathetic to what she is saying and feeling. It means letting her express her thoughts and feelings and trying to understand. For example, if she is crying, let her cry. Maybe put your arm around her. Don't try to talk her out of crying. Let her express her feelings. If she is excited about a raise, be happy with her. Don't get competitive by thinking about your salary.
Another way to give emotional support is to let your mate talk through a problem if this is what she wants to do. Even though you think you see an obvious solution, keep your mouth shut.
Following up and checking back is another way to give emotional support. If she has a doctor's appointment in the morning that she is concerned about, call and find out how it went. If she is having trouble with a friend, ask if the relationship is going better.
Perhaps one of the most difficult ways of giving emotional support is to listen when your wife or girlfriend is angry or disappointed with you. If you defend yourself and tell her why she shouldn't be angry or disappointed, you are not hearing the issue from her perspective. Hearing it from her perspective is giving emotional support.
Giving emotional support means listening and responding without passing judgment, or trying to solve the problem, or switching the subject. It means trying to understand and respond to what your wife or girlfriend is feeling and thinking. It means making her the center of your attention.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,” and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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