Our to-do lists keep growing longer. Amid the demands put in front of us, sometimes we grow a bit distant from our partners and feel the reduction of emotional support in the relationship. Nevertheless, becoming more emotionally supportive is possible if you have the will to do so.
Data suggests emotional support is one of the most important provisions of close relationships. Once you build up the level of emotional support, your life and your relationship will significantly improve.
It all starts with acknowledging the scarcity and choosing to repair it.
What is Emotional Support in a relationship?
Before we describe the signs and effects of the lack of emotional support, let’s respond to “what is emotional support in a relationship.”
When we talk about emotional support, we refer to providing love, care, reassurance, encouragement, compassion, and acceptance to our loved one.
It comes in many different forms and includes verbal and physical expressions of affection.
Each person needs to be cared for and loved in a particular way. Choose how you support your partner based on what signs of affection they value the most. When we are familiar with how they need to be supported, we can make them feel truly loved.
8 Signs of lack of emotional support in a relationship
1. You feel oddly distant
When there is a decrease in emotional support, you feel distant, isolated, or lonely. Although you might not be able to pinpoint what it is exactly, you feel you are at arm’s length when it comes to sharing emotions; you talk and share less.
2. You don’t turn to each other for problem resolution
When we are upset, we go to a person we feel close to and connected with. If you are not turning to your partner when something is troubling you, there might be an emotional distance between you.
3. Physical intimacy exist only in the bedroom
Physical intimacy is much more than sex. Sitting close, hugging, kissing, holding hands are signs of being open and close to one another. How satisfied are you with this area of your partnership?
4. Not sharing each other’s lives as much
Do you text, call each other, or take an interest in sharing experiences? If not or not enough, you might be experiencing low emotional intimacy in your relationship.
5. Lack of encouragement of each other’s goals and growth
A supportive partner is our biggest fan and cheerleader. When you feel down, demotivated, or afraid, are they helping you lift your spirit and enthusiasm? To be emotionally supportive means to help your partner get up when they stumble.
6. You don’t talk enough about emotions
If you feel you lack the confidence to share your feelings with your partner. Although you do so with other close people in your life. This could be one of the signs of a lack of emotional intimacy.
When you have a genuinely supportive partner, you trust your emotions will be validated; hence you tend to share them.
7. Having trouble actively listening to one another
When emotional intimacy is decreasing, one of the first things to suffer is listening to one another. One person speaks, and the other is not attentive to what is being shared and is not curious to learn more about the inner world of their partner.
8. Minimizing or discrediting emotional needs
Supporting your spouse means expressing concern and care about how they feel, even if it is not “rational” or seems like they are overreacting. Emotional support in a relationship means making sure our loved one feels heard, accepted, and validated.
How does a lack of emotional support affect the relationship?
Being emotionally supported increases emotional intimacy and trust in a relationship. When we feel connected and intimate, we are able to be ourselves and openly share our feelings with our partner.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there is a connection between emotional support and overall relationship satisfaction. Furthermore, our subjective perception of a partner’s supportive behavior is more closely associated with our relationship satisfaction than are self-reported perceptions of supportive behaviors.
Being vulnerable can be scary or impossible if we can’t trust our partner to be there for us when we need them the most.
If we can’t expect to be emotionally supported by our partner, can we share our feelings with them? One might wonder what the future looks like for a relationship with a lack of emotional support (if partners don’t acknowledge the problem and work on it)?
The lack of emotional support can endanger the future of the relationship. If left unattended, a lack of emotional support could turn into a lack of trust in our partner’s commitment and genuine care for our well-being.
However, there is hope for those that are willing to change and invest in their relationship.
Can a relationship survive a lack of emotional support?
In any relationship, there are bumps along the way. What determines if a relationship will survive and thrive is how we approach them.
A lack of emotional support doesn’t have to spell out an end for the relationship. It is not an easy feat to build up emotional intimacy, but it is possible. You may attempt it yourself using recommended steps foto increase the level of support or try counseling.
Expert’s help is always a wise investment and worth considering.
Once you have acknowledged a deficiency of support in your relationship and decided you want to change that, take steps towards rebuilding it. There are many ways you can approach this issue and methods you can employ.
An important note to have in mind during this endeavor – if a proposed method to increase emotional support is not resonating with you, use it as inspiration to develop your own.
Ask yourself why you think that particular action is not right for you. How would you rewrite it so it would be more suitable for your relationship? No two relationships are the same, so no two pieces of advice can be applied without some tailoring first.
15 steps for improving the level of emotional support
1. Recognize their efforts and show gratitude
Share your thoughts on everything about them you appreciate. This is sure to make them feel cherished and truly seen. In turn, this will boost how they see you and renew your emotional connection.
2. Send an unexpected compliment
When we first date, we pour compliments on each other. This amount decreases over time, but the need for them doesn’t. Send an out-of-the-blue text with something they enjoy about themselves, and you relish as well.
3. Set up relaxing downtime together
Rarely do we have time just to do nothing and be with each other. Downtime is important since it provides space to do nothing but be with each other and reconnect emotionally and physically.
4. Get them a coupon
What is their favorite coffee place or restaurant? Do they like massages or swimming? Get them a coupon that will remind them how well you know them that they can use when they had a bad day.
5. Pay attention to small desires they verbalize
When they show you a new notebook they would like to get, a particular brand of headphones or tickets for the upcoming concert, note it down. Go out and purchase it for them. This will make up for a meaningful gift that shows them you listen and care.
6. Rephrase and summarize when they are talking
If you want them to share more and turn to you when they are upset, make sure to be thoughtful when they speak. When you hear them out, rephrase in your own words to make sure you understand well. Before you know it, the window into their inner world will help you have a better understanding of how the world seems through their eyes.
7. Provide physical intimacy
If you are wondering how to give emotional support, remember a significant portion of feeling intimate and supported comes through non-verbal communication. Hug, kiss, hold hands to establish physical contact with your partner often.
8. Ask, listen and empathize
One of the more important remarks when it comes to learning how to give emotional support is avoiding trying to fix things and offering advice unless specifically asked to do so.
Instead, focus on asking them open-ended questions, listening with focus, and undivided attention.
Use non-verbal cues to show you are paying attention, such as eye contact, touching their hand, and turning off your phone. Finally, tell them you understand what they are going through and reassure them it is natural to feel that way.
9. Make a nice gesture that makes them happy
What makes your partner happy?
Start by creating a list of things that bring a smile to their face. It will give guidelines on how to provide emotional support to your partner.
You can use an item from the list when you need a quick idea on how to cheer them up or share it with them so they can pick the thing they prefer.
You are sure to score bonus points for how well you know them.
10. Be supportive in public
If you are unsure how to be supportive in a relationship, try giving a compliment to your loved one in front of people whose opinion they care about.
How you treat them in front of others can strengthen their confidence and impression of you. Acknowledgment of their strengths, capabilities, and past success is sure to build them up and boost their sense of worth.
11. Be respectful of their emotions
One of the most essential tips when it comes to improving emotional support is being respectful of the partner’s emotions by not minimizing them. If you can’t understand their perspective at the moment, show non-verbal signs of affection and simply remain present.
12. Show up when they are depressed
When they are faced with an overwhelming problem, make sure to give them priority over other things in your life. Ask questions to help them elaborate on what they are feeling, what is particularly upsetting about the situation, and help them place it in a bigger picture.
When they can put it in perspective and consider if it will be relevant in a month or year from now, they can begin to feel different about it.
In the video below, Deborah Gray talks about dealing with a depressed partner and how not to make their depression your own. Take a look for some useful tips:
13. Take something off their hands
Never underestimate the power and value of practical help in solving how to give emotional support to your partner. Pick an item from their to-do list and do it instead of them.
Whether it is cleaning, getting groceries, filling up the tank, or vacuuming the car, it is precious help they will surely appreciate.
14. Revisit a topic
Once you help a loved one deal with a difficulty, you can check-in after about it. No need to bring up an upsetting topic every day, but revisiting it a few days after the initial conversation shows you care how they are and that you are open to help.
15. Include daily support in your to-do list
A trick that is helpful any time we are trying to learn or improve a skill is having a regular or a scheduled time to practice it and not rely on our memory.
Because it hasn’t become a habit yet, so your memory is not as reliable as you would like it to be. Set up a note for yourself to check in about nice things you can do to show support to your partner every day.
Love is a verb
There is no one way to provide emotional support. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. We can’t quantify it or make it tangible. However, we notice the effects of a reduction of emotional support.
If you recognize the signs of the lack of emotional support in your relationship, there are things you can do. Ideally, you would be doing them before the negative effects develop, although it is never late to start showing more emotional support.
Things you can do are only limited by your imagination. You can take things off their to-do list, show gratitude, build them up in front of others, touch more often, etc.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind you should check in with them for feedback if this is what they need. Being emotionally supportive is part of the equation. Doing that in a way that your partner needs is the second part. Keep trying and iterate often.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.