Being supportive is a rather broad and confusing concept. If you believe you know what’s best for your partner, then you might think being supportive means doing and saying anything that pushes him in that direction. Or, if you believe your partner should just indulge any idea that comes into his head, then you might think saying, “Yes!” to everything he suggests for his own life and career is the way to go. Ultimately, being a supportive partner requires a hybrid of both of those approaches. A lot of relationships fall apart because one or both people feel that their partner doesn’t support them in their dreams and goals, which leaves them feeling like they have two live two separate lives—the one where they go after their dreams, and the one at home, where they don’t even talk about those dreams. Nobody wants that. Here’s what it actually means to be a supportive partner.

Stop what you’re doing and listen

First off, learn to identify your partner’s serious voice (when he needs your full attention). Second off, when your partner is talking to you about something really important, put down the cell phone, close the laptop, stop brushing the dog’s teeth and really listen. Sit near him, look at him, and make him understand that you’re fully present. Having someone fold laundry while you talk about something important can be disheartening.

Get them critically thinking

If your partner is stuck on an issue—maybe he can’t decide what he wants to do next with his business or what type of business he even wants to start—ask him questions that get him critically thinking. Don’t ask him leading questions, but ask him ones that force him to really get to the root of his goals and desires. Sitting passively and nodding doesn’t help.

Know when to push them

Know when the only thing standing between your partner and his goal is a little confidence boost. And when you see that, push him! Stomp on his little excuses and fears and pump him up.

Know when not to push them

You should also recognize when your partner is just not in a place to be pushed—when pushing him might make him feel like you think he’s a big baby or you don’t think he can handle this on his own. Only you can determine the way your partner speaks, moves and looks when he’s in that place. But when he’s there, let him be.

Stop destructive thinking

If you see your partner is in a pattern of destructive thinking, just listing off all of the ways things can go wrong and all of the ways he might screw things up, put a stop to it immediately. He needs someone sane and removed from the situation to step in at that point and tell him he’s being unreasonable.

Recognize when they need to talk

Sometimes your partner may just need to talk things out—he could have a bunch of half-baked thoughts stirring in his brain that he needs to say out loud. Recognize when he’s in that place, and give him someone to talk to. He may not tell you himself that he could use a soundboard.

Pick up their slack when they’re stressed

If your partner is having a particularly trying week, that isn’t the time to be nitpicky about whose turn it is to vacuum the guest room. When your partner doesn’t have the strength to do his chores but you have the strength to do both of yours, just help him out. Ideally, he’ll do the same for you.

Learn about their world

You don’t have to become an expert on your partner’s industry, but you should at least make the baseline effort to learn a little bit about it. Accompany him to some conferences or trade shows, pick up a beginner’s guide to the subject. Show him that you care to understand what he’s talking about when he needs to talk about his work.

Celebrate their victories

When your partner is truly excited about something, even if you’re not that excited about it or even if you don’t fully understand it, get on his level! This is the fun part of being supportive! Pour the champagne and make the reservations at the nice restaurant to celebrate.

Mourn their losses

If your partner tells you that something is a major loss, then you need to treat it as such—even if you don’t think it’s a huge deal. Give your partner’s disappointments the attention they deserve. Essentially, don’t just let him vent for 10 minutes about them and change the subject.

Keep an eye out for things that interest them

Keep an eye out for classes, event, meet and greets, books, seminars, shows, movies—anything pertaining to his career that might interest him. Just forwarding him an e-vite for an event he might like shows you pay attention


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