Now that we're officially in cuffing season, people are partnering up and finding someone to snuggle with on those chilly nights. But you don't just want a warm (or hot) body next to you; you want someone who can really be there for you. And to ensure that you're with that person, you should be on the lookout for signs you have a supportive partner and that your relationship will be built on a solid foundation.
When I was younger, I used to think that having the same tastes in everything translated into unconditional support. I assumed if my partner loved '90s hip-hop, liberal politics, and eating burritos in bed, then it meant they'd support me. Oh, how wrong I was. Support, it turns out is a lot more nuanced than similarities disguised as support. So what makes a partner supportive? Well, it's a mix of traits, and some are more obvious to spot than others.
No relationship is perfect, and there will always be snags along the journey that is being beholden to another. But one of the most important comforts a partner can offer is support. After all, everyone wants to feel seen, heard, and understood by their SO. So take a look at these signs and see if you've snagged yourself a supportive SO. And if not, remember that all relationships are a work-in-progress and the first step in getting the support you need is to ask for it.
1. They Appreciate You For Who You Are
This sounds like a no brainer, but it's actually a lot more complicated. "It's really important that your partner appreciates you for you, are as opposed to who [your SO] wants you to be," Adrianne Fiala, a social worker and mental health consultant for the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, tells me. A lot of time, people have ideas about who their ideal partner should be. But this is their stuff, and has nothing to do with the actual person they are in a relationship with. Once you're in a relationship with someone, you can show your partner support by realizing that your SO is his or her own person, and not a dialed-up version of your fantasy partner (who doesn't really exist, right?)
2.They Make Time For You
Fiala explains that in order to feel supported, your partner has to go out of his or her way to put in quality time into your relationship and your needs. The first step in being supportive is to show up, but to also be present. That means actually spending time with each other and not playing on your phones the whole time.
3. They Let You "Do You"
"You're both individuals in a joint system," Fiala explains. "In order for the relationship around you to work, your partner needs to let you do you." In other words, sometimes it's essential to show up to provide support. Other times, you can be supportive by stepping back, and letting your partner make his or her own choices: no judgment.
4. They Support You, Even When They Disagree With You
This is a piece of advice given to me by my dad. There will be times when you and your SO don't agree on all choices and decisions. But, everyone wants to feel supported. My dad's advice is to say, "I support you, but I don't support this decision." Small nuance: big difference.
5. They Practice Calm Assertion
Dr. Anthony Lujack, a psychiatrist in New York City, gave me a nugget of relationship wisdom with this one. In supporting your partner be calm but assertive when you hold onto yourself and your values. Key word, here, people: stay calm when stating a point of contention, otherwise this might turn into an ugly argument. (But by the way, supportive partners can argue, it's the way you assert yourself that can make all the difference).
6. They Listen
"A supportive partner listens first before before stepping into fix a problem or provide a solution," Fiala explains. Sometimes, you can offer the most support by staying silent and giving your partner what Fiala calls a "safe listening space."
7. They Out Of Their Way To Do Things You Like
You may not like watching WWE or the Chinese restaurant around the corner. But doing something you don't like to make your partner happy is a huge sign of support. As Fiala says, support means your own needs aside. Obvs, watching something on TV is a relatively small compromise in a relationship, but you get the point.
8. They Know When To Apologize
I've learned that knowing when to say those magic words, "I'm sorry," is crucial to show your SO support. Why? An apology isn't always about admitting you were wrong; it can serve to show your partner that your relationship is a safe place. People mess up all the time. But to keep your SO supported, you must make sure that he or she feels safe. Which means you own your sh*t.
9. They Know The Value Of The Domestic Economy
I can't tell you how many fights start because someone didn't take out the trash or do the dishes. I thought I was being a "nag," but nope. I felt unsupported. Why should I carry the weight of all the domestic work? I shouldn't.
10. They Know Your Dreams Might Change Over Time
Life is never static, and neither are people's hopes and dreams. A supportive partner understands this. Fiala reiterated saying that a partner can show support "not only by knowing your hopes and dreams, but by understanding they might change over time, just like the magical creature you are!"
11. They Have A Supportive Family
Although children don't always follow in their parents' footsteps, it's pretty fair to say that people follow the familial patterns modeled by their parents. Again, this isn't always true, but if your SO has a supportive family, that's a sign he or she knows how to be supportive too.