Most people go in to marriage with some idea that supporting their spouse is expected. But what does this mean? How do you DO it?
Is nagging supportive? (I just want to help him reach his potential!) Is playing devil’s advocate supportive? (I just want to make sure he’s really thought this through…) Is blind faith supportive? (I’m sure investing our life savings in the stock market is fine….)
To me, supporting your spouse means being on the SAME TEAM. Nagging and playing devil’s advocate both take a contrary position, even if you claim to do it in his/her best interest against his/her will. Trust me, your spouse will not interpret this “helpfulness” as supportive.
Blind faith is also not necessarily being on the same team as your spouse because it is abdicates responsibility. If anything, it shows you don’t really care and aren’t really interested. That may not be how you feel, but it may be how it looks to others.
ENCOURAGEMENT is the way to support your spouse. Encouragement means cheering him or her on, investing your time, energy, interest, and possibly money in your spouse’s pursuits.
Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes this is scary and life changing. Sometimes it may mean altering your lifestyle or goals to take your partner’s into account.
And of course, there may be times when you truly disagree with your spouse’s goal and feel that you cannot support him or her. If this is the case, ask yourself whether THIS is the battle you want to hang your relationship on. If it is worth possibly losing your spouse over, then fine. Some things really are worth that, such as wanting to do something potentially life-threatening or family-threatening. But most things we fight about are just differences of opinion. BE MORE LOYAL TO YOUR SPOUSE THAN YOU ARE TO YOUR OPINIONS.
Here are some examples of encouragement:
A wife says she wants to start exercising. Her husband stays home with the kids in the morning while she goes jogging. He compliments her efforts.
What he DOESN’T do: Nag or guilt her when she doesn’t go. Undermine her efforts to go. Act indifferent to her progress.
A husband wants to take flying lessons to get his pilot’s license. This costs about $10k and that doesn’t even include the plane rentals later on. His wife makes it her goal as well to save up the money. She buys him airplane magazines and sends him youtube videos of cockpit cams. Listens while he talks about the bajillion dollar airplane he wants to buy someday.
What she DOESN’T do: Remind him all the time that they’ll never be able to afford it. (He already knows that.) Allow him to invest money in flying lessons on credit. Ignore his desire or belittle it.
Supporting your spouse means being his or her biggest cheerleader, in good times and in bad. It means having each other’s back even when its hard. It means sacrificing for the other person’s happiness and well being. It means making YOUR goal MY goal. It means being on the SAME TEAM in word and action.