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10 Things To Do When Your Partner Is Not Emotionally Supportive

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Sometimes you just need your partner to be there for you… emotionally speaking.

You need them to support you because you are going through a difficult time.

But they’re nowhere to be seen.

Or if they are with you, they don’t respond in the ways you’d like them to. They are aloof, seemingly uncaring, and unable to meet your emotional requirements.

And that’s heartbreaking because you expect your partner to be your rock, your closest ally, the one you turn to first.

It can make you feel lonely in your relationship.

It can make you feel unheard.

It can make you doubt your partner and the future you have with them.

When you get no emotional support from your partner, you’re left to carry that burden alone. Problems can seem a lot harder to overcome when you haven’t got someone to help you face it.

So if your partner is unsupportive, what can you do to improve the situation? How can you get what need from them?

Let’s take a look.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you cope with the lack of emotional support from your partner AND/OR get them to show you more of it. You may want to try speaking to someone via for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

1. Recognize natural differences in emotional expression.

The way that people express emotion and respond in the face of emotion varies greatly.

Some people are stoic. They don’t show their emotions willingly. These people tend to struggle when someone else is expressing their emotions openly.

Other people are so emotionally sensitive that they wear their innermost thoughts and feelings on their face or through their body language.

Chances are your partner is the former. They might not know what to do or what to say when you are in need of emotional support.

Your emotions might leave them feeling awkward, which is not something you should feel bad about – it’s just a matter of fact.

But expecting them to respond to you in the same way that you might respond to their need for support is asking for trouble.

There is a good chance that this relates to your respective levels of empathy.

If you are an empathetic person who instinctively knows what a person is feeling, you probably know when a person needs you to be there for them. And you probably know what to do in those situations.

Your partner, on the other hand, might struggle to understand what you’re feeling or why you’re feeling it.

That lack of understanding can make it really difficult for them to act in the way you would like them to act.

So before you dismiss your partner as uncaring or insensitive, consider that showing emotional support might not come naturally to them.

You will have to accept that this is who they are. It doesn’t mean you have to accept an unwillingness to try harder.

2. Teach your partner how your wish to be shown support.

If your partner doesn’t have a great natural capacity to be there for you in an emotional sense, you will have to help them learn how.

Always remember that your partner cannot read your mind. They don’t know precisely what you need in a given situation.

So you need to tell them. You need to communicate what you are feeling and what you would like them to do for you.

Yes, it may feel awkward at times, but it’s the best and easiest way for you to get the support you need.

And the more often you tell them, the better they should get at being able to read the signs before you have to ask.

Of course, if you feel you need support and they don’t seem like they are going to provide it, just go and initiate it yourself.

Walk up to them and hug them if that’s what you need, or simply ask them if you can have a chat. Just make it clear that it’s about a difficult time you are having personally and not the “we need to talk” chat about your relationship – you don’t want to spook them!

When they have shown you the kind of support you were looking for, thank them. Make it clear that you appreciate them for being there – to listen to you vent, to be a shoulder to cry on, or to simply be present with you.

Positive reinforcement is a great way to help encourage a behavior. It makes them feel good for helping you feel a bit better.

3. Remind your partner that you don’t want them to “fix” things.

A common way for a less emotionally mature partner to respond when you ask for support is to offer up solutions to whatever issue you are facing.

In their mind, this will help you overcome the issue and then feel better about it. They genuinely believe that this approach is the right way to support you.

It is worth recognizing this as real effort on their part. They are trying to help, even if it’s not the type of help you want or need.

Rather than get angry at them for trying to fix you problem when all you need is for them to listen or be there for you, communicate with them.

Just calmly tell them that you don’t need them to fix the situation. Words along the lines of:

“I’m grateful that you want to help, but I’m not looking for solutions to this issue right now. I just need someone to vent to and be there to give me a big hug. I know you mean well and I thank you for caring.”

If they persist, just tell them that you can discuss what you’re going to do about the situation at another point in time:

“I know I’ll have to do something about this and I want to hear your input on it, but let’s leave that for another time shall we? I’m not in the right mindset to be thinking about the next step. I’m feeling down and I need you to respect that.”

4. Validate your own feelings.

If your partner doesn’t take your problems seriously or only wants to fix them, it can seem like they are trying to invalidate how you are feeling.

They may minimize the things you are facing by simply not acknowledging how big a deal they are to you.

Whilst it is tough to experience this at the hands of the person you love, it’s a reminder that you ought not to seek validation of your feelings from anyone else.

Know that your feelings as you are experiencing them at that moment in time are valid.

That’s not to say that your feelings always reflect the magnitude of what you are facing – it’s common to blow things out of proportion when you are faced with something unpleasant.

You may realize afterwards that it wasn’t such a big deal, but that doesn’t make your feelings at the time any less reasonable.

That’s what you have to remind yourself of – your feelings are yours, and your partner may not see things the same way or understand why you are reacting the way you are to something.

You won’t always be able to rely on them to give you the validation you need. So validate your own feelings as much as possible.

5. Respect their right to process difficult times differently to you.

There may be occasions where you and your partner face a shared challenge or trauma, and it’s only right they be allowed to process that in a way that works best for them.

Perhaps you lose your home to fire or natural disaster. Or you might face the distressing loss of a child.

Those are big things that will affect your lives now and in the future.

Your partner may withdraw and need space to deal with their feelings. They may dive into their work as a distraction. They may seek external help from a professional, support group, or religious community.

Just as your feelings and your reaction to a situation are valid, so are theirs.

The important thing is that you both respect each other’s needs and offer whatever help you are able to give.

So whilst they should feel able to deal with things as they see fit, you should feel able to ask them to support you as much as they feel they can.

A bit of give and take is what’s required, and you’ll need to communicate with each other to ensure you are both giving and taking appropriately (which may not always mean equally if one of you is struggling more than the other with a shared pain).

6. Make sure you are emotionally supportive of them.

Leading by example is a good way to set expectations around emotional support.

If you provide the support that they need when they need it, it will teach them that this is how couples should be there for one another.

You just have to remember that the support they are looking for might not be the support you instinctively want to give.

Just as you can communicate your needs when you want support, you can ask them what they need.

Perhaps they don’t want to talk about it at all, but they would appreciate a hug or some words of affirmation to remind them they are a capable person who is loved by many.

Or perhaps they need you to take care of things for a short while – whether that’s other household duties or looking after children – so that they can focus on working through their problem both emotionally and practically.

Of course, there will be times when you might not feel like supporting them. Maybe you are fed up of not getting the support you need and don’t see why you should be the only one who makes the effort.

As difficult as it may be, you have to acknowledge that feeling but them move past it and show your willingness to help.

If you close off from them and refuse to support them, it will only form a pattern of behavior that they will follow. And that will only make the situation worse in the long run.

That’s not to say that you should be a doormat and do everything for them – this relates very specifically to providing emotional support when your partner is going through a difficult time.

7. Ask them to get behind you.

Support isn’t only required when you face some kind of hardship; it’s also something you might like to receive when you are setting out to achieve a goal or dream.

The challenge for your partner in these situations is that they might not see such a need to be supportive.

After all, if you are excited about something and have lots of energy, it might seem to them that you are in a good place mentally and emotionally.

And that might well be true. You could feel positive about something and really enjoy striving toward it, and your partner might want to allow you to spread your wings and be independent through this.

But if, in spite of all your positivity, you would still like them to be your cheerleader of sorts, you must tell them as such.

Tell them how much this thing means to you and how you’d like them to show a bit more enthusiasm for it.

Ask them to back you. Don’t shut out all constructive feedback from them, but ask them to keep any wholly negative thoughts to themselves.

8. Don’t expect them to make the same changes you wish to make.

There are two people in your relationship. Two people with different views and different ways of doing things.

That’s going to be the case no matter how compatible you are in most regards.

You might want to make some changes to the way you live your life, and having the cooperation of your partner might make those changes easier.

But your partner may not want to make those changes. And if they don’t, it can feel like they are not being emotionally supportive of you.

It helps if you can accept their position and not see it as a lack of support, but simply an unrealistic expectation that you are placing on them.

You may, for example, want to make the switch to a plant-based diet for various reasons. But your partner is a meat eater and would like to continue being one.

As great as it would be to take this journey together, you should avoid equating their unwillingness to do so as a sign that they don’t support you in your decision.

They may well be happy for you to go down that path with your diet and they may try their best to change some elements of theirs, but if they don’t want to take the plunge completely, that’s up to them.

9. Be patient with them.

How your partner responds to you now when you need emotional support is likely to be their instinct based on their past experiences and relationships.

And an instinct is not something that can be quickly changed.

Maybe they try to fix things. Maybe they think giving you time and space to deal with the issues yourself is the right approach. Or perhaps their instinct is to pretend like everything’s fine.

Whatever the case, you won’t see instant change from all of the advice above.

You have to keep communicating with them to ensure they know what you need them to do. And you have to keep thanking them when they do it.

Consistency is key. If you sometimes ask them to help and sometimes try to deal with things alone, your partner won’t know when to show support or the type of support you need at any given time.

Whilst you won’t see change in their approach overnight, you can hope to see green shoots that sooner or later grow into the kind of emotional support you deserve.

And if you don’t, well…

10. Look to others for support.

As much as you may hope to get the support you need from your partner, you may have to accept the fact that they aren’t a great provider of that support.

You can try to tell them what you need them to do, you can remind them again and again, and you can be as patient as you like.

But some people simply struggle to know when and how to give emotional support.

It’s not in their emotional capacity, at least not in terms of a sustained ability to be one you can turn to during challenging times.

Does it have to spell the end of your relationship? No, not if you don’t want it to, and not if you can get the kind of emotional support you need elsewhere.

This will largely depend on how close you are to another person or other people. If you have a parent, sibling, or best friend who you know you can depend upon for the support that’s lacking in your relationship, that relationship can still work in the long run.

If your partner has many other good qualities and you are happy together for the most part, this sticking point can be overcome.

But if you feel you should be able to lean on the person you have chosen to spend you life with when you need them, and that isn’t the case with your current partner, it is worth asking yourself whether you think the two of you can have a sustainable future together.

Sometimes, if the support is not there, the structure collapses.

Still not sure how to get the support you need from your partner or how to cope without it?

Speak to an experienced relationship expert about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours.

Relationship Hero is a website where you can connect with a certified relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.

While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through in their relationships without ever being able to resolve the issues that affect them. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.

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About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.