Monday, February 05, 2007

In Romantic Adult Loving Relationships, be Supportive – not Smothering

When people are in an adult loving relationship, they tend to want to express their love “by always being there for you” – the key word being “always” – the important question being “how and in what way?” Always being there for your special him or her, is a wonderful intention, but it doesn’t always work. If the intention is expressed, sometimes the action or deed doesn’t always have to follow. For example, in my latest pop psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em, I talk about the time my mother once said to me, “Sometimes the intention is more important than the deed.”

I addressed this issue in two of my contemporary romance novels, My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days and my soon to be available, Fear of Feeling Loved. True there are times when a man or woman needs his or her significant other to jump into a fray or a problem and fix it or resolve it. Yet at other times all they need is to hear and feel your support – “I’m here if you need me…” and “I’ll attend to the children while you work on it and fix it…”

In healthy and meaningful adult loving relationships, both people grow – maximizing their individual potentials. And as I already suggested and discuss in my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships as well as in my pop psych book, Living Life, Anyway, sometimes we can benefit from or need the support of a significant other. But there’s a fine line between “being supportive” and “being smothering.” I like the metaphor of two trees, growing side-by-side. If they’re close enough to each other, they can provide support for each other, but if they’re too close they can be smothering and stifle each other’s growth. One of my clients once said to me, “It’s hard to grow when you’re always in another’s shadow.”

If your significant other is having a difficulty or a problem and you’re not sure as to what to do (and you don’t want to be smothering), a good place to start is to ask, “Is there anything I can do to be helpful?”



Kelly Parra said...

Very good point, Bill! Just let them know you're there instead of being too pushy. =D

Jordana said...

Again, an interesting parallel to my current situation - my spouse has taken to asking "is there anything you need from me?" when he sees me struggling with something - not literal struggling, more an expression that he has come to recognize. 9 out of 10 times, I'm fine. BUT, it is a relief that he A. recognizes that I might need him, B. that he cares enough to ask, and C. that he would help if I needed him to. JUST knowing that, usually takes the edge off the otherwise stressful situtation.

Lee Morrison said...

I have read some of your posts and I think you have some wonderful thoughts. Good luck with your books.

I'm glad you are taking the time to share your expertise.

I like the metaphor of the two trees as well.

I have an interest in psychology and I look forward to seeing more of your posts.

Wishing you all the best in the new pathway you have taken with your career.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kelly,
Spot-on term, “pushy” – when someone “pushes” us to let them help us, at least two things tend to happen: (1) they’re probably wanting to help us to meet their needs, not ours; and (2) they’re subtly suggesting that we can’t handle it ourselves. I many times have said, “The ultimate respect we show to another person is our confidence in their ability to take care of themselves.”

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Jordana,
You are a very fortunate woman! Regarding the three things your husband does for you, let’s call him what he indeed appears to be – “a keeper.” He’s basically being your behind-the-scenes loudest supportive fan, providing a safety net in case you need it. Again… sometimes the attention and intention are more important than the deed.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Lee,
Thank you so much for your very kind and gracious comments regarding my blog. For me it’s fun and engaging, and I am delighted that people find it stimulating – introspective thinking and reflection are healthy activities.
I value the climb more than the summit, and while this writing genre change indeed has been very challenging, it’s keeping me psychologically and spiritually alive. (And I always have taken “the road less traveled.”)
Thanks again, Lee – I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor,

Happy and Blue 2 said...

I liked this post. It was very wise..

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Well hello H&B -- glad to see you're back from your mini-vacation (per your blog).
Please know that I am touched by your kind and gracious Comment regarding this Post. Like most people though, I tend to find it easier to come up with wise principles that to follow them.
Again... welcome back!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

The PK is going thru some hard times right now with not being employed. He's very I flat out ask if there's anything I can do...and also not to worry so much because I have faith in him that it won't be long until he's employed again...and that no matter what, we'll deal with it as it comes.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi PQ,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing an excellent example of being "supportive" -- no blame, no shame, no disrespect, just loving support.
You and the PK are very fortunate! (And you're a smart woman!)

KIP said...

How hard to draw that line between "I'm here for you" and "Here's what I think you should do (regardless of what you think you should do". A struggle but learning to find that balance is interesting. Funny thing, I tend to be more - just listen to me (I vent), while my spouse tends to want supportive cheerleader type comments (make me feel better).

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Kat,
Thanks for the visit and sharing an example of the importance of two loving people knowing how each other wants (prefers/needs) to be supported and then “supports in kind.” In therapy sessions, I frequently have used a barbeque metaphor: “So, Archie, let me ask you… when you are barbequing at home do you ask Edith how she likes her burgers… medium, well-done, rare? Okay, good – you want to be helpful and you want her to be happy. Then why not ask her how she would like to be supported and helped when she has a problem or important issue facing her?”
(I also found that simplistic analogies like that were quite compelling… even for couples like the Bunkers.)
Thanks again, Kat,