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Communication Advice Article
Marriage Advice: How to Ask for Support... Even
When Your Spouse is Stressed Out
By Susie and Otto Collins
To keep your marriage healthy, it is important
that each of you feels like you can depend on
the other. What it means to feel supported by
your spouse is different for everyone. That's
why communicating your needs to your love is
Things get trickier when your husband or wife is
going through stressful times, however. Perhaps
there's more tension at work for your mate
lately. Or maybe he or she is encountering a
more personal struggle.
You probably don't want to "burden" your partner
by making a request for him or her to increase
support for you in some way. This possibly feels
to you like a time to step back and give your
mate some space.
In the meantime, you may find
another way to meet your needs and get the
support you originally desired
from your partner.
While your intention to do what you can to
lessen your mate's load right now is admirable,
it may not be beneficial for your relationship.
That space you give to your partner could end up
creating distance between you two. And distance
usually means you and your spouse are
From this place of disconnection,
miscommunication, hurt and upset can easily
Of course, when your partner is stressed out you
will likely be doing more of the supporting than
the receiving. But don't turn away from your
mate or assume that he or she is absolutely
unavailable to you just because you are aware of
the difficulties going on.
When you are mindful of how you request support
and you continue to offer yourself as a bolster
for your mate, you two can actually move closer
to each other in spite of virtually any
Kimberly knows that her husband Paul is going
through a really tough time right now. He's been
out of work for several months and it just seems
like he can't get a break on a good job lead.
the same time, Kimberly has just been promoted
and she is feeling nervous about some of the new
responsibilities her employer has laid on her
While Kimberly's promotion has been wonderful in
relieving some of the financial tensions on her
family, it has only seemed to add to the
Guessing that Paul is feeling a bit embarrassed
depressed about his own employment status,
Kimberly has worked hard to downplay her
promotion and more successful job situation at
However, she's feeling like she'd
really like Paul's emotional support for and
even advice about how to handle some of these
new job responsibilities.
Kimberly has not asked for this support from
Paul because she's afraid it will make him feel
bad. Instead, they both are suffering--
Make specific requests for support.
If you want to ask your spouse for support
and he or she is going through stressful times,
first gain clarity within yourself about the
request. Come up with a specific statement or
question around what it is you want.
Set aside your worries that you will be further
burdening your mate. Instead, create within
yourself the intention that you and your partner
closer together as you ask for his or her help
and then receive it.
When Kimberly requests support from Paul, she
puts it in a concrete way. She asks him how he
would handle a particular scenario with a
co-worker whom she now is supervising.
starts out by acknowledging to Paul that she
doesn't want to add to his tension, but she'd
really like to hear his ideas about this
situation. She adds that she values his
perspective and experience.
Because of the way Kimberly chose to phrase her
request, Paul felt honored and appreciated. He
was actually happy to take the time to focus on
something other than his job search and to be
helpful to Kimberly.
They connected as they
talked about Kimberly's problem and brainstormed
possible ways for her to handle it.
Look for ways that you both can have your
As Kimberly opened up to asking Paul for support
in this way, a new sense of ease came into their
relationship. Yes, Paul is still on the job hunt
and Kimberly continues to adjust to her new work
responsibilities, but they both feel less alone
in handling these individual challenges.
If your partner is unable to support you in the
specific way you've requested, ask if there is
another, perhaps similar, way that he or she
thinks would be doable.
If you can stay open and
willing to expand, you and your partner can
almost always find a way that both of your needs
can be met.
You can feel the support that you want and your
spouse can be a supporter to the degree he or
she is able. Set aside judgments or blame and,
instead, know that you two can face anything as
you are loving and stay available to one
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