Remember this the next time you are starving or sleep-deprived and your partner is stressed out and you feel an impulse to help. In a situation like this, what most of us feel compelled to do is to ignore our own hunger pains or desperation for some sleep to do whatever is needed for the other person.
You'll be able to be the kind of supportive and loving presence your partner needs when you've addressed your main needs first.
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Taking care of yourself doesn't even have to take too long. So, grab a healthy and filling snack or set your alarm and take a 30 minute nap and THEN offer support to your partner.
#2: Ask before jumping in to help.
Another tendency that many people have is when they see what seems like trouble or a crisis, they jump right in to “fix” things...without getting a full understanding of what's going on and what kind of help the people involved want and need.
Always ask first.
You've probably been in a situation where you've just about got a problem figured out and someone else swoops in “just trying to help” without you wanting to be helped.
It could be that what looks to you like your partner struggling is him or her on the brink of a powerful a-ha moment. It could also be that the kind of help that you think your partner needs is the complete opposite of what he or she would like or is ready for.
Use a question like, “I'd like to support you right now. What can I do to help?”
#3: Be honest about what you will and won't do.
Really listen to your partner's words. You might not even have to ask, “How can I help?” Your partner may be very clear that he or she would like a hug, a sounding board for ideas, to be left alone or advice.
Listen to what your partner asks for from you and then go within yourself. Is this something you are willing and able to do?
Is this form of support something you are open to and that you could do without later feeling resentful?
Maybe you and your spouse keep your finances separate and he or she can't make a credit card payment and asks to borrow money. While you really want to help your partner, you are also annoyed because you've bailed him or her out too many times in the past. Conflicted is how you feel.
Whatever form of support your partner requests, give yourself permission to freely say “yes” or “no.” Take the time to know what the right answer is for you.
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Even if you say “no,” this doesn't mean you can't be there for him or her. After your “no,” suggest an alternative that you are open to and see if this sounds appealing to your spouse.