Close-up of a man and woman's hands clasped together

How to ask for support and get it

by Eharmony Editorial Team - August 22, 2011

Often relationships end when one, or both, people feel they don’t get the support they need from their partner. It is easy to look at the other person and point the finger at their shortcomings but how good are you at asking for support? Even when you are offered support do you let it in?

Often relationships end when one, or both, people feel they don’t get the support they need from their partner. It is easy to look at the other person and point the finger but how good are you at asking for support? 

Types of support

We need different types of support at different times in our life and men and women are very different in the kinds of support they offer and the kinds of support they want.

Generally women value emotional support most highly: a listening and sympathetic ear, a hug, empathy and understanding for their situation. They want to be heard, understood and to have their feelings validated. Because this is the kind of support women value it is usually the kind of support they are best at giving to their partner and friends.

Men on the other hand tend to value practical support and solutions to problems more highly. If they share a problem it is because they are looking for a solution. When they are told about a problem their instinct is to want to help by fixing it. Many rows happen because of these differences.

For example, if a woman tells a man that she’s finding work tough, all she wants is a sympathetic and understanding ear and some emotional support. Instead though, he starts offering solutions, suggesting she leave her job if she is unhappy. She feels unheard and as though her feelings aren’t being validated.

This is not to say that men don’t need emotional support, or women practical support, but understanding the differences between men and women can help you to see why your partner may not always be the best person to go to in some circumstances.

Most people have a circle of support including family, friends and work colleagues and sometimes it is better to go to one of them if you know your partner can’t give you what you need. You wouldn’t call a mechanic to fix a broken window because that isn’t their expertise.

Learn to ask for the help you need

Obviously it is important not to go outside your relationship for all your support needs because otherwise intimacy wouldn’t grow between you and your partner. As with all aspects of a relationship it takes time to develop a healthy pattern of giving and receiving and to feel like you are contributing equally in areas like housework, money management and child rearing.

Don’t assume that your partner cannot or will not support you, instead take responsibility for asking for support in the right way. If you want a hug say ‘Please will you give me a hug?’ Be clear and direct when you ask for help. Instead of saying ‘Could you pick the children up?’ which leaves room for someone to say ‘I could but I don’t want to’ be more direct and say ‘Would you please pick the children up?’ Instead of starting a request for support with ‘Can you?’ try ‘Will you?’

If you are feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities ask yourself what support you need and what your partner could do before you ask them for it then you will be much more direct in your communication.

Learn to accept no for an answer

People are much more likely to say yes if they have the freedom to say no. When you ask your partner for support and you do not reject or get in a mood with them for saying no, they will remember that, the next time they will be much more willing to say yes.

After you have asked your partner to do something they may moan, groan, scowl, growl, mumble and grumble. Just be silent, don’t interpret grumbles as an unwillingness to help as this is not necessarily the case. Your partner’s grumbles mean that they are considering the request, if they weren’t considering it then they would just say no.

A healthy relationship is where both partners have permission to ask for what they want and need and they both have permission to say no if they choose.

Appreciate the support you do get

Whenever you notice something your partner does which is supportive, tell them and show your appreciation. Sometimes we just take for granted the support we get and only talk about it when things are going wrong. We teach people how to treat us and telling your partner what they are doing well will encourage more love and support in the future.