The Four Types of Supportive Behavior and How to Identify the One You Need

Four Types of Supportive Behavior and how to Identify the One You Need - #staymarriedTime to confess. I’ve been sitting on a secret. I have a little dream that feels really big and I have been reluctant to say it out loud.

I think I want to write a book.

Oh, isn’t that just the kind of timid thing a dreamer would say when she is terrified of her dream? Why do I say, “I think” when the truth is I DO want to write a book? I NEED to write a book, and I’ve known it for nearly a year.

Sharing My Dream

When I first shared my dream with Tony he said, “OF COURSE you are going to write a book!” and then he went on to remind me that it was something he had mentioned years ago and I had dismissed it immediately. It was not an “I told you so” moment. It was a way for us to reflect and for me to believe that he really truly believes in me and he always has. He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is the gasoline to my engine, constantly filling me when I think I’m empty and have nowhere left to go. He is supportive beyond measure.

I finally took a practical step in the direction of seeing this dream become a reality. I took my first online class last week titled, “How To Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal.” For just $10, I was able to sit under the instruction of a seasoned and published author and learn so many things! Listening to her talk about the process of traditional publishing made this world of a writer seem real. I was able to ask some questions and listen to questions others had that I related to. It felt like I was on this journey with others who are just as timid as I am about sharing their stories and wondering if this could really be a possibility. I was encouraged and inspired.

Mr. Supportive

I came out of the office to share some of my learnings with Tony and he jumped right in with his encouragement and enthusiasm and all of his ideas, like, “We need to figure out a better schedule so we aren’t staying up so late, so we can get up earlier and divvy up the responsibilities, so you can have some focused time to write the book and it will be great and we can do this, and and and…” And you know what? I was annoyed.

I know! What a spoiled brat I am! I have a husband that encourages and supports my crazy dreams and I respond by being irritated and annoyed? Yes, I am a terrible awful person.

What you may not know is that I am exhausted! I have three kids, all babies, none of them are in school except our 4 year old just one day per week. It’s me and the girls all day every day. Even now, I’m sitting on the couch while the babiest baby takes her morning nap and my sweet middle child is snuggled up next to me watching cartoons. We have had the most wretched summer cold that came with the sorest of throats followed by relentless vomiting. We didn’t know we would all be sick when we decided to pull the trigger and potty train our two year old. We also didn’t know our baby would have two new teeth brutally cutting through her gums while we were potty training and dealing with colds. I can’t even believe it’s just a cold. I really feel like I nursed my entire family back to health from the brink of death with homemade chicken noodle soup and lots of water and plenty of rest.

Everyone is fine now. Two year old is potty trained, the baby has her new teeth, and nobody is sick anymore. Wait… except I’m still sick! I’m sick and tired and that’s not a euphemism. I am the only one in the family still awake in the middle of the night because I can’t stop coughing. So, when Super Husband swoops in with his brilliant and supportive ideas about getting up early in the morning to write, I’m irritated. Doesn’t he know how tired I am? I’m so tired.

We all want our spouses to be supportive of our dreams. I hope we all want to be that supportive spouse. It’s hard enough to get through life with a little dream in your heart and all of the doubt and discouragement the rest of the world will throw your way. We need our partner, our best friend, to believe in us. The trouble is, there are many types of support and the type you need may not be the type that is being offered. The National Institute of Health’s five year study of 101 newly married husbands and wives identified four kinds of support.

The Four Types of Supportive Behavior

1. Emotional Support

Emotional support is all about empathy. It could look like offering physical comfort, listening well, and holding their hand. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, had a draining day, or experienced disappointment, knowing that your spouse is there to support you emotionally can carry you through. We all have times when this is the best and maybe the only kind of support we need.

2. Esteem Support

Esteem support boosts your partner’s confidence. Verbally and specifically encouraging your partner shows them that you believe in them. Since my Love Language is Words of Affirmation this is the one I need most often. When my husband tells me he thinks I’m a good writer and he loves reading my ideas, I feel immensely supported. His confidence in me gives me confidence in myself and it also makes me feel closer to him.

3. Informational Support

Informational support is a way to offer and utilize each other’s unique perspectives. It usually involves giving advice, offering your expertise, and gathering information to help your partner. Since Tony and I are good at different things, this comes up nearly every day. I will often tell him an idea I have and ask him if he can help me execute it. He is a brilliant designer and he is happy to either show me how to create the thing I have in my mind, or he will offer to take care of it for me. To my delight, he seeks support from me in this way also. He often asks me to proof-read or offer insight on an email to a client because he trusts the way I interact with people, especially in writing. Sharing insights is a wonderful way to support each other.

4. Tangible support

Tangible support might be the most practical. Both men and women feel supported when they know their spouse will take on extra responsibilities so they can deal with a problem. It happens around here when Tony offers to clean up the kitchen after dinner so I can jump into the office to take care of some things that are on my mind. I can return the favor when I push him out of the house with his laptop for the evening while I stay home with our three girls. This kind of teamwork mentality is essential for us.

So, why was I annoyed when Tony was being so encouraging and supportive after my book writing class? Well, I didn’t know at the time, but what I really needed was emotional and esteem support and what he was offering was informational and tangible support. I just wanted to stay in the talking and imagining phase of this dream. He had jumped to the “let’s get this done” phase. I mean, I get it. I’ve been in the imagining phase for about a year and that is a really long time for me. He believes in me and wants to see this thing happen. He wants to hold the book in his hands LIKE NOW! I, on the other hand, want to sleep in and stop coughing.

Four Types of Supportive Behavior and how to Identify the One You Need - #staymarriedAsk for the Support You Need

Whatever the situation is, all of us want to be supported. It’s not always easy to know what kind of support is best. What we need to do is get better at asking for the kind of support we need. I didn’t stay annoyed for long. I realized I just needed to tell him how tired I am and what I see as a reality for us right now. So I said…

“Thank you for being so excited for me. What I need right now is just to know that you believe in me (esteem support). We’ll get to the practical stuff when we all feel better… or maybe when I don’t have three babies home with me full time. I’m not quitting on my dream. I just know I don’t need to hustle right now while the girls are little. I will keep pursuing a little at a time. I’m going to be patient with this book thing.”

He got it. He always does when I finally use words to say what I’m thinking. His support is so valuable to me, I never want to overlook it. I also want to keep being supportive of him in the ways he needs. One of the great glories of married life is the opportunity to support one another and build your dreams together.  Think about the way you support your spouse. Do you know what their dreams are? Ask them, ask how you can be supportive. Work together to build the adventurous life you both want and then, feeling fulfilled, you’ll have every chance to #staymarried.

If you were encouraged by this post and want to read more about teamwork in marriage, you may also enjoy Chore Wars and Married People Need to Step It Up.

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background.You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ MichelleTony and Michelle Peterson 2014 - #staymarried blog



2 thoughts on “The Four Types of Supportive Behavior and How to Identify the One You Need

  1. Wow. This just blew my mind a little bit. I feel like I offer way too much informational support – to the point that I come across like I know it all – and not nearly enough esteem support. Can’t wait to talk with Travis about this!

    Good luck with the process of starting your book!

    1. I would love to know what Travis thinks. It’s interesting to think that offering the wrong kind of support can make our partners feel like we don’t support them at all! Crazy!

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