Why sometimes doing nothing is the best support

by Elliot Lyons 

Most of us adults struggle with being supportive in relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

What causes confusion for those of us who sincerely want to be there for people is how to provide the type of support that goes beyond giving; the type that actually has nothing to do with an action we make but the one we don’t.

For example, the other day I was talking to my partner about me going back home for Christmas. In relationships, this “me” frequently turns into an us, for obvious reasons, and this is particularly the case since home for me is on another continent. She wanted to come back and hang out with my mother and see the rest of my family because the significant distance means there’s less opportunities to physically be part of the family.

I liked her enthusiasm and that she wanted to come but this time was different, I told her. I wanted to go on my own and have time alone with my mother and family after the death of my father. Just days after he passed in April, my partner and I flew back, and I felt I needed to be there for my mother and so she could be there for me.

I needed, and still need, that space to mourn with my mom and family.

My partner respected my need for space, although she thought I would have wanted her to physically be there to support me in going back to the places where my relationship with my father was built.

She pulled away to give me space when I said I needed it, and that’s just as important as flying over an ocean to see my family.

And I value that a lot because it means that she listens to what I need and realizes that doesn’t always jive with what she wants to give.

She realizes that sometimes the best support we can give is nothing at all.

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