In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard from multiple people that they broke up with their girlfriend or boyfriend because they were not “uplifting” to them. At first I agreed and validated that yes they needed a partner who uplifted them instead of bringing them down. Only later did I think more about this. What does it mean to have a partner that is “uplifting”?
You and your partner support each other’s dreams.
We all have dreams. We all have visions for ourselves and desires for what we’d like our future to look like. When we enter into relationships; however, we sometimes put our dreams aside for the sake of the relationship or for the other person’s dreams. When we do this many things can occur. We build regret or resentment. We become drained and experience feelings of losing ourselves. We become filled with “what if”. Or these happen to our partner. Because we are two separate individuals, often our dreams don’t align, but this doesn’t mean we ditch our dreams or avoid bringing them up. We start with acknowledging to ourselves that our dreams are there. We then share these dreams with our partner and ask our partner about there’s. Even if these dreams seem far off, sharing about our dreams builds intimacy and knowledge about our partner’s inner world. Even if the conversations never turn into action, the acknowledgement of each other’s dreams is crucial to the life of your relationship. From conversation you can ask your partner how they would want you to support them in their dream. Sometimes just the discussion of it is sufficient. It shows your partner that you see them. Years later, even. Our dreams can change, and even then you will see them.
Us against the world attitude
The world can be a tough one to navigate at times. When you know that the one person closest to you is on your team, it can make for a more bearable ride.
If we feel our partner is not on our side, we can feel even more alone than if we were not partnered at all. When your partner is experiencing difficulty, how can you show that you are there with them, even if you can’t fix the situation?
Show genuine interest
Your partner is telling you about his latest fascination with flying fishing. It isn’t a topic you share a fascination with; however, this does not matter. It isn’t your partner’s job to entertain you. They are trying to connect with you by sharing something that is important to them. Faking interest, ignoring, or brushing the topic off can be damaging and received as rejection or being boring. This can in turn cause a partner to be cautious about bringing up topics of interest in the future for fear of rejection occurring again. Instead of looking at the actual content that may or may not be of interest to you, look at the excitement and fascination your partner is showing. Shift into a curious mindset and explore what it is that is about this topic that lights your partner up.
Take your partner’s side
Your partner is recounting an experience she had with her co-corker. You listen; however, you can see that her co-worker had a valid point. Pointing this out may be received as rejection by your partner. Even if you don’t agree with your partner, validate their experience. Acknowledge that you see where they were coming from or what they were feeling. This builds a support for your partner which only builds the bond between you.
Supportive comments instead of unsolicited advice.
Sometimes we just want to be heard and seen from where we stand in our experience. Giving unsolicited advice can come across as condescending or communicating that your partner cannot solve the issue themselves. Instead of immediately jumping into fix-it mode, validate your partner. If they want your advice or help, they will ask. Otherwise, let them be in their own process.
Everyday we take actions that support the relationship or our partner. We don’t necessarily do this for the praise of our partner, yet to be acknowledged for our efforts can be powerful. It shows that yes, we are seen and our partner values us and our efforts to supporting the relationship.
Touch communicates togetherness, fondness, and love for our partner. Imagine when you’re angry or annoyed with your partner, how often do you come in physical contact with them? We don’t typically want them to touch us or vice versa. Holding on to resentment can cause us to become physically distant with one another. Now imagine if instead of solving the content of the problem, you started shifting the physical problem and became more affectionate instead. Notice how this shifts your attitude towards your partner. Physical touch is also very powerful physiologically. A 20 second hug releases oxytocin, a hormone identified for bonding.
Hear that you as a human being have needs and have a right to get those needs met.
We all have needs and desires. Basic human needs suggest we want to be seen, feel included, heard, appreciated. When we can hold space for our partner to be able to express these needs without judgment or dismissal, it can be incredibly healing. We cannot always feel “filled” and it’s ok for us to ask to be held, validated, spent more time with. It’s also ok for our needs to be different from our partner’s. We are not the same human beings with the same life experiences.
Practice full and undivided attention as he speaks to you. Practice active listening by mirroring back what you hear. Avoid trying to come up with your own response while they are talking. You may miss something in their shared experience. Let go of inputting your own interpretation or opinion of what they are saying. You may cause your partner to shut down, become defensive, or again, miss their point. Sometimes we just want to be heard.
What do you see in your partner that you respect and look up to? Being able to acknowledge this allows us to feel needed and wanted in a relationship. And don’t we all want to feel this way?
You trust each other.
Trust is the foundation from which we can flow from. If there is no trust in you’re your relationship, then neither is able to flow freely. We become overly cautious of our partner’s actions, of our actions. Fearful that we are going to hurt someone or that someone will hurt us. This doesn’t mean that you never become jealous. Jealousy is not the problem, jealousy is a symptom of the problem. Jealously is the symptom that specific needs aren’t being met, or the person is feeling threatened. Address the fears, the insecurities, and the needs that aren’t being met. Instead of abashing your partner for getting jealous, look at the underlying issue that is causing this experience to arise, validate the emotional experience, see your partner, see their needs, and be fully present with them. Know that this will happen again and your repeating presence and compassion will over time reprocess past experiences your partner had with now positive ones.
To be an uplifting partner does not mean we are happy and positive at all times. It doesn’t mean that we don’t ever get jealous or fearful or sad. It means that we continuously move towards our partner, again and again, in attempts to see them instead of moving away from them. Even when things get rough or less than ideal feelings come up, we support and validate instead of reject and discourse. Release the expectation of perfection and unwavering bliss and embrace the complexity of humanness and relationships. This is what’s real.
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