Does your relationship need a booster shot? Are you taking good enough care of yourself? Are you taking good enough care of your partner? Selfless support refers to the energy and attention we place on our partner. Selfless support is easy to ignore — when our relationships feel strained, we can begin to feel self-absorbed and anxious for something in return. Paradoxically, one of the best ways to feel more connected is by paying attention to the needs of your partner. Selfless support refers to each partner's attention to the emotional well-being of the other, and investing in the relationship is one of the best ways for you to reap the dividends. Generosity, unconditional acceptance, determination, restraint, and self-worth are the components of selfless support that can enhance connection.
Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW is Founder and Executive Director of The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC. She is the author of several books on postpartum depression, and has been working with women and their families for over 25 years. A native of Saint Louis, MO., Karen has lived in the Philadelphia area since 1982 with her two children and her husband.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
To reinforce your commitment to selfless support, take the following pledge:
1. "I will act in your best interest at all times."
This is a statement of spirit. A generous nature is one that balances a belief in the partner with a belief in oneself. It does not imply a forgoing of self-interest; rather, it’s a sense that if you are okay, then I am okay (and vice-versa, of course.).
2. "What is important to you is important to me."
This statement implies an unqualified, nonjudgmental position. These are no absolutes, as there will surely be times or circumstances when life gets in the way, and positions must shift to accommodate the moment. The components of this pledge entail the heart, not the head. Sometimes the heart can override the details of the moment, and sometimes, for sure, it must not.
3. "I will do what I say I will do."
Follow-through is crucial: Words don’t always hold value if they are not followed up with action to support them.
4. "I will refrain from asking or wondering what I will get out of this."
Restraint is a form of big-heartedness, especially if you are restraining yourself from anger or contempt. Having control over negative responses is a gracious and selfless stance.
5. "I will let myself be loved."
When you allow others to support and give to you, you are giving them the pleasure of doing something good for you while, at the same time, allowing yourself the pleasure of receiving it. This is not easy for everyone to do, but it is a win-win situation, as our brain’s pleasure centers respond positively, which turns the act of giving and receiving into a mutually gratifying experience.
Keeping the principles of selfless support in mind at all times will help you focus on the core of your relationship, rather than the emotional residue that may be contaminating the work you are doing. It will help you consolidate your individual and mutual efforts, while you continue to secure your connection.