True stories of emotionally supportive men
April 10, 2021 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Do you, a heterosexual woman, receive verbal emotional support from your partner? Can you provide a typical example with specifics (preferably including what was said)? I'm not looking for that one heroic time they really came through but more what you've come to expect day to day. The point of this question is to better understand the range of possibility in real life.
posted by HotToddy to Human Relations (23 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
I am worried that this answer isn't specific enough. But I will start with where we are at now (and end with how we got there).

Now: He just validates my truth.

If I say I am tired or stressed from work, he gives a hug and tells me to go sit down with my tea. If I need to process something out loud, he listens. He might make a suggestion. If I say that his suggestion won't work, he asks why in order to understand the situation better, rather than to convince me his solution is correct. He always assumes I am the expert in my life and experiences.

He listens. And sometimes reminds me to draw on my extended support network. Because no one can be everything to anyone.

He carries more than half the load with the kids, with house maintenance, with chores. He keeps my mind freed-up to ponder our long-term plans. He recognizes when my brain is fried and makes the appointments and schedules the camps.

He reminds me to take care of myself and do the things that bring me joy.

But he learned this. When we first started dating, an interaction with a mutual friend made me very very upset. And he tried to explain to me why it wasn't a big deal. Needless to say, that didn't work out well. I was frustrated. He was frustrated.

But upon the advice of a friend, we switched to just hugs, listening, and saying that everything would be OK.

It is often less about what he says, and more that he lets me speak.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 5:14 PM on April 10, 2021 [36 favorites]

A few things that come to mind that are general common interactions between me and my spouse:
- when something good happens to me: "That is so great! Wow! That is really exciting!"
- when I am complaining about work: "I am sorry to hear that." otherwise just listening and showing it (looking at me, making occasional listening noises)
- when I am really upset: "what can I do to help?" offer of a hug or other physical reassurance
- when I note that I like something: "what did you like about it?" and other related engaging questions
posted by chiefthe at 5:16 PM on April 10, 2021 [9 favorites]

This is sorta a mutual thing, but my husband and I thank each other for the small tasks/upkeep chores we do throughout the day. Whether it's making dinner, seasoning the cast iron, wiping down the bathroom counter, etc, we just give a quick recognition with "thanks for doing X". Showing gratitude is a somewhat minor emotional support device, but it really works, for me at least.
posted by hopeless romantique at 5:31 PM on April 10, 2021 [42 favorites]

One reason we are together is that we think the same kinds of things are bullshit. So when I check my experiences I get validation - “no, absolutely you are right, that is bullshit.” I don’t have to argue about basic truths in my life.

A lot of the support I get from my partner is non-verbal, I’m realizing - so I don’t have that many specific examples of things he’s said. We rely on each other and I probably get more than I give tbh. He’s more generous, more empathetic, more tactful, sweeter than I am in his first instincts. I’ve learned a lot from him, but he’s never made me feel like I owe him for his generosity (this is the basic definition of generosity, I am aware.)

He’s an active parent and likes to keep a clean house. He asks me to read his writing and listens to my critiques without feeling like I’m talking about him as a person. He likes to feed us all.

All around a good partner, a good dude, and a good dad. A+, would hang out with him for the next 20 years now that we have 20 under our belts.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:35 PM on April 10, 2021 [17 favorites]

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but on a day-to-day basis, this is the kind of stuff I hear from my partner:

- "Thanks for doing _______" (acknowledging totally mundane things I accomplished, like emptying the dishwasher or feeding the cats)
- "Babe, you're so smart!" (usually in relation to work talk) Not said in a condescending way :)
- "That's a great idea!" or "Yeah, we can try it that way," when it comes to what to do, or how to do something. Meaning, not fighting me about every single idea that I have, and thinking that their way is automatically the right way.
- "Why don't you sit down/play your game/read your book and let me do that thing." Usually when I am having a bad day at work or mentally exhausted, taking over chores to give me leisure time (important: we don't have kids).
- "You're so beautiful," or "I love your smile," and other physical compliments
- "What do you want, food? Snuggles? Should we make a list of everything that's on your mind?" (When I'm upset or getting anxious about something.)

But to be honest a lot of the support I receive is in deeds, not words. After reading the emotional labour thread, he doesn't ask me anymore about what to do, when to do things, etc. He just... Plans meals now. Makes restaurant reservations. Does a lot of chores. Etc.
posted by tinydancer at 5:48 PM on April 10, 2021 [13 favorites]

Two regular things: (I'd prefer not to repeat the specifics but they are very specific)
1. In the morning, as I'm heading up to my office to log in to work he says the same 'affirmation' kind of phrase. Basically a "go get 'em, don't take any crap" kind of thing.
2. I often have a hard time sleeping, so I get a 'sleep pep talk' each night. It's basically the same set of phrases. In the before times, when I traveled for work he also would call and give me the sleep pep talk.

One other regular thing is that when I'm wound up on something - either a rant or just generally getting dramatic about a story - he stops what he's doing, faces me and... astonish... LISTENS. I feel heard, because I can see him making the effort to hear me.
posted by marylynn at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2021 [12 favorites]

Today we were down at a family members house and I was outside working on a project. They recognized that I was wiped out from it without me saying anything, and since being getting home, he's tidied up, taken care of the dogs, and made dinner plans while I've been decompressing on the couch.

They've made a concerted effort since we've had conversations about emotional labor and gender dynamics. A lot of it is verbal, recognition and support, but an equivalent amount is simply recognizing areas to help. Outside of that, one of my favorite things is that he calls people outside of our relationship on their bullshit. Example being, other men that complain about their partners habits, requests for emotional labor, etc.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 6:01 PM on April 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

My husband is fabulous at this and currently in the hospital with a medical crisis, so it warms my heart to get to say nice things about him.

If I am crying, he just holds me. He lets me talk about it or not. He does not in any way--verbal or nonverbal--indicate discomfort with my emotions. He either hugs me as long as I want, or sits beside me without touching if that's what I need. There is no impatience or nervousness, because my feelings are not about him (I don't think he's ever made me cry).

What I am saying is never boring. I am more likely to notice that my story can't possibly interest him before he gazes off into the distance or clearly checks out. Not that he doesn't sometimes do a sudoku while I'm telling him the plot of a book he's never going to read, but the fact that I'm interested in something makes it interesting enough to listen to. (This is true both ways. He has many, many more thoughts about cinematography than I ever care to have, but it's interesting to listen to him talk thing through.)

If I am thinking about something heavy, he asks smart questions. If he has an opinion, he expresses it as an observation, not a declaration. "Do you think it would help if you do X?" rather than "You should do X." He takes my words at face value--if I describe something that objectively could be read multiple ways, he believes my version. But he also knows me well enough to know when to ask a question that makes me see something differently--he knows that if I say someone was being rude, I'm probably right, but if I say someone was being slow, I might just have been impatient.

We definitely always thank each other for things. Not necessarily every chore, but any time either of us feels relieved not to have to do chore, we mention how great the other person is for doing it. That means that almost every night one of us says, "thank you for making dinner," and literally ever Sunday someone realizes the other person took out the trash and points out that they are an absolute rock star.

I very much hope he will be able to come home and do these things again.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:48 PM on April 10, 2021 [71 favorites]

My husband will make a point to tell me “that was very brave!” or “it was brave of you to do that” after I do something that is especially difficult for me with my anxiety.

He’ll also notice if I do self care tasks (like remembering to take my vitamin or medicine or whatever) and say “hey I noticed this! You should be commended!” Little stuff but it makes me feel seen.

Like those above, he also thanks me for doing routine tasks (“thank you for taking the dogs out this morning!” Even when it’s my turn to take them out.)
posted by itsamermaid at 7:28 PM on April 10, 2021 [7 favorites]

Yes, generally in everyday interactions, and also randomly he will think of something he admires about me that isn’t even in my consciousness and let me know. I will say that lately there are times when he reflexively shoots down something I say right away but as soon as I call him out on it and ask, he realizes what happens and sincerely apologizes. So, we’re not at 100% perfection but awareness and willingness to acknowledge and correct times when he’s unnecessarily not supporting me is amazing.

Examples of random admirational statements: “I think it’s cool that the people you work with obviously think you’re amazing at your job.” (He doesn’t really understand what I do, nor should he, but understands that I must be good at it.)
“It’s awesome that you have thought through all this (some joint, usually financial topic affecting both of us).”
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:40 PM on April 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm AFAB but do not at this point identify as a woman (my current gender understanding is gendervague/nonbinary/agender) and am married to a cis-het man, for context.

My husband has gotten really good at recognizing when I'm clamping down in an attempt to not deal with emotions. He does this thing where he'll hug me from behind while gently massaging my sternum and quietly saying "let it go... let that go... you don't need to hold onto that... remember what [former acupuncture therapist] used to say about releasing the energy..."
posted by Lexica at 7:49 PM on April 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

My partner that is a cishet dude is honestly one of the kindest and most engaged listeners and responders that I know. He regularly says things to me (a very anxious person with a rather spectacular history of relational trauma) like:

"We can talk about whatever's on your mind, it's okay."
"You can always ask me anything or bring up anything."
"I'm here. Even if it's on the phone and not right next to you, I'm still here for you."
"Yeah, that must be tough/really hard/frustrating/etc"
"One bad day would never be the end of us, babe, it's okay."
"You don't have to apologize/worry/feel bad."

He texts me every morning at some point to say good morning and that he hopes my day is going well and often says things like, "I hope your day and your brain are being nice to you today," which makes me feel so cared about.

He also lets me know regularly the things about me that he appreciates, admires, or likes, such as:

"You're very self-aware."
"You are so sweet and kind."
"Your creativity with that project is so cool."
"I like hearing you talk about your work, it's really interesting and neat."
"That's a really good idea, babe, I'm so glad that you suggested it." (in response to me offering a possible solution to an issue we had as a couple)

He thanks me when I do sweet things for him, he actively wants to participate in creating plans for us or deciding on dates, for example, he told me that he really wanted to start cooking together because he thought it would feel good to do that together as a couple, and that really made me happy and I feel like he thinks about what would make our relationship continue in this really sweet happy way it's been going. Overall, I always feel appreciated, cared about, listened to, taken seriously, and loved, because he specifically makes a verbal effort to communicate those things.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:56 PM on April 10, 2021 [11 favorites]

My partner is not a naturally verbally expressive guy.
When I've done some difficult or annoying task or accomplished something cool, I will sometimes say, "Validate me!" He always responds with a few sentences that show he really understands or appreciates what I've done. Eg re: spending an afternoon finding/washing/ordering all the outerwear our kids will need for spring, he said something like, "It is so much work and I never remember to do it. You take good care of those numnuts." (Note he easily does more than 50% of our day to day childcare, so the validation is not in lieu of him doing actual work.)

We have been together since our late teens, and even when we were young, he listened when I talked about my experiences (female, second generation immigrant) and accepted those experiences as truth. He has never argued that I could have misconstrued something or that there is some big picture I was missing; he just takes my experiences on board and accepts them as part of his own. As a result things like systemic racism and sexism became apparent to him long before we started having explicit conversations about them. I really appreciate what that says about his ability to empathize, and also his implicit trust in my judgment.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 10:48 PM on April 10, 2021 [10 favorites]

I'm not het, and I figure "woman" is a category other people put me in for their own convenience, but I do have a cishet male partner who is helpful and caring.

The other day I was really really tired but I still had a thing to do that I couldn't even start for another half hour and ugh I just totally didn't want to so I rang him up said "Hi I'm calling for a pep talk! I still have to do [thing] and of course it's too early to start and if I don't do it today tomorrow will be even worse and... UGH." So he told me all about how excellent it was going to feel to be done with [thing] and all the little satisfying parts about it and how when it was done I wasn't going to have to do it again for weeks and how everybody would appreciate it and so on... it was such a good pep talk that I had him repeat some bits.

Sure, it was silly, because I already knew all those things. But on the other hand, they're more convincing coming from somebody else.

Sometimes when I'm feeling stuck or down I hear his voice in my head saying encouraging things, which I guess says a lot about our interactions!
posted by inexorably_forward at 11:09 PM on April 10, 2021 [10 favorites]

Like several other posters have mentioned, I find that verbal expressions of gratitude for daily tasks make our home a warm, cheerful, loving place. Mr. Wasp notices and thanks me for doing things like ordering items for the house, making dinner, or taking the dogs for a walk. I do the same thing for him and it truly has a positive impact on our lives.

I grew up in a house where it was normal to push past any feelings of anxiousness - because of that, stress often presented itself as anger. It’s been a game changer to be married to someone who is unafraid of my anxiety, who holds me when I cry, and who actively works to learn what I need to hear in times of stress. And, if he doesn’t know, he asks me. It makes me feel so validated and seen.

Probably the best thing he does, though, are the words I hear him share with others. When I hear him on the phone with his cousin, sharing something sweet that happened to me at work, or describing a delicious meal I made to his parents, I can hear the pride in his voice and it makes me feel like I’m a fucking legend.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 12:39 AM on April 11, 2021 [15 favorites]

We both are in the habit of thanking one another for routine tasks like washing the dishes. My husband has a way of thanking me for that kind of thing that always feels sincere and means a lot to me. It also makes a difference that he takes on just as much of the domestic chores as I do, more, actually.
He notices whenever I do anything that's a bit out of my comfort zone, for example when I was getting used to cycling (I was pretty nervous at first) and being genuinely pleased to the point of mentioning my accomplishments to other people in a way that feels supportive. He let's me know, spontaneously, when he is proud of something I've done.
When I'm upset or having an anxiety spin, he just listens quietly, and always tells me that I can tell him when I'm upset, I mustn't hide it.
He notices when I'm starting to lose perspective on some issue that's upsetting me, and will give me a quiet and none judgmental reality check.
He is incredibly supportive of my writing, and is my critique reader, giving me feedback on what works and what does not in a totally straightforward way, always constructive but also pointing out what needs fixing.
Some of my books are long, so this is not an insignificant task.
posted by Zumbador at 3:21 AM on April 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

My partner always assumes we have a “system failure” any time I am having a rough time. It looks like this:
me: “Woah, I lost my temper today and had to lock myself in the bathroom for a moment! I felt like such a bad mom!”
Partner: “it just sounds to me like you need a break & haven’t been getting enough recharge time. Why don’t I take on breakfast tomorrow?”
posted by CMcG at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I’m also not het, but do have a male partner. Hope it was ok to reply!
posted by CMcG at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2021

We have a before-bedtime routine. One of the parts of the routine is that we each share something we appreciate about the other person. So I hear (at a minimum!) some kind of verbal emotional support from my partner every single day.
posted by aniola at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend is really good at this. If I'm feeling down, he tells me that I am amazing, that he loves me, and that I'm worthy of his love.

My general instinct when I'm upset about something is to clam up and isolate myself. He can hear it in my voice (even if I say everything's ok), and will push me to open up and share what I'm feeling, because he genuinely cares and wants to do what he can to help me out. He's also accepting about when he can't do anything but listen. There's been a few times when he's dropped everything to come and be with me, just to sit and be present. Even though it's not what I want at the time, I feel so much better when he's around. (This sounds like he's pushy, he's really not)

The other thing, which is huge, is that he is very forthright about making sure I tell him when he irritates/hurts/angers me, and vice versa. He wants me to tell him so that he can learn, and be a better partner for me. This is so, so unlike my previous relationship where any issue I brought up got blown out of proportion and thrown back at me somehow that it was hard to trust, but it's legit. When I tell him something, he listens, we talk it out respectfully and with love, and we agree on what to change, or whatever resolution. This works the other way too - when he brings up an issue with me, we resolve it, and then we move on. Neither of us reach back to old wounds when we "argue" , and most importantly, we both try and work on making the improvements that we say we will. It's wonderful, I really didn't know that two people could work so well together.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Another AFAB person with a cis het male partner here. The following are regular occurrences generally, but work has really been super stressful lately so some have been happening even more often:

- when I'm anxious about something, he'll remind me that I am totally able to kick [anxiety task]'s butt. If I've done something similar before, he'll remind me about the time I kicked [similar anxiety task]'s butt.
- we generally split chores evenly, but with all the work stress, he's been picking up more. When I have to work late I emerge from my office to find the dishes have been done, trash is out, etc.
- sometimes he'll just ask "What can I do?"
- when my mom calls he checks in afterward to make sure I'm okay
- when I seem more stressed than usual, he will ask, gently and non-judgily, when was the last time I ate

This one isn't verbal, but it's huge for me: when my uterus is really trying to chew its way out, he brings me heat and drugs and tea and asks absolutely nothing of me.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:38 PM on April 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

AFAB person here with a cis-het male partner.

- when I recently had a series of wins in life, he said several times under different circumstances, "Babe, I'm so proud of you."
- When the circumstances for the above were ginning up, he said, "I will always bet on you."
- Always says, "I love you," often on his own, not just reciprocating what I've said.
- He thanks me for doing planning stuff/taking on mental load
- He takes on planning/mental load stuff without me asking
- When I am anxious (and I am like, medicated for that problem) he takes his time, he holds me if I want to be held, and he validates my feelings and encourages me to come out on the other side of them. He never minimizes.
- It seems simple, but we say "thank you" a lot.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:31 AM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

- I can walk in at almost any time and ask for him to listen for a couple of minutes and he will.
- When I’m proud of something I did at work and tell him, he chants, “You’re such a fucking boss!” and dances around with me.
- When I have hard conversations with my family, he says, “You have superpowers.”
- He holds me tenderly when I need to cry.
- He wants to talk about frustrations or conflicts as soon as possible, so that we can better understand each other. When we do, he always hears me out, and makes efforts to not interrupt. He repeats back what he hears me saying/asking for.
- I was initially terrified to ask directly for validation, to hear that he thinks I’m pretty, etc. (deeply-ingrained feelings of, If I have to ask for it, it can’t be real!), but am learning to do it, in large part because he has welcomed these requests and fulfilled them so warmly. He is not familiar with American middle class heteronormative romanticism for multiple reasons, and may be, e.g., thinking I’m beautiful without saying it.
- He seeks me out for hugs, for validation, for support. Feeling needed makes me feel supported in ways I never knew possible.

Similar to lots of folks above, mutual support is foundational for our relationship. Learning how to be better to each other is one of the great unfolding joys of my life.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:16 PM on April 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

« Older Sharing a Heat Pump for Multiple Uses   |   How to contest a sky-high utility bill? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.