Supporting The Ones We Love
I was recently coaching a woman who was feeling exhausted because she had been supporting her sister and trying to manage her sister’s emotions. Her sister was going through an especially tough time coping with her husband’s cancer. This lovely woman I was coaching was doing what so many of us do out of love; trying to prop up the emotions of our loved one when it seems like they can’t manage on their own.
Of course we do this! We want to be there for our loved ones when they need us. However, this woman was feeling exhausted and depleted and didn’t see how she could continue to meet the emotional needs of her sister, even though she really wanted to.
How many of you are doing this for your partner or spouse? Are you trying to meet all their emotional needs from the belief that they are incapable of doing it themselves? Do you think there is no way they can handle this disease? Do you feel like they wouldn’t survive it emotionally without you?
My Partner Isn’t Capable Of Dealing With This
When our partner is battling cancer, they are quite literally battling for their life. I personally can not imagine how this must feel. I know for my husband, it was scary. He was afraid of death. He was always afraid of leaving his daughter without a father. This fear made him angry a lot of the time.
I’m so glad he was able to be open and vulnerable with me. In many ways cancer brought us closer in our relationship. On the other side of that, sometimes I made his vulnerability mean he wasn’t capable of handling this on his own. When I thought that, it meant that I needed to be his emotional prop. I would then try to manage his environment so that nothing upset him and he didn’t have more reasons to become angry. I was literally on edge sometimes trying to manage his emotions. It was exhausting.
How We Think About Them Is Important
How we think determines how we will feel. Our thoughts are always the starting point. They will affect everything else, so you need to understand how you are thinking. What you believe about your partner’s emotional ability to cope with their disease will have a big impact on you and on them. It will be one of the determining factors in your ability to support them over the long run.
Let me explain what I mean with an example of two fictional people who each have a spouse with cancer.
Example 1 – Sara
Sara believes her husband can’t cope with his cancer without her. She thinks he is scared of what may happen and so she feels she needs to always be strong and positive for him. She worries about his mental state and that her support may not be enough. She thinks about his emotional state all the time and is keenly aware of his moods and is always trying to manage them. Sometimes she can hardly sleep through the night.
Example 2 – Jack
Jack is in awe of his wife’s mental and emotional strength in dealing with her cancer. He believes she is mentally strong and is amazed at how she is coping. She has her down times, but is able to come out of them. He supports her in all the ways he knows how.
Believing They Aren’t Capable Doesn’t Serve Them
Sara doesn’t believe her husband is capable of coping on his own. In fact, she believes he might fall apart without her. She loves him and so she not only wants to help him from that love, but also feels obligated and responsible for his emotional needs and support. That feeling of responsibility causes Sara to put a huge burden on herself, one of managing her husband’s emotional needs. The challenge with this is that she ultimately doesn’t have control over her husband’s emotions. Only he does. He will come to rely on her and may not have an opportunity to grow and discover his own strength.
Additionally, because Sara doesn’t believe him capable, she will continually try to do this job for him and will exhaust herself in the process. Her belief that he isn’t capable will cause her to unconsciously interpret everything he does as evidence that he isn’t emotionally strong.
Sara is so busy taking care of her husband’s needs, she has little energy left to take care of herself. Over time, she starts to feel burned out and emotionally depleted. She even feels a little resentful of her husband. After a while, she is not able to take care of him or herself.
Believing They Are Capable Serves Them And You
Jack has always thought his wife was strong. He believes that even facing cancer, she will be strong too. He believes in her and so even when she has down days, he props her up and reminds her of the strength she has within. His belief in her helps her to see the strength in herself. His belief in her helps her to find her own way of coping with her disease. Sometimes that may look like crying on his shoulder or sobbing into a pillow. Jack doesn’t exhaust himself trying to control his wife’s feelings because he believes in her own internal strength, even when she breaks down. He believes deep down she is strong and is determined to help her see her own strength however he can.
As you can see from Sara and Jack’s example, believing that your partner isn’t capable does not serve them or you. For your partner, it will prevent their growth. They will unconsciously become reliant on you which will limit their potential for discovering their own strength. This is their journey and no matter how much you love them, you can not walk it for them nor should you.
It doesn’t serve you either because you will exhaust yourself trying to control their emotions, whether they want you to or not. Their emotions are ultimately not in your control. You may support them, but you can not do it for them, no matter how much you love them and want the best for them.
What Do You Believe About Them?
Really take a look at what you believe. If you find it really challenging to believe that your partner is strong, then I want to challenge you to see how you might be wrong about that. How is it true that they are strong? Maybe it’s different then how you would do it, but you are each on your own journey and your way may not be theirs. Believing in someone no matter what is a beautiful gift you can give your partner and yourself. How your partner accepts that gift is not within your control.
You Chose What You Believe
Here is the amazing part about our thoughts… we get to choose what we want to believe no matter what. You get to choose to believe in your partner’s strength regardless of what they say or do. Even if they tell you they can’t handle it. Even if they seem like a wreck. Sometimes we need someone to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. When someone we love believes in us, it can help us find our own strength. It can be a beautiful thing.
Imagine your life if you take just one action today to take control of your mental health. If you do nothing, then nothing will change. Take just one step to get back in control of your life again. Click here to schedule a free consult. This one phone call could be the pivotal moment in your life!