So what exactly is emotional support. How do you ask for it? How do you go about learning what kind of emotional support that you need. What kind does your partner need? Even not knowing what kind of support you need in the moment and admitting it can go a long way! On this episode, we explore what emotional support is, what it is not and learning what you need emotionally from a partner. We even cover co-dependence or emotional negligence in a relationship.
Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
Please send us your feedback and questions to email@example.com, find us on Instagram @Multiamory_Podcast, tweet at us @Multiamory, check out our Facebook Page, visit our website Multiamory.com, or you can leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05. We love to hear from our listeners and we read every message.
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Dedeker: I'm a huge fan of helping other people in my life know how to help me. Helping people understand how to help me. That means things employing a healthy, proactive communication of what I want, what I need, what my boundaries are to the people around me that I need support from. Being clear about the support that I need, or being clear and not knowing as well, sometimes it's okay. Sometimes I think it is okay to be like, "I'm not sure exactly what I need right now, but let me percolate on it or let me think about it and let you know, " or "I don't know exactly what I want right now, but let's start with the hug."
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating.
Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication.
Jase: You have no desire to improve your romantic life. Then, our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: If you want some out-of-the box ideas to deepen your current relationships.
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.
Emily: Or learn more about non monogamy.
Jase: Then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: I'm Dedeker.
Jase: This is the Multiamory Podcast.
On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about emotional support and emotionally-supportive relationships, as well as the inverse, [foreign language]
Dedeker: I didn't think you'd actually commit to that.
Emily: What does that mean?
Jase: What I actually mean to say is the inverse which is emotional neglect, I guess, or a lack of support.
Dedeker: Codependence, also.
Jase: And codependence, too. Yes.
Emily: I see, that's emotional support backwards.
Jase: Not backwards.
Dedeker: Yes. This is classic case of someone else wrote Jase's into and Jase didn't proofread it-
Jase: No, I did and I liked it.
Jase: -so I decided to stick with it. Yes.
Dedeker: I'm amazed because-
Emily: You're just like, "How do I actually say this?"
Dedeker: -usually you hate the things I write in general.
Emily: Not true.
Jase: No, but usually, yes. I guess for our listeners at home, usually, one of these two writes the intro for me and tries to get me to stumble over it.
Emily: I usually don't.
Dedeker: No, it's not trying to get you to stumble over it-
Jase: It's mostly Dedeker.
Dedeker: -like trying to get you to just be aware and be careful.
Jase: I see. It's like that thing that your sibling does. It's like, "No, I just trip you when you're running down the hall to teach you to be careful and to watch your surroundings."
Emily: Yes, it's teaching you a lesson.
Dedeker: Exactly, yes. It's for your own good, Jase.
Dedeker: Thinking of other things for your own good, I'm going to rant at you and Emily, and at myself and all the listeners. It's just a general rant. On the ephemeral nature of words and word definitions because, correct me if I'm wrong, Emily, but I think the inspiration for this episode was trying to get to the bottom of, what is emotional support? It seems like that's a word or a phrase that means very different things to different people.
Emily: Absolutely. Some people that I heard of how their they support their partners and how their partners support them, I'm like, "That's really overboard in my mind, but maybe to them, that's normal." What what do you think it means to you?
Dedeker: Well, just to build on that, I think you can also see the opposite of seeing a relationship where it feels like that person seems like they're not given the support that I would need in a relationship, or maybe that is what works for those two people. I just want to put it out there just at the very beginning that there's some words that get tossed around a lot when talking about relationships, and especially with relationship advice. Words like support or respect, or honor, or sometimes even-
Emily: I want to honor my wife.
Dedeker: -yes, or sometimes even prioritize. It's like these are very subjective words, I think, and sometimes to a dangerous degree because you can very easily get into a disagreement over feeling like, "Well, I feel like you're not supportive enough of me," and the other person being like, "I feel like I'm totally supportive of you." It could be a number of things. It could be just the language of support that you're using with each other, or just mismatch, or something like that. I'm just saying that there isn't really a universal definition that applies in all scenarios of what support or respect means.
I'm just going to put it out there at the very top of the episode. What I like to encourage people to do is chase the specific concrete needs that you have rather than chasing a word or a label. If you're finding yourself in a situation where you're frustrated that it's like, "Well, I've asked my partner for support and they're not giving it," that might mean it requires a little bit of some critical analysis of like, "Okay, well, what does support mean to me? What are the specific behaviors? What do I need to see? What do I want to hear?" As opposed to just putting this bring the thing of, "I need you to support me," without being clear on what that means.
Jase: Yes, because for some people, that could be totally different than for someone else.
Emily: Yes, even within partnerships, clearly.
Dedeker: That's true with a lot of different things too. Where it's like you could look at another couple and go like, "That's really cute that they have that together, but I actually don't think I would be very happy with that type of relationship," whether it's how spontaneous they are or it's how emotionally supportive they are. You might be like, "I actually want more space than that." Whereas, another person might look at you and your relationships that you think are great and go, "I feel like I wouldn't be getting any affection from my partner or whatever." It's like the point isn't, here's one correct way to do it. The point is, let's explore what this means and how to understand these things so that you can find what works for you.
Emily: Yes. I did find a fairly good definition of what emotional support in a relationship is. This is from liveyourtruestory.com, which is something, isn't it?
Jase: Quite a domain.
Emily: Yes. They say, "A supportive relationship is a relationship which brings mutual benefit to both parties, helping them to cope with the tough times and maximize the good times. Simply put, a supportive relationship enables you to achieve more than you ever could on your own."
Jase: All right, I like it.
Dedeker: I like that. I like that there's some fundamentals of mutuality and support.
Jase: Yes. I do think if you have a partnership that really pushes you in a way to be the best version of yourself, and by pushing or whatever that is a form of support, I do think that that can encapsulate what this is talking about to a degree. Just someone who is there for you when times get tough, and can help pull you out of that if need be, and that you mutually do the same for them.
Dedeker: Well, we felt that it was maybe best to start chipping away at what is emotional support and what is an emotionally supportive relationship? First, by looking at some of the things that are not emotional support or not supportive, or mutually supportive relationships. The first thing that we're going to talk about is codependent relationships. Let's have a show of hands. Who here has been in a codependent relationship? I'm putting up both my hands?
Dedeker: Yes, hands all around.
Emily: [crosstalk] in horizon, let's be honest.
Dedeker: Any good stories? Honestly, I feel like every relationship I was in from age zero to maybe age 27 was pretty darn codependent. I think especially in my pre non-monogamy days because I think that that was just what I thought a relationship was.
Jase: Well, that's the thing. We are taught this romanticized idea of you complete me, or I'm nothing without you. These things that we think of as very romantic, but are at their core very codependent.
Emily: Yes, I did hear a podcast recently where it's with a couple. I'm not going to name what it is, but it's with a couple that does the podcasts together. The husband was like, "Yes, I've been obsessed with her since we were 12-years-old." I'm like, "Okay, the word obsessed is interesting," and maybe potentially can be viewed as codependent.
Because this was also the impetus for this episode for me wanting to think about this episode is that their relationship is one of like, "Well, let's give a lot of gifts and let's be super extravagant in what we're doing for each other," or that he has to be really extravagant and overly telling her how amazing she is, and giving her a ton of compliments, and showering where with gifts. I do think that some people think that that is support, or that is being a wonderful supportive, loving caring partner. Yes, again, I'm like, "I don't know, is that?" I don't know.
Dedeker: I don't know. I guess it depends on their experience in the relationship because maybe that is the perfect level of mutual support but the two of them feel okay maintaining, or maybe it's really exhausting for both of them and they feel obligated, but that's just the level that things have gotten to, perhaps.
Emily: Yes, okay. A codependent relationship, let's break down what that is exactly. One of the things that it can do it is characterized by unhealthy clingingness, a lack of autonomy, a lack of self sufficiency, or autonomy in one or both partners. Not just autonomy from the whole, but also if one person has that then potentially, that can equal a codependent relationship.
Dedeker: It doesn't necessarily have to be one-sided, it could be both people feeling equally they're disempowered, or that they don't have an autonomy, or that they're both completely-
Emily: It's always us, us, us, us.
Dedeker: Yes, or the idea of just we're mutually completely dependent upon each other for our emotional well-being, things like that.
Emily: Or any decision-making or whatever.
Dedeker: Yes. A codependent relationship can also include a major imbalance in the level of support that is given. As in situations where-
Jase: The one-sided kind of thing.
Dedeker: Yes, where it's one-sided, or maybe it's not quite so mutual, or if you're giving support to a partner at the expense of your own mental health, emotional well-being, physical health, or financial health, as well.
Jase: Yes, I've definitely done that one.
Dedeker: The idea that it's like you're draining yourself in order to support this partner and you're not getting much back. Not that it's necessarily a one-to-one transactional thing, but that systemically it's like there's just this constant major imbalance that is depleting me as a person.
Jase: I was actually just, earlier today in looking up stuff about this episode, I was looking at a thing from Safe People, which is by Cloud-Townsend. I can't remember if that's one--
Emily: Wait, a book or what?
Jase: I think Safe People might be the title of the book actually, but it's a very, very Christian book in the way that it's written here. I was just looking through their site and looking at their description of what a safe person is and that you want safe people in your life.
Emily: One who is connected to God?
Jase: Well, yes, that is-
Emily: I'm assuming from--
Jase: -on the list. Religion aside, the things on it are things like, someone who accepts me just like I am, someone who loves me no matter how I'm being or what I do. I'm like, "Okay, sure, that's a little blankety. Then gives me an opportunity to grow, great. Who increases love within me, great. I can be myself around, great." Then there was this one that was someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.
Emily: Wait, what does that even mean?
Dedeker: That makes my ears perk up a little bit and not in a good way.
Jase: Not in a good way. It was just a little bit like, "Ooh, yikes." Then there's a few others that are a little bit on that like, "Wait, what do you mean by this?"
Emily: Denies myself what?
Jase: "Deny myself," I assume means to deny my own desires, or my own wants for the sake of other people, or for God.
Emily: I am correct on that, interesting.
Jase: Anyway, it's just these things that to someone who maybe airs on the side of being a little more selfish, I'm like, "Okay, maybe that's a good influence in their life." For a person who airs more on the codependent side of things, or on the overly self-sacrificing side, I look at this list and I'm like, "This book that sold hundreds of thousands of copies is teaching people to bring people into their lives who will make that worse." Anyway, I guess just I brought that up just as a way to point out that a lot of the conventional wisdom out there and the popular advice. I had a counselor recommend that book to me years ago.
Jase: Yes, that's why I knew about it at all. That there's some stuff that's it really depends on your situation. You do have to evaluate what those things really mean for you because it might sound very healthy to one person and to another person could end up being very unhealthy.
Dedeker: I think it also requires a certain level of self-awareness of your own baggage, of just your own style of being, or your style of being in a relationship. If you know that you tend to end up in codependent relationships, or if that you tend to end up being the person who just gives, gives, gives, gives, gives to the point of total depletion, sometimes having that awareness in the first place can be really helpful as well.
Jase: I found, this one is definitely a case where I've seen myself do this, I've seen partners do this, and I've seen other people do this, where it's give, give, give support at the cost of your emotional, physical, and financial well-being, and that that support isn't even really supporting the other person very well.
Emily: In what way?
Jase: Well, it's like I'm giving a bunch of my resources, whatever those are, to support you and maybe that's not the kind of support you actually need. It's that giving it because we're taught the self-sacrificingness of giving this is what makes it good, rather than the impact of it being what makes it good. Rather than actually looking at what is going to give the best benefit to the other person. I stop myself from going on a big rant about missionary work. It's a good metaphor, though, think about it.
Dedeker: It's a whole other podcast. I will.
Jase: All right, the last thing we want to talk about this with the supportive relationships versus codependent ones is on WebMD actually, they had a thing about codependent relationships. I actually really liked this list of questions to ask yourself to identify if you might be in a codependent relationship. There's just three of them. The first one is, are you unable to find satisfaction in your life outside of a specific person?
Emily: That's pretty big.
Jase: I've definitely experienced that one before.
Jase: It really lends itself to this one, of that just nothing is enjoyable, nothing is worthwhile outside of this specific person. Second one is, do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in your partner, but you stay with them in spite of those things? I think that's a big one that a lot of us have fallen into.
Emily: All of us have been there.
Jase: The third one is, are you giving support to your partner at the cost of your own mental, emotional, or physical health? That's the one we were just talking about. I just liked how simple those questions were and how much they're directed at yourself. It's not about like, "From the outside, are there x, y, z symptoms?" It's like, "No, what about for you, what's your experience?"
Dedeker: It's also not about- we talked about this in the episode we did about narcissism. That it's also not about trying to figure out, "Is my partner a narcissist?" It's literally just about, what's the impact on you? That's what we care about, we don't care about, we don't need to examine your partner's motivations, are they a bad person, are they good person, are they doing this intentionally, are they not? It's just focusing on you. I think those are good simple questions.
Emily: That's really a powerful position to be put in, or put yourself in rather because then you are the one who is the deciding factor. It's not anything about them per se. We also want to talk about how to recognize a lack of support in your relationships because again, I definitely have heard people say, "I feel like I'm really supportive in this relationship, but I feel like my partner isn't necessarily, or I'm not getting the emotional support that I want from them," x, y, z, it could be a number of things. Ways to recognize the lack of support might include dismissing or minimizing your experience or feelings. This almost falls into the gaslighting territory demand.
Dedeker: It could.
Jase: That's maybe like an extra extreme version of this. It doesn't have to go that far.
Dedeker: I think that there are degrees of gaslighting, but I think there's definitely some overlap in that Venn diagram there.
Emily: I think it can a little bit. Again, this just means if you have experience with your partner, or they say something for example that irks you in a bad way, even just ask kindly about, like "Hey, I felt x when you said y. Can we talk about that a little bit?" and they're like, "No, it really was nothing, you didn't feel bad," or, "That was dumb to feel bad." Or something along those lines, minimizing your experience.
Dedeker: I feel like I have to catch myself to stop myself from doing this to partners honestly because I think that in my family of origin, a lot of problem solving was dismissing or minimize someone's feeling. Trying to logic them out of feeling bad about something, which has its place, but most of the time doesn't have its place when someone's reaching out to you for support.
Jase: Yes, that's true.
Emily: Something that I heard a lot growing up I feel was like, "Why you're victimizing yourself?" That word is very powerful, I think. I almost want to do an episode on what that means to be a victim versus victimizing yourself and that could be some rocky territory there. I'd really be interested to know more about that where that fine line is, because I do think, obviously, you can have an emotion and that can be more internal. That can be because of an internal thing that has happened to you in the past or whatever, but there's also like, "Hey, that really was unnecessary for you to say," kind of thing and, "No, my feelings in this moment are valid so respect them."
Dedeker: I want to just add to this list, I think dismissing your feelings, minimizing your feelings, or experience, or also trying to logical away your feelings, I think would be good in this list.
Jase: Yes, we could add that, it's a similar type.
Dedeker: Again, especially when it comes to logic in a way, I don't think that always comes from a bad place, but it definitely doesn't help things, I suppose.
Jase: Right, yes, it could even come from a helpful place. That's a good example of what I was trying to bring up before about, you might feel like you're giving a lot of support and even feel like put out by how much support you're giving, but the effect of that may actually be not supportive at all. That's actually a decent example of that. Another one here about a lack of support is a partner who defaults to competitiveness rather than encourangingness, encouragements.
Dedeker: I think that's encouragement, that's what we say in the English language.
Jase: Yes. You know what, as a native speaker of English, I can do whatever I want.
Dedeker: It's all right.
Emily: Whatever you want, I see.
Jase: Yes, just that. That it's like if something goes well for you, they need to want up you, or they need to come up with a way that they've experienced something better than that already, but like, "Yes, I've had something more so than that."
Dedeker: Definitely it can come up in multi-partner relationships or non-monogamous relationships especially when two people are trying to date at the same time. This can come up sometimes unintentionally.
Jase: I think usually unintentionally. I think usually the person doing this, again, doesn't know that they're doing it. They might even think, "I'm relating to you by sharing my feelings about that and how much that means to me, but it actually feels like, while you're just focused on you and not helping me celebrate this thing that went well for me."
Dedeker: Yes. Another sign that there may be a lack of support in your relationship is if your partner routinely talks over you or interrupts you.
Jase: That's a really bad one.
Dedeker: Yes, it's a tough one. It's a tough one. Again, with many of these things, it's like we've all been guilty of doing it to our partner at some point. That's why it's important to look at, is this routine? Is this habitual? Is this a pattern? You're talking over you like, if a partner is truly invested in supporting you, they will want to hear your side of things and they will want to hear your story.
They will ideally want to give that space for that to exist instead of again, talking over, or doing all these things like diminishing or minimizing, or things like that. Then to keep going through these circles of anti-emotional support health I suppose, is if the relationship is emotionally neglectful, or emotionally abusive. We're going to talk quickly about the differences between neglect and abuse because there is some overlap, but they're not necessarily the same thing.
Emily: Okay, so neglect will be a pattern or a habit of a partner refusing or withdrawing support. Again, like we said about the previous things, we're all guilty of being emotionally neglectful at times, but we definitely want to emphasize the systemic nature of neglect or of withdrawing support. The habitual pattern that cannot happen in some relationships. That's the thing to look for. If you're wondering like, "Hey, am I being neglected here? Am I just thinking that this is something that's happening? Is it all in my head, or is this actually something that I need to look at?" Then yes.
Dedeker: Yes, I was just going to give some examples that habitual emotional neglect could look something like anytime the two of you have a disagreement, your partner shuts down and then refuses to talk about it ever again and we pretend that it never happened and never existed, or when you're going through a rough time, this person is nowhere to be found. Routinely, they just check out and they are not around you.
Emily: During the hard times.
Dedeker: Yes, things like that.
Emily: Yes, totally. Then abuse is also a pattern or habit of a partner doing things to harm you emotionally, but this can look like-
Jase: It's doing things rather than not doing things, right?
Emily: Yes. It's a habit of a partner doing things to harm you emotionally, correct. This can include things like name-calling, or guilt-tripping, or coercion, ultimatums, stuff like that. Yes, maybe gaslighting can fall under this too.
Dedeker: That can fall under the emotional abuse category?
Jase: Yes, I feel like the point that we're trying to make is-
Emily: One is not doing and one is doing.
Jase: -right, that that's the difference.
Dedeker: You could have a mix of both in a relationship, honestly.
Jase: Sure, yes.
Emily: Yes, one can be neglectful and abusive, or...
Dedeker: Yes. We extend the power the human beings is just amazing.
Jase: Yes. Although we do want to say like Dedeker was mentioning at the beginning of the episode, that the point of this isn't to be like, "Well, you need to figure out if you fit enough of these symptoms to diagnose your partner or your relationship as being emotionally neglectful or abusive or whatever it is," but rather to keep the focus on what is your experience of it? If that is unhealthy or just a bad experience, then that's enough of a reason to get out of it. You don't need to be sure it fits some other definition to either change that relationship or remove yourself from that relationship.
Dedeker: Totally. Okay, I like to believe we chipped away what emotional support is not or some clues that you might look out for- blast out you two.
I did not, okay. We chipped away at the qualities of what emotionally supportive relationships are not, some clues for you to be able to see like, "Maybe there's a lack of support here, I'm being emotionally neglected, or maybe it's a codependent relationship." What are the qualities of an actually healthy supportive relationship? How does one actually give emotional support to your partner in a way that's good?
Jase: The challenge with this list here, I'm realizing, is that we have a number of things that are written in the negative. I'm going to challenge us to try to come up with what's the positive of that.
Dedeker: Okay, all right.
Jase: Here's the first one on the list, is that you don't take responsibility for their entire life. Turn this into a positive statement.
Emily: You allow them, yes.
Jase: I like that way. You allow them to--?
Emily: You allow them to live their beautiful life and are happy and grateful when it also includes you.
Jase: Okay, yes.
Dedeker: All right, it's a good place to start.
Emily: I pulled that one way out of my ass.
Dedeker: You allow your partner to have autonomy and responsibility for their own life?
Emily: Yes, that sounds better.
Jase: Yes, or you support your partner in making their own decisions and taking action in their own life. Something like that. Anyway, you can get from what we're getting at here is that the point of this is that supporting someone isn't doing things for them, it isn't telling them what they need to do and expecting them to do it.
Dedeker: It isn't solving all their problems all the time.
Jase: Exactly. It's not giving them all the answers as if you have them, but right, it's not about being you being like, "Well, I'm responsible for this person's life, so I'm just going to have to do it all for them." Instead, allowing them to live their own life and be there to support them in doing that. The next one here, this one is a positive, this is respecting feelings, respecting their feelings. Allow for and proactively empathize with your partner's feelings even if they're not the same as your feelings. We wanted to talk a little bit about what that means.
Emily: Yes. You, Dedeker, had a really awesome thing to say about this that blew my mind.
Dedeker: This is something that I believe that comes from the Goldmens don't quote me on that.
Emily: Yield Goldmen.
Dedeker: From Yield godmen's, but something that they encourage people to try on when they're in a disagreement with their partner is to inject empathy into it. As in, let me try to think of a situation. Can we think of some argumentative situation where my feelings are hurt or other person's feelings were hurt? Can we come up with an example?
Emily: Well, okay. Like, Jase, you-- I don't know.
Jase: I thought you were going somewhere.
Dedeker: Yes, I really thought that had some. Okay, let me do some hanging fruit. Let's say, I go out on a date. Maybe Jase was expecting me back home at a certain time, or expecting me to communicate that I was on the way back home at a certain time, but I didn't. I did come back home, like I said that I would, but Jase's feeling upset or hurt or lost or whatever.
We get into an argument about that because maybe Jase's perspective is like, "Well, I was worried about you. I was concerned about you. I didn't know it was going to happen. I was expecting you back at a certain time." Maybe my perspective is like, "Hey, I told you I was going to be home. I didn't commit to a certain time. I don't know why you have to be so upset about that. You know that I'm coming home and then I'm fine," yada yada yada." You can you can imagine it in your head.
Some of you listening are probably been in this very same scenario. Clearly, my feelings about the situation are different from Jase's feelings about the situation, but I can still empathize with my partner's feelings even if they don't align with my own, even if I don't think that his perception of the situation is the same as I perceived it. It could be something like "Well, Jase, if I were in your shoes, and if I also was sitting there thinking about worried that I got into a car crash, or worried that I'd run across some kind of bad person, or the person that I was on a date with was a bad person, was taking advantage of me. It's like something bad happened. I would also feel that same level of worry that you do
If I perceive the situation the way that you did, I also would feel worried. It's totally understandable that you would feel worried and concerned and upset." Does that make sense? Maybe I don't know, what would be the inverse of that, Jase, if you were doing the same thing to me in that scenario?
Jase: I guess on the other side, I would be just like, "Well, if my experience of it were that I knew I was fine, and I was out having fun, and I knew we didn't have any specific plans, then it would seem like an extra hour or two wouldn't matter. It was more important to be in the moment and enjoy the time that I had, instead of rushing home for no reason." Something like that. I don't know. I guess you could even say like, "If I were in your position and I believed that I wouldn't be worried about it. If I believe that the other person wouldn't be worried about it, then I would probably stay out too and not think it was a big deal."
Dedeker: To understand and make the same decisions or whatever.
Jase: I think that's the key part there.
Dedeker: It was just kind of a couple together, for example. Thank you for your patience in this. It's this idea of being able to acknowledge to your partner. That means their feelings are valid even if you don't feel that same exact way.
Emily: I never heard.
Jase: I thought of another example of this, that I feel maybe even fits more with what we're trying to say. This is, say you're having an argument with your partner, or some kind of a heated discussion. One of you says, "Fuck," in that conversation. The person who said, "Fuck," that's like, "whatever," that's a thing they would say in this kind of conversation. To the other person, that's like--
Emily: Like an attack?
Jase: Feels like an attack.
Dedeker: It's triggering.
Jase: If you say that word, that means there's no coming back from this. This is, "We've gone so far into hating each other that you would say that word." I think this is a good example of where the way this conversation will often end up going, is then the person gets upset about them saying, "Fuck," or whatever it was that they reacted so badly to and being upset about it. The other person saying like, "You shouldn't be upset about that. That is just fuck."
The other person being like, "No, that's terrible. I should be really upset about that. I can't believe you said that." The other person saying like, "What are you talking about? That's ridiculous." What is missing here is that empathy, like Dedeker was talking about, of going, "Wait a minute. Explain to me what your perception of this is so I can understand it." Then it's still like, "To me, that word means this. That was only ever said in my family when things were just off."
Emily: Really bad.
Jase: Then it's like, "Yes, I could understand if that word meant that to me, I would feel the same way as you." Then on the other side too, it's like, "That's just a word I say with my friends and past partners," whatever, that's like, "so not a big deal." The other person can say like, "If I felt that way about that word, if it was like saying fiddlesticks to me, I could see why you would say it and it wouldn't be upsetting to me."
It's that example of by taking that time to understand why they feel that way. It at least gives you a place to understand each other from, rather than it's like you're trying to argue whether something should or shouldn't be when you're both seeing the world completely differently. You're watching two different movies and you're trying to argue about some quality of the protagonist. Something like that.
Emily: Kind of reminds me of switched tracking a little bit, but--
Dedeker: A little bit, yes.
Jase: I think it's related.
Emily: It can be related.
Dedeker: I think it's also related to, we've talked about this a couple of times on the show, about competing narratives or competing realities. This idea that people perceive things differently. We can get so caught up in trying to get the other person to agree that our perception was the right one and that their perception was the wrong one rather than accepting that it's like, "Both of these perceptions can be valid and we can find common ground and shared empathy."
Jase: Because it's like we don't even realize there is another perception. Instead it's just like, "He assumed they perceive things the same way you do?" Then it's like, "How the hell did you have that emotional response to this thing?" It doesn't make any sense what are you doing?
Emily: Yes, totally. Another affirmative thing is to compliment your partner in public. That is a sign of a healthy and supportive relationship, or even just avoiding humiliation or put-downs in public. I think you probably shouldn't humiliate or put your partner down in general, but definitely not in public. That's a rough one.
Jase: The public adds a whole other level to it, both in a good way and a bad way. I think doing compliments in front of other people is big.
Emily: I know. It's like, "Well, yes, that's really sweet of you to do for me." This says never ignoring a partner's presence, but-
Jase: How do we make that positive?
Emily: -how can we make that into a positive?
Dedeker: I'm going to keep making it negative and just say that this also means don't stonewall your partner.
Emily: Yes, that's true.
Jase: To make this positive, it's like--
Emily: Acknowledging their presence?
Emily: Being sweet to them in public, maybe even, or just like--?
Jase: I guess I imagine this one more as about being in private, but I guess it could apply in public too. Just like I'm doing a thing and I'm just gonna pretend you don't exist right now.
Dedeker: Well, I'm trying to think of the scenarios when stonewalling behavior comes up. It's usually when you're angry, or upset, or there's a disagreement, or you're fighting. That's when the stonewalling behavior comes up, and where you're just moving to the house not looking at each other, or coming into a room not looking at each other. I guess the opposite of that can be as even if you're upset with each other, still being able to acknowledge into each other like human beings.
Emily: It's like someone comes home from a long day and instead of maybe get up and greet them and say hi and look away from your computer for a couple of minutes kind of thing and just acknowledge their presence.
Dedeker: That too.
Jase: This reminds me of the Godmens thing about the turning toward, is what they call it. They talk a lot about the importance of that, what Emily just described. Is that moment of, "I'm going to stop what I'm doing right now to acknowledge you, or to be-"
Emily: Even put our phone down. If you're watching something together, don't just play a fucking video game on your phone. Maybe cuddle your partner or show that you care about them and care about the thing that you two are doing together at that moment.
Jase: That's not to say you can never do these things, but it's just putting that emphasis on turning toward.
Emily: Again, we're talking about those systemic cyclical things, the patterns.
Dedeker: Another quality of a healthy supportive relationship is respecting the other person's right and ability to make their own decisions. This is related to the stuff we were talking about earlier with not taking responsibility for someone else's entire life. Kind of a litmus test for this is if you find that you're able to offer advice to your partner without it being conditional, as in, you can offer advice to your partner and they have the ability to disregard it if they want. I feel like that's a real tricky one.
I feel like this comes up so often, but it is that ability to support this person in their own decision making, as opposed to supporting this person and trying to push an agenda on them of like, "I think they should do this and I'm going to push them into doing this, or I'm going to push them into making this particular kind of decision." That's scary. It's scary to trust that this person will make decisions both in their own interest and in the interest of you and your relationship as well.
Jase: I feel like this is one that's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're doing this when you're not. That's like someone's having to make a decision or isn't sure what to do about something and you're like, "You should do this. It could just make sense that you do this." I mean, you can do whatever you want, but you should do this. That's very different.
Emily: Thanks for being so supportive.
Jase: You're able to tell yourself like, "Yes, I'm letting them make their own decision." If they say like, "It's just like you're telling me what to do," you're like, "No, you can make your own decision."
Emily: You should do this.
Jase: What you're really saying is you're really saying you could make the wrong decision if you want, but I'm telling you the right one. That's a very different thing.
Dedeker: When we were researching this, we came across this thing called the imaginary friend exercise. That I'm going to let Jase--
Jase: [unintelligible 00:39:30]?
Dedeker: Yes, that's what it's called. Initially, it was about helping someone who wants to be supportive in a relationship, but they're worried about being codependent or about getting too invested in supporting this person to an unhealthy extent. Jase, can you tell us about imaginary friends?
Jase: Yes. Basically, it starts out as you picture yourself as an imaginary friend to this other person. I know that that right away might sound codependent and like your entire existence is dependent upon them bringing it in you. That's not really what we're getting at here. The point is that if you think about an imaginary friend, an imaginary friend is there to support, and to help you out, and to be a friend, but it can't do things for you. Because-
Emily: It is you.
Jase: -well, because you're not real. If you are the imaginary friend, you're not a physical being. Your job is not to go in and do things for them. It's not to solve the problems for them. Another thing is that as an imaginary friend, you are part of their own brain. Your job is not to give them answers, or to give them information that they don't have, or tell them what to do, instead as the imaginary friend, your job is to just get them to think about it. Ask them questions they need to be asked. Maybe like some-
Emily: Or like a therapist.
Jase: Yes. Make some suggestions, and listen to them, and help them reflect back to themselves what they're trying to work on.
Dedeker: Correct me if I get this wrong, I think the idea behind the imaginary friend exercises this is like a litmus test to see like, "Okay, am I supporting the way imaginary friend would as in with listening, with encouraging their own thinking, and with encouraging them to make their own decisions, or am I straying into more codependent or maybe even controlling territory of trying to dictate what they do, or trying to solve all that all their problems? It's a litmus test, it's not like, "Hey, just pretend to be your partner's imaginary friend and that's the rest of your life now."
Jase: Though could be a fun role play, just saying.
Emily: Like a sexual role playing?
Jase: Yes. Just for fun.
Dedeker: This is my imaginary friend.
Jase: I guess if you're involved with another person in it but just use your imagination.
Dedeker: All right, yes.
Emily: I'm sorry. The last time I had an imaginary friend I think I was six or something. It's hard for me to suddenly bring that into any weird sexual realm. You just picked my noodle a little bit as it were.
Dedeker: Picked my noodle.
Jase: You didn't have to make it weird.
Emily: Okay, I'm just going to bring you back to the exercise.
Dedeker: Let's move on, yes.
Emily: Use this is a litmus test. Please don't use it as a tool for running your life or for actually creating a relationship. Just as a litmus test for the support you're offering.
Jase: It's kind of fuck you little thought exercise.
Emily: Please don't fuck your imaginary friends.
Jase: You can if you want. They're your imaginary friends.
Emily: Hang on, if you make up someone, as an adult, if you make up something that you fantasize about, is that a sexual imaginary friend? I've definitely had some of those.
Jase: Like a made up person.
Emily: Like a made up person, yes.
Dedeker: That's an interesting question.
Jase: Are they your friend?
Dedeker: Be my sexual imaginary friend. Okay.
Jase: He's a real person, that's the difference.
Emily: I'm thinking not real people.
I want to fantasize about not real people all the time.
Jase: I think one other part of this actually is the friend part. That's actually one of these here is that you're an imaginary friend. You're not an imaginary judge or an imaginary critic. God knows we've got those too.
Jase: We've got those two. We've got plenty of imaginary critics or imaginary judges, your imaginary friend.
Emily: But they're all lives?
Jase: They're all lives, yes.
Emily: The kicker.
Jase: I guess I'm saying with your imaginary fantasy person. Are they your friend or maybe they're something else?
Dedeker: Imaginary friends with benefit.
Emily: My imaginary friends with benefits look like you.
Dedeker: Sure, if you want. Yes, I guess.
Emily: Okay, all right. When all of this is said and done and you are going through a tough time, I think it is very practical and good to learn how to receive emotional support well, especially when you're going through a really challenging time in your life. The first step of this is to allow your partner's support and kindness to give you a chance to step outside of yourself and the particular challenge that you're going through.
I think this ties into the next one which I'm going to talk about, which is gratitude. I know a lot of self-help things out there talk about gratitude being a really big thing. Even just writing down-- What was it, Jase, three things every single day that you're grateful for?
Emily: Even if it's just, "Today in Los Angeles was a perfect day. It was glorious outside. I'm going to Chicago in a couple days and it's going to be in the 30s. Yes, way different than that. I am so grateful for the beauty of being outside." Then also when your partner is really good and compassionate and supportive of you be like, "I have someone in my life who is being so wonderful and lovely to me." It allows you to think outside of the challenge that you're going through. If something really hard happened at work and you can't stop thinking about it and it made you feel really bad. It's like, "My partner is taking the time to really be there for me." That's awesome.
Jase: Yes, it's like using the support itself as another thing to think about instead of just dwelling on the things that are not good in your life.
Emily: Exactly. Because I think, especially when some of us get in a state of being really down, it's easy to just wallow in it instead of being like, "I have things that are outside of this and looking big picture in my life. There's more to my life than just this one instance or one moment."
Dedeker: Yes, definitely. I'm a huge fan of helping other people in my life know how to help me, like helping people understand how to help me. That means things like employing a healthy, proactive communication of what I want, what I need, what my boundaries are to the people around me that I need support from, being clear about the kind of support that I need, or being clear and not knowing as well.
Sometimes it's okay, sometimes I think it is okay to be like, "I'm not sure exactly what I need right now, but let me percolate on it or let me think about it and let you know," or "I don't know exactly what I want right now, but let's start with a hug and then just take it from there, or let's start with me venting a little bit and then let's take it from there."
That also means if your support is some alone time, or just an easy time by myself to processes, also let them know. I think that along with falling prey to these fuzzy definitions of support where we can get mired down in, "I want you to support me. I am supporting you. No, you're not supporting me," mire down in definitions. We get also fall prey to this idea of like, "Well, you should just know how to support me in this moment," or "You should just know what it is that I need."
Of course, you don't want to have to be instructing your partner every single step of the way with every single decision and everything that they need to take care of you. but the fastest way to get what you want from someone is to ask for it. It is okay to be really concrete, I think, in asking for what you need. It can be as concrete as like, "I just want to sit here with you not talking for a little while and then I would love to cuddle with you. I'd love to cry. Then I'd love to just take a couple hours not talking about it and let's go distract ourselves and then maybe let's talk about it afterwards." It's okay to be that specific about the kind of support that you need and to be that specific in asking for it.
Jase: Yes. Another thing is to take a moment to do something kind for your partner during this time.
Emily: Or even a friend.
Jase: Even a friend, or a relative, or someone else. This is something that Dedeker has talked about for a long time of, when you're feeling down, reach out to someone else and let them know that you think they're great, or that you appreciate them, or whatever it is, as a way of both paying it forward. Then also it just gets you out of this cycle of being so focused on everything happening to you and empowers you to be a positive force in someone else's life.
Then somewhat related to that is actually praising your partner for the help that they're giving you and to let them know that you see that effort and you appreciate it. This one's especially important to if it's not a little short-term thing. If it's not like you ask for support and they give it and you're like, "Okay, I feel better now, but [crosstalk] still struggling, right?
Emily: Yes, and some people have a lot of shit going on at work, for example, for a really long period of time and they're just in the weeds with that.
Dedeker: Or it could be something chronic. It could be chronic depression or chronic illness or chronic dealing with a death or really long term things that you need support on.
Jase: Yes, but it's to let your partner know that you appreciate the support they are giving you. Because it can be really helpful for them to know that as well so they know they're on the right track and that what they're doing is helpful. Even if from the outside they might be like, "I must not be doing it right because they're still-"
Emily: They're not feeling better, yes.
Jase: This also reminds me of the appreciation part as part of the reconnection in radar. When you're doing your radars of having that time to appreciate each other for the support that you gave, and for the listening that you did, and all those things that sometimes I think we overlook a little bit and we get upset when we don't have them. It's important to acknowledge them when we do have them.
Dedeker: Right, what do we want the people to take away from all this?
Emily: Well, we gave some good ways to recognize what a supportive relationship is versus a codependent relationship and what a codependent relationship is in general. Then also, hopefully, how to recognize the lack of support in your life, the difference between neglect and abuse. How to see what those things are.
Jase: Yes, I was thinking about maybe giving people a new word to take home.
Emily: Here we go.
Jase: When we're talking about the idea of, what is emotional neglect?
Emily: We have this word.
Jase: We're saying don't get so focused on, is it emotional neglect or not? Because really what matters is is this relationship good for you? Is this healthy for you? Is this actually a good relationship for you to be in? Like we talked about way earlier, for one person, a relationship might be great and to you it's going to feel super neglectful. For another person relationship might feel great, and to you, it would feel super smothering and codependent. This isn't just sort of a universal good or bad, it's about what's right for you.
That reminds me of boundaries, which is something we talked about, of what it is that you want or don't want in your life? If I'm not willing to be in a relationship where I'm treated in this particular way, that's a boundary. This is the opposite of that, of saying that, "I'm not okay with being in a relationship where I don't get a certain emotional support." I was thinking it's not quite a boundary, but it's a negative boundary.
Dedeker: No, Jase, that is a boundary, though.
Jase: It's about that you're not okay with not getting something as opposed to I'm not okay with something happening. A normal boundary's like I'm not going to have a discussion with someone who's yelling at me. It's like that's my boundary. I'm going to remove myself from that situation if that happens and protect my boundary, but this is-
Dedeker: This is I'm not going to be in a relationship where someone's not talking good to me.
Jase: Where someone's not acknowledging me when I walk in a room, or is not allowing me to make my own decisions, or something like that. I was thinking, I'm not quite sure what it is yet, is it a nega-boundary or a noundury or antiboundary like antimatter. When you have anti-boundaries and boundaries together.
Dedeker: My problem, Jase, is not I feel like people already have a hard time wrapping their head around just boundaries themselves.
Jase: Well, okay, then this is like grad school level shit then.
Dedeker: This is like boundaries 301?
Dedeker: Oh my goodness.
Jase: Don't worry about it but, a noundry.
Emily: Noundries 301. Noundries.
All right, well.
Dedeker: Okay, I'm just gonna say I'm considering making this our ending tagline of every single episode. I would like to know what you think. As always, please don't weaponize this shit. Literally, I want to attach this to every single episode because I'm like, "Please don't take the things that we say and use them and be-
Emily: For evil.
Dedeker: Don't use them for evil. Don't beat your partners over the head with them. Don't weaponize this stuff. Just don't.
Emily: Thank you.
Dedeker: Take this advice, but don't use it as a weird ruler that you want to measure that's like yardstick that you're forcing someone else to live it, like forcing someone else to live up to. Use it as a yardstick for your own discernment in relationships, and discernment in choosing partners, and discernment over whether or not you should stay in a relationship or not. Please, I just don't want to hear any stories of someone being, "Well, I told my partner that they're not supportive of me because multiamory says that they need to be doing this, this, this and this." I'm like, "No one wants to be in a relationship with that person who is saying those things."
Emily: Yes. I've had people run up to me randomly at a concert and say, "You saved my relationship." We definitely don't want anyone to do the opposite of that and be like, "You ruined my relationship."
Don't weaponize that shit. That is my greatest fear. Thank you.
Dedeker: Yes, that's all. Do you think we should append this as a tag? It's kind of a negative tag to end all episodes.
Jase: It is a little bit, I don't know.
Emily: What was this one? I think it's a fun thing to say.
Jase: It's a good sentiment to wrap into all of them. I feel like we do talk about it a fair amount of taking ownership of your own part in things rather than using it to define and diagnose someone else, but don't-
Dedeker: Don't use us as a tool, as a weapon on other people, or on your partner. We didn't sign up for that.
Emily: That's true.
Nobody wants that shit. Yes.
Jase: I can, as always don't weaponize this shit. See you next week. That could be our sign off.
Emily: There you go.
Jase: We've been trying to cooperate sign off for years.
Dedeker: I have another one. Okay, I feel like there's a couple that first, I think for a while we were definitely repeating and remember, it is okay to break up with people. That's one, I think don't weaponize this shit is another one. I think another one is the disclaimer of remember, if you're in abusive situation, none of this advice matters and you need to get the hell out.
That's another one is people being like, "I tried to use NVC with my abusive boyfriend and it didn't work." I'm like, "Yes, you're right. You're right it didn't work,' or like "I tried to use the try force with a situation with my partner who's really emotionally abusive to me." I'm like, "You're right, it's not going to work." I feel like those are all negative things to end out on, but I feel like they're very true.
Jase: Yes, sometimes the truth isn't always shiny and pretty. I guess that's because you know what, though, people are listening to this show and not just listening to pop psychology stuff that's like, "Everything's fine as long as you do X, Y and Z." They already get it.
Emily: They understand, they know. They're in for the hard truths.
Dedeker: This is the thing, though. Jase, you see the good in people and I don't? That's so difference here.
Emily: Okay. Well, on that note, I'm very interested to hear what emotionally supportive things you do for your partners out there and also how you can receive emotional support in a good way. I'm very interested to hear about that. The best place to share your thoughts with other listeners is on this episode's discussion thread in our private Facebook group, or just-
Jase: It's a community too.
Emily: Yes, community. Anyway, I was like community? Oh, that's not the word that's on here. You can get access to these groups and join our exclusive community by going to patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You can email us at email@example.com. Leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05. I've been doing it in a different key lately. I don't know why.
Jase: No, I like it. It's changed it up.
Emily: Yes, okay. All right. Or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook. Multiamory is created and produced by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and me, Emily Matlack. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio Balvanera. Our social media wizard is Will McMillan. Our production assistant is Nicole Samra, our theme song is Forms I know I Did by Josh and Anand from the fractal Cave EP. The full transcript is available on this episode's page on multiamory.com.