I've been dating someone off and on who sometimes, like all of us, gets down. And when he does, I try to help him. I recommend therapists or coaches, I give him quotes, I give him advice, I give him self-help books, I give him pep talks. Nothing ever seems to help, and I end up feeling more distant from him.
This morning when I was researching an article I'm writing about happiness, I found a process that I thought could be helpful in combating sadness and depression. So I sent it to him in an email, with the subject line reading "helpful?" He wrote back saying merely that it sounded like sound advice. Guy code: "Um, yeah, thanks, but I'm not planning on trying it."
Through that email, I felt his energy. He was resistant to my help. He put up a wall. I could feel the space grow again between us. I asked myself why that was. I really thought about it... And then it hit me! I had an epiphany! In trying to "help" him, really all I've been doing is trying to "fix" him. And we all know that we can't fix anybody, nor is it our job to try to. And it hasn't felt good to him to try to be "fixed" and not accepted for who he is. I decided I'm going to stop trying to help him and just start supporting him.
Truly, all men really want is their woman's support. To know that their woman is there, on their team, just letting them be who they are. I thought that my help was support. But it wasn't. That's why every time I tried to help, I was creating distance between us. He didn't feel valued and supported for who he was. He just felt like he was trying to be "fixed."
We need to let people be who they are. By supporting them without trying to fix them or offer up all sorts of help, they know they are loved and appreciated for exactly who they are. And it is in this safe, loving space of acceptance where transformation can happen. Not because we're forcing them to, not because we're nudging them, not because we're throwing unsolicited "helpful advice" at them. All that does it makes them feel that we want them to change. Think about it -- if you're already feeling bad, wouldn't it make you feel worse knowing that your partner is trying to change you?
Everyone goes through hard times. When we're feeling low, we want to know that we're not alone. We want to know that we're loved. We want to feel safe. We don't want to be kicked when we're down, which is what trying to "help" someone who hasn't asked for it sort of feels like. As women, it's in our nature to want to "do do do" to help someone feel better, to do whatever it takes to make sure someone we care about is happy... but men need to work things out for themselves. Our intention truly is to help... we are coming from a genuine place. But the best way to REALLY help is to support. We think that when we're giving him unsolicited help, we're supporting... but really all we're doing is creating separation.
After my epiphany I told him, "I'm going to stop trying to help you and just support you. I support you 100% and think you're wonderful." His whole demeanor changed and I literally felt his walls come down. The space between us cleared, and I actually feel closer to him now than I did when I was trying to help him. So, go ahead, and just give it a shot. Support him instead of help him.