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What’s the best way to help your partner when they’re overloaded at work or with life in general? That’s a no-brainer, you might say — it’s by jumping in and taking over chores, or fixing dinner, or bathing the kids. The list is endless. Not so fast, though. What seems perfectly intuitive may actually be off base.
A fairly natural reaction to someone doing you a favor is a general sense of indebtedness. “I owe you one,” you might say as a way of thanks. But there may be even more subtle nuances to a response to a favor. Gary Lewandowski Jr., PhD, writing for Psychology Today, says “Research shows that when we know our partner is helping us out, it can also lower our mood and make us feel more anxious. In part, acknowledging that we need assistance can make us feel inadequate. Now we’re someone who can’t handle life and needs outside help. It can feel like if we were a more capable person we would be able to deal with a stressful week and things around the house without needing anyone to step in and save the day.”
The solution? Lighten your partner’s load without letting them know. That same research Lewandowski cites reveals that people have less depression and anxiety when their partner provides “invisible support.” Examples, he says, range from “stifling the urge to correct your partner about something they did wrong,” to “avoiding overscheduling extra activities during your partner’s busy weeks.”
One caveat, though, says Lewandowski. “Both partners need to participate. If only one partner provides invisible support, and the other constantly takes advantage, that’s going to undermine relationship quality.” Which means this whole approach to you relationship begins with an honest and open conversation. See Lewandowski’s full article here.