Ideally, we can count on family support when we’re going through a tough time. We hope that they’re encouraging and understanding of our plight. But sometimes, they’re not emotionally available. In fact, their words and actions can make the situation worse.
There are many reasons why this happens. Loved ones may be physically far away and unable to be by our side. For instance, parents living in another state may not be able to help when their daughter has a new baby.
Family members can be poor listeners. Not everyone has a caring, empathetic nature. Rather than being compassionate and soothing, a spouse may be agitating, bossy or insensitive.
Family members face their own stresses and challenges. A man who is studying hard to get into medical school may be impatient when his girlfriend complains about her boss at work.
Sometimes, loved ones disagree with what we’re doing and turn their backs when we’re having a tough time. For example, a mother who disapproves of her daughter’s boyfriend is unsympathetic when she learns he’s been cheating on her.
We may have turned to family members so often that they’re reluctant to help us. A man who has loaned money to his brother several times in the past refuses to give him more, regardless of the reason.
Finally, family members can be part of the problem. If we’re embroiled in conflict with our siblings, we can’t count on them to be supportive.
Whatever the reason, the result is the same. We find ourselves in a stressful predicament, but we don’t get support from our loved ones and families. We may even question our relationships, wondering, “Should I stay with a person who isn’t emotion ally supportive?” Or, “What’s wrong with my family that they turn their backs when I need them most?”
The truth is that we can’t always rely on those closest to us. It’s our job to find the support we desperately need to keep our mental coffers filled.
WHERE TO FIND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Turn to your friends. Friends want to help out and are flattered when you ask. Put them to good use.
Try other family members. Families are composed of lots of different folks. Consider talking to a favorite aunt or a cousin you haven’t seen for a while. You might be pleasantly surprised by the resources in your own clan.
Be proactive. Sometimes you can predict when your stress levels will soar (e.g. you’re filing for divorce or your husband is having open-heart surgery). Talk to friends and family beforehand and say, “This won’t be easy for me. I’ll need all the help I can muster. Can I count on you to be part of my team?”
Be open-minded. You never know where support will come from. The checker at the grocery store may say just the right words. Your trainer at the gym may have had a similar experience. Embrace whatever feels good.
Join a support group. Whether you opt for in-person or online, you’ll connect with others in a similar situation and realize you’re not alone.
Seek professional help. A therapist, rabbi or peer counselor can all listen and offer guidance. Don’t be afraid to reach out.