The topic of this week brought to my attention something that I hadn't ever really considered before - that there is more than one way to support another person. Support seems like a pretty basic concept (basically, that you are there for another), and therefore I had never really taken much time to think about it. The first article was a fairly entertaining read - I thought that since it was about one couple in particular, it was pretty easy to see exactly what was being referenced in specific examples. Unrelated to the topic, but I thought it was really cute to see John Lutz so concerned about his relationship with his wife and not taking her for granted. When he explained invisible support and how important that was to a relationship, it got me thinking about how I behave and support others. I hadn't ever really thought about it, but it seems that I don't do as great of a job in invisible support. Not that I don't, but for the majority of situations I seem to hit on visible support a lot harder; I didn't think about how significant invisible support can be. I know that, for example, when I'm sick, it makes my day when my dad goes ahead and throws a load of laundry in, when it is typically my responsibility.
In the second article, even though it was a tougher read, I thought it had some interesting points in it. I liked how they explained why support is studied so much in couples - they indicated that once an individual cannot do it themselves, they turn to the one closest to them, which tends to be their significant other. I found the finding that knowing that you have support available is more beneficial than actually receiving support to make a lot of sense. Our family has had a tough past couple of weeks, including a death in the family. I know that my boyfriend would be more than willing to talk about it, and in fact would probably prefer to talk with me instead of having me deal with it alone, but I didn't want to talk to him about it. I didn't need him to physically (or more accurately, visibly) support me in order to know that he was there for me. Once he did get me to talk about it, I ended up getting frustrated more than anything else, because I didn't want him to feel sorry for me-that wasn't making me feel any better about things. Even though I knew he was just trying to be there for me, it wasn't helping me out; I very much understand what the author was talking about when they discussed the thought of support.
I was floored by the study in Great Britain regarding support and mortality...firstly, how in the world did someone think to study those two concepts together?? While the qualifications that they made to partially explain the high correlation (such as when people who are physically/mentally in need will draw more support from others), it was surprising to me that there was still an association with the two even after those factors had been controlled for. That was something I would not have expected. "Lehman, Ellard, and Wortman (1986) found that advice giving, minimization of feeling, identiﬁcation with feelings, and encouragement of recovery are most often seen as unhelpful." This made a lot of sense to me, and is something I have seen in my relationships over the years, both close and distant. When people are looking to receive support, they don't want you to act like you understand or tell them what to do - all they want is for the other person to listen.