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Establishing Trust and Support in Relationships
In the iconic courtroom scene in Legally Blonde, there is a subtle moment that often goes unnoticed. Elle Woods approaches the judge’s bench to replace Professor Callahan, who refuses to step aside in Brooke Windham’s case. In that moment, Elle’s romantic interest, Emmett, agrees to “supervise” her as a licensed attorney. Elle goes on to prove Brooke’s innocence, and this scene reinforces Emmett as a beau worth having. It raises the question: what happens when your partner doesn’t defend you?
Although most relationships don’t involve murder trials, the underlying premise remains the same. A healthy relationship requires a foundation of mutual trust, respect, and support. If your partner consistently fails to stand up for you, it becomes difficult to feel truly supported.
According to April Masini, a renowned relationship expert based in New York, “When your partner doesn’t defend you, it erodes the foundation of trust in the relationship. Being in a relationship means relying on each other. If your partner doesn’t stand up for you, either in private or in public, it creates a breach of trust that allows negativity and anger to infiltrate the relationship.”
Navigating the Challenge of Standing Up to Friends and Family
Being in a committed relationship means prioritizing your partner. While your partner may defend you against a stranger’s disrespect, it becomes more complicated when the offender is a family member or friend. Amica Graber, a relationship expert from the background-checking site TruthFinder, explains, “From birth, we’re on our family’s ‘team.’ When friction arises between a romantic partner and our family, it can be detrimental to everyone involved. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner to automatically take your side, especially if they have never established boundaries with their family.”
Your partner may feel conflicted about showing support, fearing it will be disloyal to their own family. However, your partner should be willing to present a united front with you, regardless of whether they agree with you in that particular moment.
Graber emphasizes, “It’s important to note that being in a romantic relationship doesn’t always mean automatically taking your partner’s side. While your partner should be honest with you about their reservations in private, they shouldn’t express those doubts in public.”
Standing up for each other can be as simple as saying, “I disagree with the way you’re speaking to my partner. We need to step away from this situation and calm down. We can revisit the conversation when we’re both ready.”
The Impact of a Partner’s Failure to Defend You
Graber explains that someone’s unwillingness to defend their partner doesn’t necessarily indicate disrespect or a disregard for their feelings. It could stem from their aversion to conflict. However, if this behavior persists without any effort to address it, it may signify an incompatibility, especially if loyalty is important to you.
Nobody wants to feel abandoned by their partner when facing difficulty. Building trust is rooted in repeatedly demonstrating that you will support and defend each other, regardless of the circumstances. Hanalei Vierra, a marriage and family therapist from California, states, “Creating trust is the essence of offering emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual support. If this support is missing, trust will be compromised, leaving the person feeling isolated.”
If one partner consistently feels alone, it can lead to resentment and doubts about the future of the relationship. Graber adds, “If someone can’t support you during external conflicts, it raises doubts about their ability to support you in other areas of life, such as your career or starting a family. You need to consider whether this is truly the kind of relationship you want to be a part of.”
Communicating the Need for More Support
Communication is key. Discuss your expectations with your partner openly and honestly. Do you want your partner to leave the room with you when things get heated? Would you prefer them to establish boundaries with their family? These goals can only be achieved through open dialogue.
Vierra advises, “Let your partner know that you understand their perspective. Acknowledge their feelings and the value they hold. At the same time, express your differing opinion, while emphasizing that it doesn’t invalidate their feelings.”
Graber adds, “Being a team doesn’t always mean fighting battles on behalf of the other person. However, it does involve offering support and genuinely listening to your partner’s point of view.” If you have communicated your needs and there is no visible effort to change, it may be a sign that you need to reevaluate the relationship. Ideally, you should seek someone who is willing to be your teammate.
Graber concludes, “Couples who demonstrate mutual support tend to have longer-lasting and happier relationships. Life presents challenges, big and small. Managing these challenges together becomes nearly impossible without offering mutual support. Having someone who is willing to fight for you, metaphorically speaking, promotes feelings of love and security within a relationship.”
- April Masini, relationship expert
- Amica Graber, relationship expert for the background-checking site TruthFinder
- Hanalei Vierra, Ph.D., LMFT, marriage and family therapist