What does it mean to have a supportive partner?

A supportive partner can come in all shapes and sizes. We all look for something different and we’re all willing to deal with different things in relationships.

If you’d have asked me what I thought a supportive partner would look like years ago, it would have been someone who lets me get on with my own stuff and supports me. It would have been someone I could have fun with and someone who had a good relationship with my family.

As some of you will know, me and Sean broke up last year for a few months. Was that because there was a lack of support? No, but when your relationship starts to break down, it makes sense that you stop bringing positive aspects (such as support) into your relationship.

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I started my first business when I was 15 and  by the time I realised it was a viable money maker, I had people discouraging me and over the last few years I have had different men (partners and strangers) discouraging me from pursuing my goal of working for myself.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have it all. I refuse to choose between a career and family. Why can’t I have both? The thing that’s always got to me however is how men look for a strong independent woman until it means she doesn’t rely on him. Once they know she isn’t dependant on them, they turn and sometimes it’s in a very toxic way which is NOT okay! Society still tells us that men have to be bread winners and provide for their families. In what world is that set in stone?

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One thing I appreciated about Sean from the time we started dating was just how supportive he is and has been of my dreams. Granted, he doesn’t have a business mind and has no interest in blogging so there are things he simply doesn’t get but never once as he used that to belittle my vision.

The longer we’ve been together and the more we’ve gone through life, the more I’ve realised that to me, a supportive partner is someone who doesn’t live by the construct of gender stereotypes because for me, that’s where half the problems come. Between me being a woman, an African woman and an African woman who grew up in western culture, my cultures have a lot of clashes when you put them side by side. In African culture, you normally don’t live with a partner until you’re married, they don’t meet your parents until you’re engaged (I have a blog here on how to introduce your non-black boyfriend to African parents) and when you finally do live together, the mans focus is normally on his work whilst the woman has to work, have kids whom she needs to look after and she has to keep the house looking perfect. That’s not me…

I have a lot of respect for my culture and my parents but ultimately, I believe the final say is mine because there aren’t many women around me in my position that want a life the way I do. For me to have the freedom to choose when and where to work, to have the freedom to choose when we have kids and be comfortable enough to know that I can provide for my family whilst having a spotless house (one day) means doing things differently to most women. To find a man that is genuinely comfortable in one day not being the breadwinner is actually quite the novelty.

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So, what does a supportive partner look like to me now? It is still someone comfortable enough in them self to let me do me. It’s being with someone strong enough to tell me when I’m wrong because he knows I’m stubborn. It’s being with someone who appreciates and respects my culture, my family and my goals but this year especially, it is has been someone to help pick me up when I’m at my lowest mentally, someone who hears (not just listens) me and someone who reciprocates the energy I give them. A supportive partner is someone who understands that we come from two different families with two different sets of norms and rules but knowing that we can mix the best of both to create a happy, fun and fulfilling life together.

I’m not saying Sean is some amazing new-age man who gets it all because he isn’t. Getting him to clean is a pain, he’s crap with money management, he’s not always great at expressing his feelings and he can NEVER find his own stuff!!! He’s an actual melter but he’s a melter with a heart of gold and someone I know I could say absolutely anything to without being judged.

It would be silly of me to live my life thinking we could both do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted because that’s not how a relationship works but one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how different you are as people or how different your goals and dreams, you have to WORK TOGETHER and push each other. This time last year we weren’t together and now we’re happier than we’ve ever been after a very tough year for both of us personally.

Don’t lose your values and don’t settle for crap because when you’re on the same page, you can work with your partner to achieving anything. That for me may only be Sean cooking and posting my desserts whilst I get on with other work, but it allows me to focus on other things which I appreciate more than I could ever express so I repay that with making sure he knows I always have his back.

What does a supportive partner look like to you?

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All photography by the amazing Lauren of Lit Photography NI. If you fancy checking out more of Lauren’s work, click on the links below –

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