Man and women also look to be supported in different ways. Men typically give instrumental support, that is, they try to provide specific advice as to how to fix a problem — do this or say that. Women, on the other hand, give more emotional support, that is, empathy and sympathy, and very often that’s what they want for themselves. Even if his solution is a good one, she may interpret it as unhelpful because it doesn’t take into account her feelings. If her reaction then suggests he’s not helping, he may come to approach such discussions with dread because he expects to fail. He may then withdraw, become impatient, or change the subject when confronted, but his wife’s take on his behavior is that he can’t be depended on.
Husbands can avoid a lot of problems by learning to identify when his wife needs advice or just a sympathetic shoulder. If he’s not sure, go with empathy and sympathy — that at least can lead to a continued discussion of the problem and an eventual solution, and if nothing else he’ll look like he’s trying.
The thing about emotional support is that’s its a fundamental building block for a marriage, so doing it right is essential. It’s also reciprocal. If the relationship is even-handed, the amount you give is roughly equal to what you get back. If you’re there to help when needed, you’ll likely be repaid in your time of need.