7 Habits of ‘Great Cheerleaders’ – a loving message for family members

By Tabasom Eblaghie
Registered Clinical Counsellor

Have you noticed how wonderful we are at cheering a couple during the dating phase? Hollywood movies usually end with one person catching a taxi at the last minute to declare their love for their beloved, who is always just about to board a plane/bus/train. Traffic lights and rules are disobeyed, and there are sighs and “awwwwws” as family and friends all come together to make sure that the two individuals reach each other, and live happily ever after.

Fast forward to a few months or years after the wedding…how many of these family members and friends still play a positive role in a couple’s life?

How good are we as a society in cheerleading the new entity that has arisen as a result of this couple’s love, the “marriage” itself?

Our marriages take time and patience to grow, and definitely need support from those around us.

The Oxford dictionary defines “cheerleader” as an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of someone or something.

If you are the parent of a married couple, or have a brother and sister who is married, and want to focus on being a source of support for their marriage, here are 7 habits you could incorporate into your life to become a Great Cheerleader:

1) During family visits, Great Cheerleaders often speak and make eye contact with both individuals

Often conversations are held where the stories are directed to one person only, leaving the other partner isolated and feeling left out. Try and include both parties by making eye contact, saying the person’s name, asking questions of both individuals and drawing them into the conversation.

2) Great Cheerleaders avoid sarcasm, and hostile humour

For some individuals, this was how they communicated in their families of origin, but I’ve had many men tell me how hurt they are when in-laws make fun of how they look/dress/talk/financial situation, or women tell me about how they avoid their in-laws because of the jokes that arise because of their weight/ work or home life/child rearing choices. Jokes should never be used to make the other person feel inferior, or to point out their deficiency, whether true or not.

3) Great Cheerleaders offer their thoughts and helpful advice only when asked, rather than taking an expert position on every single thing that goes on in a couple’s life

They remember to allow the couple to make their own life choices without reprimanding them or using anger, guilt or the silent treatment to control them.

4) Great Cheerleaders avoid bad-mouthing one partner to the other in their absence

They focus on building up the absentee partner, and praising what each is doing right. They know that their opinion is important to the development of a healthy marriage, and foster stronger family units with kind words, and loving thoughts. They focus on making unity, rather than bringing in doubt and discord.

5) Great Cheerleaders avoid taking sides during a couple’s difficult moments

They remain neutral and don’t use negative emotions to control the situation. They encourage the couple to work things out between the two of them, given that there is no indication of danger or abuse for either party. Should abuse exist, nothing should be kept a secret and professional help must be sought.

6) Great Cheerleaders maintain healthy boundaries

Your love and care in bringing up your son and daughter, or your influence as a brother or sister, will always be appreciated. However, now is the time to let go of the position of “I-know-best”, and allow the couple to take care of each other, and choose how they want to live their lives.

7) Great Cheerleaders call and connect with both individuals

They make regular phone calls to both individuals, checking in and conveying their love. Great Cheerleaders include both parties in texts, messages and emails rather than leaving one party out of what’s going on.

In a future article, we will focus on the habits of friends as Great Cheerleaders.

By integrating the above habits into your own life as a parent or sibling, you assist and support your family member develop & grow their marriage and family life, free from the pressures of unkind words and gestures.