If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you’re probably already aware of how important it is to be supportive when your spouse/partner shares distressing news with you. If your husband calls you at work to tell you he just lost his job, I’m sure none of you would set the phone down while you finished eating your lunch (and while you could still hear him crying through the receiver).
But have you ever thought how important it is to be supportive, attentive and responsive when your partner has good news to share? Recent research shows that it most certainly is.
Shelly L. Gable, Ph.D. has studied the effects of positive interactions on intimate relationships. Dr. Gable notes that most of the research on relationships has focused on how couples respond to each other during stressful events.
Relationship Help: Helpful and not so helpful ways of responding
When you listen to good news that your partner shares, it’s important to respond in what Dr. Gable calls an active and constructive manner.
If your wife reports that she just became a partner at her law firm, and if you respond actively and constructively, you might say (with elation), “Honey, that’s fabulous! All that hard work validated! What do you want to do to celebrate? Oh, and tell me all the details.”
If you were to respond passively, you might barely look up from your newspaper, say, “That’s nice, dear,” and not show any excitement about the good news.
Active and constructive responses build intimacy, trust and relationship satisfaction. Supportive interactions around positive events are also associated with fewer daily conflicts. (Read that sentence again, because that has big implications for every couple.)
When you respond in a supportive way to positive events in your spouse’s/partner’s life, you are highlighting your partner’s strengths—the qualities that make him/her feel empowered and worthwhile. When you affirm your partner’s strengths, you make your partner feel better about himself/herself and the relationship.
Positive interactions also enhance the resiliency of the relationship.
Relationship Help Action Step
So, if you want to strengthen your marriage/relationship, heighten your awareness to all of the positive events your partner experiences (even the smaller, less dramatic events). When s/he shares positive news, respond in a way that validates and recognizes his/her experience.
Try it today, and then make it a regular practice. You’ll be on your way to building a more satisfying and resilient relationship.
Dr. Rich Nicastro