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How to Show a Partner That You'll Be There for Them

If you're there for the good times, you'll be there for the bad.

Key points

  • Romantic relationships are one of our top sources of support.
  • Perceiving support is beneficial for health and well-being, but the benefits of actually receiving support are not as clear-cut.
  • Research suggests that being there for your partner during the good times can help them believe you’ll be there during the bad.
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Source: Rawpixel on Pxhere

Taking the time to celebrate your partner’s successes can help them feel good when something goes right and boost the quality of your relationship. But that’s not all it does, being there during the good times can also help reassure them that you will be there during the bad times, too.

Relationship partners are one of our top sources of social support, but the benefits of social support are not always clear-cut. Research shows that perceiving support from others is generally beneficial. Individuals who believe there are people who can help them during times of stress tend to be happier and healthier than individuals who do not believe they have others to turn to when they need support. However, actually receiving support is more of a mixed bag. On one hand, receiving support, especially receiving the type of support you actually need, can help people deal with problems and feel supported. On the other hand, receiving support can make people feel bad for a number of reasons, from feeling guilty for needing to ask someone for help to feeling depressed and bad about themselves for not being able to take care of the problem alone. Researchers have also found that perceptions of support are not always predicted by the actual provision of support. Where do those important perceptions of social support actually come from? One source may be the way partners react during good times, which researchers call capitalization.

When people capitalize on good times by taking a moment to celebrate a partner’s successes, they demonstrate their care and support without any of the negative aspects that actually providing support can bring during “bad” times. In this way, capitalization essentially allows people to safely “test the alarm” and reassure themselves that their partner is supportive and will be there for them when they need it.

In one study, researchers had participants report on their perceived quality of social support from their partner as well as daily reports of how much social support (support during bad times) and capitalization (support during good times) they were actually receiving from their partner. Two months later, the participants completed another measure of perceived quality of social support. What they found was that people’s daily reports of capitalization quality, but not their daily reports of social support, predicted changes in the perceived quality of social support after two months. In other words, how a partner reacts when participants shared good times with them was what really shaped their perceptions of how supportive their partner would be during bad times.

In another study looking at how social support and capitalization predict relationship satisfaction, researchers found that people were more satisfied with their relationships as long as they perceived their partner to provide support during either bad times (social support) or good times (capitalization). When it comes to relationship satisfaction, having a partner who is supportive in at least one type of situation is enough to make you feel they are there for you.

Although we may promise to be with our partners in good times and in bad, we hope that the bad times come rarely. However, knowing our partners will be there for us when times are tough is a keystone of relationships and overall health and well-being; social support has even been linked to mortality. This line of research suggests that being there in good times is a way to show we will be there in bad times as well.

Facebook image: Praisaeng/Shutterstock

References

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. (2015). Thriving through relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 1, 22–28.

Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 904–917. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.904

Peters, B. J., Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2018). Making the good even better: A review and theoretical model of interpersonal capitalization. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 12(7), e12407. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12407

Taylor, S. E. (2011). Social support: A review. In H. S. Friedman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of health psychology (pp. 189–214). Oxford University Press.

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