How Do Relationships Affect Your Well-Being?


The Overall Connection between Romantic Relationships and Well-Being

Our romantic relationships are inseparably intertwined with our happiness in more ways than one. Relationship satisfaction is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being regardless of relationship status (Dush & Amato, 2005). Commitment, trust, and intimacy in romantic relationships emerge as being especially highly related to subjective well-being (Drigotas, Rusbult, & Verette, 1999; Mehta, Walls, Scherer, Feldman, & Shrier, 2016; Uysal, Lin, Knee, & Bush, 2012). 

Marriage in particular has been studied extensively. Marriage has been cited as one of the leading sources of both support and stress for adults (Walen & Lachman, 2000). Marriage has been linked to lower psychological distress and higher well-being in adulthood as well (Diener, Gohm, Suh, & Oishi, 2000; Efklides, Kalaitzidou, & Chankin, 2003; Glenn & Weaver, 1979; Holder, 2012; Wu & Hart, 2002).

Why Are Romantic Relationships and Well-Being So Linked?

So why does this type of relationship in particular play such a critical role in defining our happiness? The answer may seem obvious, but there are some subtleties worth exploring that could make us all better partners in our relationships.

For one, the universal human need for financial, emotional, and social support. (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Buss, 2000).

Married individuals benefit from having a partner to share life’s burdens, problems, and struggles with which can help boost trust and intimacy between partners and decrease the distress linked to life’s hardships (Gove, Style, & Hughes, 1990; Williams, 1988). 

Not only are partners beneficial for providing support when one is undergoing stress, but they also provide the opportunity to reciprocate with support as well. Providing and receiving social, emotional, and instrumental support between you and your romantic partner is a crucial factor in predicting your happiness.

Additionally, providing care, love, and support for a spouse may boost your self-esteem, provide greater purpose in your life, and increase a sense of mastery over a salient developmental task (Gove et al., 1990).

The utility of sharing positive news and confiding in a romantic partner may also help explain the link between relationship status and well-being. In fact, how your partner receives your good news is more related to relationship stability than how they receive your bad news (Gable, Gonzaga, and Strachman, 2006)!

Yet another potential mechanism that explains the link between well-being and romantic relationships is felt understanding. The feeling that your needs and perspectives are being understood by others is associated with higher well-being (Reis, Clark, & Holmes, 2004; Reis, Lemay, & Finkenauer, 2017). Feeling understood by the person that you’re closest to seems to carry more weight than felt understanding from strangers, friends, or other social relationships.


So as you think about your relationship with your romantic partner, ask yourself how each of you are coming to the table with support. Are you supporting them financially, emotionally, and socially? Are they supporting you? When they bring you good news or bad, are you present and emotionally supportive? Does your partner leave you with the sense that they understand your needs and perspectives? 

Try these out and be honest with yourself. And if it’s not where you feel it could or should be, make an attempt to be better and don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your partner about it! The satisfaction and happiness of both of you are on the line!




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