One Amazing Way You Can Help Your Partner’s Well-Being
There is a mountain of evidence that connects a romantic partnership to well-being, both in positive and negative directions.
And it comes as no surprise. Having a significant other literally changes how you define “you.” As you expand your definition of yourself to include your partner’s perspectives, resources, and characteristics, you begin to include them in your concept of self. In other words, when you’re with someone, they literally become a part of you (Aron et al., 1991, p. 243). As you can imagine, that would make their opinions pretty important when it comes to your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Further, feeling closeness to your family has been found to predict a stronger sense of meaning in life (Hicks & King, 2009; King, Heintzelman, & Ward, 2016). And when we feel meaning, we’re inspired to explore and aspire to pursue new goals.
Which brings us an often-overlooked way that one of the most important relationships in your life can improve well-being.
Relationships improve our well-being through goal support. It turns out we’re happier when we perceive our partner as being supportive of our personal growth, exploration, and goal striving (Molden et al., 2009).
Also, having someone who acts as a “secure base” by being supportive of you and your goals gives you the comfort you need to venture out and explore. You feel secure knowing that they’re nearby if you need them (Bowlby, 1982, 1988). This kind of support leads to greater self-esteem, more goal progress, and greater self-growth. You’ll take on more challenging opportunities and generally be happier (Feeney, Van Vleet, Jakubiak, & Tomlinson, 2017).
Be careful though. The support provided can’t be intrusive. Intrusive support can have the opposite effect (Feeney, 2004).
Final Word About Goals…
When you choose goals for your relationships, you wield great influence over the quality of the relationship, and in turn, both partners’ happiness. Make sure your goals consider the other person and how it will affect them. Self-image goals will hurt your relationship and lower self-esteem on both sides. Compassionate goals on the other hand lead to greater relationship growth and security (Canevello & Crocker, 2011b; Canevello, Granillo, & Crocker, 2013).
So next time you or your partner sets a goal, keep this in mind. If it’s your new goal, consider its impact on your partner. If it’s theirs, ask yourself how you can be supportive. You’ll both be better off if you do!
- Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60 (2), 241-253.
- Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. New York: Basic Books.
- Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2011b). Changing relationship growth belief: Intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences of compassionate goals. Personal Relationships, 18(3), 370-391.
- Canevello, A., Granillo, M. T., & Crocker, J. (2013). Predicting change in relationship insecurity: The roles of compassionate and self-image goals. Personal Relationships, 20(4), 587-618.
- Feeney, B. C. (2004). A secure base: Responsive support of goal strivings and exploration in adult intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 87, 631-648.
- Feeney, B. C., Van Vleet, M., Jakubiak, B. K., & Tomlinson, J. M. (2017). Predicting the pursuit and support of challenging life opportunities. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , 43(8), 1171-1187.
- Hicks, J. A., & King, L. A. (2009). Positive mood and social relatedness as information about meaning in life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 471-482.
- King, L. A., Heintzelman, S. J., & Ward, S. J. (2016). Beyond the search for meaning: A contemporary science of the experience of meaning in life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 211-216.
- Molden, D. C., Lucas, G. M., Finkel, E. J., Kumashiro, M., & Rusbult, C. (2009). Perceived support for promotion-focused and prevention-focused goals: Associations with well-being in unmarried and married couples. Psychological Science, 20(7), 787-793.