Sustaining Healthy Relationships

Another newsflash! Research has shown that happy couples are more likely to provide social support to their partner and more likely to perceive receiving such support. But social support is one of those grand terms that can mean almost anything.

So, what exactly do we mean by social support?  For that we can look to an article by Laura Stafford and Daniel Canary from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.  In this article Stafford and Canary described five types of supportive behavior:

a) assurances (for example, “Shows him/herself to be faithful to me” and “Implies our relationship has a future”)

b) positivity (for example,  “Acts cheerful and positive when with me” and “Tries to build up my self-esteem, including giving me compliments, etc”)

c) sharing tasks (for example, “Helps equally with tasks that need to be done” and “Shares in the joint responsibilities that face us”)

d) social network (for example, “Likes to spend time with our same friends” and “Focuses on common friends and affiliations”)

e) openness (for example, “Seeks to discuss the quality of our relationship” and “Encourages me to disclose my thoughts and feelings to him/her”).

Take a moment and think about these behaviors in your relationship.  Do you think your partner perceives you as assuring, positive and willing to share tasks?  Would they be able to come up with specific examples?  I ask about these three (a, b, c), in particular, because Stafford and Canary found that these three were strongly related to feelings of commitment and relationship satisfaction.  So, these are specific things partners can do to sustain their relationship.

I hope you can see a theme to some of the recent posts—being grateful, assuring, positive and willing to share tasks are specific actions each of you can take to sustain your relationship.  I recognize that sometimes these things are not all that easy to do, but making an effort will go a long way to keeping you together.

In case you are interested…..

Stafford, L., & Canary, D. J. (1991). Maintenance strategies and romantic relationship type, gender and relational characteristics. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8, 217–242.

About Alan Strathman

Alan has spent 24 years as a professor of psychology at the University of Missouri. He is the founder of and contributes content regularly through blog posts and e-books that communicates the findings of psychological research on relationships. If you would like more information about Alan, please visit