One of the cornerstones of a successful relationship is supporting one another when things are difficult. But what about when things are really great? Now, more than ever, we are surrounded by good news. Opening your Facebook page and viewing your newsfeed or checking pictures from your Instagram account, you see that your friend got a new car, your sister got a new job, your cousin went on a Caribbean vacation, and the guy you have been seeing just adopted a puppy. You might just keep scrolling, or maybe like a post, but is this an opportunity to connect? When you post about the new promotion you got at work, or send your friend a text about following through on one of your new year’s resolutions, what kind of responses do you get and how do you feel about them? Being able to share your good fortune with others, and sharing in others good fortune may be good for your relationships.
Researchers have examined the process of sharing good news with others and how this may benefit relationships. By telling someone about a positive event in your life, a process called capitalization, the person sharing the event can relive the positive event and also feel connected to the person they are sharing with. The type of response you receive to sharing your event also matters. Receiving an enthusiastic response, a response that makes you feel understood, validated, and cared for, is associated with relationship benefits. Research on this topic has found that talking about personal positive events with others is associated with experiencing greater positive emotion and well-being, especially when responses are enthusiastic and supportive. Within romantic relationships, having a partner who generally responds enthusiastically to your good news is associated with greater relationship well-being and relationship intimacy (Gable, Reis, Impett & Asher, 2004).
Having a romantic partner who is happy about your successes has concrete long-term implications for your relationship. In one study (Gable, Gonzaga & Strachman, 2006), researchers had dating couples talk to each other about a series of recent negative and positive personal events, taking turns as the person sharing and the person listening. The researchers observed the interaction, focusing particularly if partners responded enthusiastically to positive events and were supportive when sharing negative events. They asked couples to report on how they felt after they disclosed their event to their partner, and also about how their partner generally responds when they share positive events. Researchers followed up with these couples again two months later. They found that couples who showed an enthusiastic response to their partner’s positive event during the initial session were more likely to still be in a relationship together two months later, compared to those who had a more subdued positive response or a negative response.
Couples who stayed together also reported feeling more understood, validated, and cared for by their partner after sharing their positive event compared to couples who had broken up during the interim time period. Additionally, how couples responded to each other’s positive events was more strongly connected to relationship health than how they talked about negative events.
This research suggests that being attentive and enthusiastic about others’ good fortune isn’t just about being a good friend or romantic partner; it has real long-term implications for relationship quality and well-being. Being there when things are going well is just as important, if not more important, than being there when things are tough.
Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228–245.
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.