Conventional relationship wisdom says that being supportive during times of loss and sadness is a good way to strengthen a relationship bond, right? It turns out, however, that celebrating good news with each other may mean even more. Researchers who studied couples’ interactions say that the happiest pairs are those who respond positively to their partners’ successes. “This was the strongest predictor of current and future relationship satisfaction,” says Shelly Gable, PhD, psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who led the study.
Why It’s So Powerful
Favorable feedback does more than just flatter. “It validates accomplishments, but it also validates your relationship by showing that you get what’s important to each other,” says Michele Marsh, PhD, a clinical director for the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia.
Plus, talking to your guy about what occurred lets him relive it a bit, only this time he’ll associate the positive rush with you. The reverse response is also telling. If you’re not stoked by what your guy considers a win, it conveys that you may be jealous, threatened, or just not interested. That may be why couples in the study who weren’t thrilled by each other’s good fortune were more likely to break up down the line.
Show That You’re Psyched
Some victories are easy to identify, like a new job, but tiny triumphs are worth touting too. Give him emotional applause when he mentions getting a compliment, like post-project praise from his boss. Also, appreciate how he deals with annoying situations. “Interpersonal conflicts can be extra stressful for guys, so hearing that they handled one well can be very rewarding,” says Marsh. To make your response resonate beyond a pat “congrats,” ask for details (“How did you find out?”) or reaffirm how hard he worked on something (“Your hours of studying really paid off!”). Another way to escalate his excitement is to point out a specific trait of his that played a part (“I’m not surprised—you’re so tenacious!”). “Acknowledging his participation in the larger picture shows another level of understanding,” says Gable. Not doing so could sabotage things.
Get Him to Boost You
You deserve kudos too. If your guy isn’t effusive about your achievements, it could be that he doesn’t know how important his support is. So clue him in like this: When something big is brewing, give him notice, like by counting down the days. Or just say, “Something great happened, and I want to celebrate it with you.” That lets him know it’s a big deal. When he does share a success, let him know the next day that you appreciated him being so happy for you. “If you say he did something right, he’ll remember that and be more likely to repeat it,” says Marsh. Just avoid appearing needy, since most guys hate that.