Dear Researcher,

I fear that I am becoming too dependent on my partner. He provides a lot of emotional and practical support. Yet, he doesn’t seem to rely on me as much. Will this become an issue for me?

Signed, Mary

Hey Mary!

It is important to keep in mind that receiving a lot of support is not inherently detrimental to your relationship.  What may be an issue is the extent to which your partner depends on you.

Drigotas, Rusbult, and Verette(1999) conducted two longitudinal studies on couples, and assessed their levels of commitment to each other, whether commitment levels between partners were in sync (mutuality), and levels of trust . They found two things that predicted greater relationship well-being: a high level of commitment to one’s partner, and a high level of mutuality. In other words, it’s great that you are committed to your partner, but worrisome that your partner doesn’t depend on you to a similar extent. If he is able to depend on you as much as you depend on him, you will yield greater benefits from your relationship.

Your high levels of dependence on your partner may become an issue if your relationship doesn’t last. As shown by Gomillion, Murray, and Lamarche (2015), partners who were more dependent on their partners for goal attainment were less likely to make progress on their goal post-breakup. With that being said, you should think about how your dependence will personally effect you in the long run. This same study, after recording  goal progress, goal importance, and other constructs at two points in the study, revealed a contrast between those who relied on their partner for goal pursuit and those who didn’t (Gomillion et al., 2015). Those who did not rely on their partner as much for goal advancement were more likely to advance in their goal post-breakup compared to those who were dependent on their partner. Therefore, bear in mind how you can meet your personal needs independent of your partner.

As shown by Drigotas, et al. (1999), mutual levels of commitment and dependence on one’s partner can promote a well-off relationship. However, don’t be alarmed if your partner is not as dependent on you. There are many factors that determine how willing someone is to depend on you. Gomillion and Murray (2014), found a relationship between self-esteem, the level of dependence required by a task, and closeness. They found that when a task requires a high level of dependence on the partner, someone with high self-esteem is more likely to feel closer to that partner whereas someone with low self-esteem feels less close. The inverse results were also true.  Long story short, the extent to which your partner depends on you and benefits associated with it can be situational.

All and all, bare in mind that while mutual dependence can predict a healthy relationship, the level of dependence exhibited in a relationship is often variable.  Be sure to have the right balance between meeting your own needs and understanding what your partner needs.

Best Regards,




Drigotas, S. M., Rusbult, C. E., & Verette, J. (1999). Level of commitment, mutuality of commitment, and couple well-being. Personal Relationships, 6, 389-409. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.1999.tb00199.x

Gomilion, S., & Murray, S, L. (2014). Shifting dependence: The influence of partner instrumentality on self-esteem on responses to interpersonal risk. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(1), 57-69. doi: 10.1177/0146167213503885

Gomillion, S., Murray, S.L., & Lamarche, V.M. (2015). Losing the wind beneath your wings: The prospective influence of romantic breakup on goal progress. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(5), 513-50. doi: 10.1177/1948550614568160

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