Dear Researcher,

I feel like my boyfriend isn’t being as supportive as he could be. How can I be sure that he still likes me? Is there any research on how I can make him be more responsive to me?

Sincerely,

Sad and Confused

 

Dear Sad and Confused,

When life starts to get stressful and relationships are no longer new, it becomes easier to overlook all of support and responsiveness that the people surrounding us give. Reis and Clark (2013) describe responsiveness as social interactions regarding someone and how involved they are in the situation. It is important to note that there is a difference between the perceived amount of responsiveness and the actual amount of responsiveness that one is receiving from their partner. There is the possibility that your partner is giving you what is called “invisible support.” This support is typically not seen by the receiver and tends to lead to lower amounts of distress, but because it flies under the radar, it can be misconstrued as no support being given instead. Giving this type of support to you might be what your partner feels is the best as they respond to situations that you are going through. Maisel and Gable (2009) did a study analyzing this. In the experiment, partners filled out diary entries every night evaluating how connected they felt to their significant others. Results showed that people felt the most connected when the support given has higher levels of responsiveness to what the partner truly needed in the situation, which could have been support that was either visible or invisible. Working on the responsiveness to each other needs in the relationship, and being more aware of you need, in turn, will help pave the way to being able to notice and appreciate the support and care that you give each other.

One way to potentially create a new perceived closeness would be to sit down and talk to your partner and have deep and open conversations. Laurenceau et al. (1998) found that conversational disclosure had a positive correlation to the levels of intimacy felt between partners due to the level of responsiveness that is felt. To test for the effects of disclosure, researchers adapted a model from a previous study (Reis and Shaver 1988) where people would fill out a diary after their interaction, looking for amounts of disclosure and how much intimacy was felt was felt after the interaction was over. As both self-disclosure and partner disclosure has positive impacts on the amount of intimacy felt, this could be a sure-fire to help bridge the gap you feel is between you and your partner. Having these conversations can also show your partner that you are willing to be open and dependent, freeing yourself up to receive the responsiveness that you are looking for (Reis and Clark 2013).

In closing, there is good chance that your boyfriend still likes you and you just are not aware of the support that he is giving you. I hope that these tips help strengthen your relationship and increase your responsiveness to each other.

Best,

Kimmie

 

 

References:

Laurenceau, J., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1238-1251. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.74.5.1238

Maisel, N. C., & Gable, S. L. (2009). The Paradox of Received Social Support. Psychological Science, 20(8), 928-932. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02388.x

Reis, H.T. & M.S. Clark. Chapter 18: Responsiveness. In J.A. Simpson & L. Campbell, The Oxford Handbook of Close Relationships. New York: Oxford University Press, 400-423 (CCC)

 

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