When you keep score you set yourself up to be competing with your partner. By default, this means you won’t be happy when your partner shares good news. How can you be? If you’re competing and they do well, it means you’re losing! So, instead of being happy that your partner got a promotion, you end up thinking (or saying): “Well, good for you that you got a promotion and now get to travel to Europe for work. I’ll just be stuck at home taking care of the kids!” 

Today we’re going to talk about how to get out of this cycle and why being happy for your partner is not only good for your relationship, but good for your personal mental health as well. 

So, when your partner has something good happen, do you ever get resentful? Do you ever act as if they scored a goal and you’re the loser watching it happen? 

Famed marriage expert, John Gottman, has shown in his research that couples who don’t connect over each other’s good news become what he calls “disaster couples.” With these disaster couples he found that “When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, “That’s nice.”

In my experience, lots of couples do pretty well when the going gets really rough. I mean when those big things take place or when those really huge decisions need to happen. This is even a time when couples can feel closer than ever. However, these big bad times aren’t common (hopefully) so the bonding is short-lived.

What the research shows is even MORE important is being there when the going gets good! Being there for your mate when the going goes right is actually more important for relationship satisfaction and happiness. 

How often has something like this happened to you: You come home ecstatic with some great news: maybe the Mets won today, you just found out a Dairy Queen is opening nearby or you got that big promotion at work. You tell your partner the joyous news but, instead of being excited for you, they greet your update with indifference or very little energy. How do you feel? If you’re like most people, it actually dampens your happiness.

It’s All About the Capitalization

We psychologists have a special word for this desire to share happy events. It’s called capitalization and it strengthens our bonds with other people. 

The research shows that just by sharing their good news with other people you end up feeling more positive and more satisfied with life, you gain better self-esteem, and it’ll decrease any loneliness.

If your partner is sharing good news with you and you react with all the feelz: you know, if you’re warm, enthusiastic, and act involved, they’ll feel more positive and satisfied in their own life. If you’re remembering that you’re a shared resource, this means that YOU get all that good stuff coming right to you!

In the research, couples who perceive that their partners generally respond to their good news with excitement and enthusiasm tend to report that they have better relationship quality, including greater trust, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction.

Now, here’s something crazy. Research by Shelley Gable and Jonathan Haidt suggests that we actually have three times more positive experiences than negative. 

So, why are we often focused on the bad?

There are three main reasons:

  1. The negativity bias: this is our mind’s hard-wired tendency to give more psychological weight to bad experiences than to good ones. 
  2. Habituation: technically this phenomenon is the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus. In layman’s terms, while you might initially get a happiness boost from some new thing, over time, you’ll get used to that good thing and it’ll stop having the same effect.
  3. Cultural: We also don’t share good experiences often because we don’t want to seem like we’re showing off or maybe you don’t want to “jinx” what’s happening. 

But guess what? You can override your brain’s tendency to focus on the negative with all this capitalization! Again, the research shows that when you share the good (and receive the good well in your relationship) you get “heightened well-being, increased overall life satisfaction and even more energy.”

Studies have found that the way you respond to your partner’s good news is the most crucial factor in tightening your bond or undermining it. So, you’ve got to make sure that you’re your partner’s biggest support!

Taking Action:

I want to get specific with you right now about how exactly to be that biggest cheerleader. 

The next time your partner shares something positive, follow these simple steps to create connection, trust and bonding instantly!

  1. Body Language: be aware of the signals you’re sending out with your body language. Make direct eye contact, keep an open body posture and definitely get up if they’re standing. Remember to smile and nod!
  1. Full Attention: Give your partner 100% of your attention. This means putting away your cell phone (it needs to be completely out of sight), close that computer, step away from the stove, stop doing anything else and give your partner all your focus. 
  1. Say Something with Enthusiasm: “That’s so awesome!” “I’m so happy for you!” “You must be over the moon – this is such great news!” “I know you worked hard for this, you completely deserve it!”
  1. Ask Questions: Now be curious and find out more. Ask questions about whatever happened so you can get more information and be a part of what’s happening. 
  1. Feel it: This is your win too! Remember, you and your partner are a shared resource so their win or happiness is yours. Take that feeling in and experience it as a shared experience as much as possible. If you feel it, you won’t sound phony or like you’re “trying” to act a certain way.

More Research: