Sharing good news with someone else is a process psychologists call “capitalization,” and it turns out that studying exactly what capitalization looks like in a relationship offers a frighteningly accurate picture of whether or not things are going well.
When people in a relationship regularly respond to each other’s good news enthusiastically, they are more likely to be happy and satisfied, researchers reported in a 2004 study. In fact, they concluded in a 2006 follow-up, “responses to positive event discussions were more closely related to relationship well-being and break-up than were responses to negative event discussions.”
When people recite traditional wedding vows, it’s the latter part of this classic phrase that tends to get all of the attention: “in good times and bad.” It turns out that while it’s important to stand by your partner during a crisis, supporting your better half’s accomplishments and enjoying those “good times” together may be even more important.
Amie M. Gordon, a social psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley, offers some examples on her Psychology Today blog of how responses to good news might play out in reality, say, after “a wife comes home to tell her husband that she got a promotion”:
An active-constructive response from him would be enthusiastic support: “That’s great, honey! I knew you could do it, you’ve been working so hard.” A passive-constructive response would be understated support — a warm smile and a simple “That’s good news.”
An active-destructive response would be a statement that demeaned the event: “Does this mean you are going to be gone working even longer hours now? Are you sure you can handle it?”
Finally, a passive-destructive response would virtually ignore the good news: “Oh, really? Well you won’t believe what happened to me on the drive home today!”
The one you want to practice doing is the “active-constructive” response, where you not only acknowledge a partner’s good news, but make them feel even better about it… see more