Today from the department of You’re Damned If You Do and Damned If You Don’t, we learn, via a new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, that receiving “too much support” from your spouse can actually be worse for your marriage than if they just don’t give a crap about supporting you at all.
Psychologists from the University of Iowa (what the heck is it with Iowa today?) followed 103 couples through their first five years of marriage. Behold:
What they found was that “overprovision” — which they defined as the “wrong kind” or “too much” support — is more detrimental to a marriage than “underprovision,” defined as “not receiving enough support.” Those couples who reported receiving too much spousal support experienced a faster decline in relationship satisfaction.
“This really is contrary to how we typically think about support. We generally thought that more support is always better, but our research suggests that it is more complicated than that,” Brock and Lawrence wrote in a 2009 study on the same subject. “Overproviding the wrong kind of support is actually worse than not doing anything at all.”
In their latest research, which is a follow-up to the previous study, Brock and Lawrence say that the problem lies in spouses misreading the situation and not understanding how their partner wants to be supported.
So, it sounds a bit like the same old communication thing that so often goes askew between men and women when one of them is troubled (the whole just-listen-to-me-and-don’t-try-to-fix-it thing, for example)—it’s just that now, science seems to be saying that such a situation actually causes more problems than if one of you just shrugs your shoulders a the other’s bad day and pours yourself a drink.
Hmm. Interesting. So take that with the same grain of salt you usually take these studies, and do with it what you will. Then maybe go ask your to-be how you can best support them.