Turns out that having a partner who stands by your side doesn’t just make you feel warm and fuzzy, it can completely alter your mental health.
A new study by Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton found that men and women who supported one another through stressful periods in life were less likely to suffer from depression in the future.
The research, published in the journal of Developmental Psychology, followed over 1,400 couples for six years and measured each person’s levels of self-worth and depression along the way.
“We found that for men and women, when they received support from a partner during times of stress, they had lower symptoms of depression a year in the future, so quite a while later,” Matt Johnson, associate professor at the University of Alberta and researcher, told the CBC.
Interestingly, the study found that men also received more of a boost to their own self-esteem when supporting their spouses. “Giving to their partner made them feel better about themselves,” Johnson said in a press release.
If you’re currently in a relationship — whether it’s newly blossoming or decades strong — pay attention to your partner when they’re feeling down or struggling with something in life, be it work, kids, caring for an elderly parent, health issues or anything else. According to this research, instead of giving your partner space (let’s be honest, sometimes that feels easier), step into the issue with them, and figure out how to win the battle together.
But not everyone wants help — or to ask for it. In that case, Johnson suggests something called invisible support. “Studies suggest offering support your partner may not even be aware of, but would still be a helpful gesture, like taking care of a sink full of dirty dishes they haven’t seen yet. You can offer support, just don’t draw attention to it,” he said.
This week, we’re giving you relationship homework: do something nice for your partner — ask how their day was, take the kids for an afternoon or clean something around the house.
Being in a healthy and happy relationship doesn’t require elaborate trips and gifts. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing that your other half has got your back.