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How Men Perceive Supportive Partners

Shoring up relationships with compassionate, judgment-free listening.

Key points

  • For men, perceived partner support is associated with well-being.
  • Some men struggle to communicate stress to their significant others.
  • Perception of support is linked with enhanced levels of relationship satisfaction and better health outcomes.
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Most people in relationships express a sense of comfort and satisfaction when they have supportive partners. Researchers have explored the extent to which this may affect how men perceive stress and respond to supportive partners.

Stress Relief Through Supportive Relationships

Afrodite Kapsaridi and Linda Charvoz (2021) explored the link between how men express stress, their perception of romantic partner support, and the resulting sense of well-being and relational satisfaction.[i]

Analyzing data collected on 4,520 men from clinical, subclinical, and healthy populations, they found, among other things, that the expression of stress and perceived partner support were associated with positive effects on well-being, as well as on their relationships. Kapsaridi and Charvoz note that their results suggest that for men, stress expression and perceived supportiveness within a romantic relationship corresponds to general attitudes about social support and self-disclosure.

Kapsaridi and Charvoz acknowledged that men often struggle to communicate stress to their significant others, even though most romantic relationships represent a safe space within which individuals should be able to express vulnerability and expect support. They note that when male stress levels create self-threat, men may be less motivated to communicate with their partners and may perceive a lack of partner support.

Kapsaridi and Charvoz note that their information will be useful to clinicians working with men as well as couples, facilitating more adapted and targeted interventions. They optimistically suggest that an understanding of the relational dynamics could inform couple-based therapy by helping partners express emotions and needs together, establishing a healthy dyadic coping strategy that will benefit both partners.

The Power of Partner Support

Kapsaridi and Charvoz point out that their review highlighted both the positive effects of men’s perceptions of partner support, as well as the negative effects when such perception was absent. They found support perception to be associated with enhanced levels of relationship satisfaction and better health outcomes. They also noted that perceived partner similarity was an important factor that increased men’s perception of partner support.

This suggests that, as many couples have experienced, not only do similar values and interests both stimulate and sustain a good relationship, but shoring up similarity with support enhances relational satisfaction. Providing a judgment-free, compassionate, loving forum within which to express and work through stress can enhance relationships and sustain partnerships that are based on love and respect.

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[i] Kapsaridi, Afrodite, and Linda Charvoz. 2021. “Men’s Stress Expression and Perception of Partner’s Support within the Romantic Relationships: A Systematic Review.” Psychology of Men & Masculinities 22 (2): 375–90. doi:10.1037/men0000276.supp (Supplemental).

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